Colombia - Domestic policy



Uribe's main challenge as president will be to deliver on his promise to combat guerrillas and drug traffickers, and to bring peace to Colombia. He has several things going for him. Because of the withdrawal of the Conservative presidential candidate, the Liberal Party secured an overwhelming majority of seats in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Given his previous relationship with the Liberal Party, Uribe quickly reached an agreement after his inauguration with the party leadership to get that party's support in the legislature. Uribe commands the support of 143 of the 161 members in the Chamber of Deputies and 86 of the 102 seats Senate. Yet, Uribe's main source of opposition will come from the guerrillas and the drug traffic cartels. Uribe's August 2003 inauguration in Bogotá was disrupted when a bomb attack killed 19. Uribe travelled to rebel territory the next day, pledging to take a strong stand against violence and to restore peace to Colombia. After the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991, the left-wing guerrillas, have increasingly become linked with drug-trafficking cartels. Because Uribe vowed to abandon the ceasefire agreement brokered with the guerrillas by former president Andrés Pastrana, the guerrillas decided to show their will to make Uribe's life very difficult. By bringing the conflict from the rural areas to Colombia's major cities, the guerrillas seek to disrupt everyday life and to make it more difficult for Uribe to deliver on his promise to defeat the guerrillas in the countryside.

In early 2003, opinion polls showed President Uribe's approval rating declining, from 74% in November 2002 to 66%. Bad news continued relentlessly, as Uribe tried to pull together a united, effective government. In early February, Juan Luis Londono, a key minister in the government regarded as both brilliant and capable, was killed when the plane he was traveling in crashed into an Andean mountainside. The next day, a private club in Bógata was bombed, killing 35 and injuring nearly 200.

The involvement of the U.S. military in training and providing technical support to the Colombian armed forces also threatened to escalate the conflict. Uribe has vowed to make his authority prevail and to defeat the insurrectional guerrilla movement. As a part of a larger plan to combat drug trafficking, Uribe has also vowed to provide military support to civilians who join the effort to combat drug production. Many are concerned that Colombia's twentieth-century history of rural violence might turn the effort to combat drug production into a new civil war. Yet, the influence of drug cartels in Colombia's daily life, exacerbated by the side effects of drug trafficking, threatens to convert Colombia into a lawless society. Uribe must strive to achieve real results in his war against drug cartels, guerrillas, and urban violence if he hopes to maintain high levels of public support. If he succeeds in achieving positive results early on, he might build enough momentum to make real progress in bringing peace and the state of law back to every region of the country. Otherwise, his presidency will be marked by growing violence and urban conflict, in addition to already existing rural confrontations.

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