Doral

Colombia could become another Venezuela without changes, former leader says

Former President Alvaro Uribe speaks at Mondongo's Colombian Restaurant in Doral as Congressman Carlos Curbelo, Congresswoman Ileana-Ros-Lehtinen, Sen. Marco Rubio, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and Doral Mayor Luigi Boria listen on Sunday October 23, 2016.
Former President Alvaro Uribe speaks at Mondongo's Colombian Restaurant in Doral as Congressman Carlos Curbelo, Congresswoman Ileana-Ros-Lehtinen, Sen. Marco Rubio, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and Doral Mayor Luigi Boria listen on Sunday October 23, 2016. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe came to Doral on Sunday to explain to hundreds of Colombian immigrants why he led the opposition that led to voters’ rejection of recent peace accords between the current Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla force.

Uribe said that if the accords prevailed without substantive changes they could turn Colombia into another Venezuela, a reference to the government of leftist President Nicolás Maduro, perceived as a friend of Cuba and increasingly undemocratic. Maduro replaced President Hugo Chávez, who established an alliance with Havana, became friendly with FARC and set Venezuela on a path toward socialism.

“This is an agreement that opens up the possibility of Colombia opening the doors to ‘Castro-chavismo,’” Uribe told South Florida Colombians at Mondongo’s restaurant, 3500 NW 87th Ave., Doral. “The accords would resolve the Venezuelan problem, but it would create a similar one in Colombia.”

Uribe talked for more than three hours at a news conference and a subsequent detailed discussion of the peace accords.

Although Uribe travels often to the Miami area, this is the first time he was in South Florida since Colombian voters on Oct. 2 rejected in a referendum the peace accords signed by current President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC. They were negotiated over the last four years in Havana.

Uribe is considered today as the big winner of the referendum because he was the standard bearer of the movement opposed to the accords.

Uribe sat at a table facing hundreds of spectators flanked by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, and Republican U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo.

Uribe asked for their support to persuade Santos and FARC to renegotiate the accords in order to obtain what he described as “substantial changes” and not just “cosmetic tweaks.”

Rubio and the representatives pledged their support and hailed Uribe as a leader who stands up for democracy in Colombia and the threat of a possible leftist tyranny backed by Cuba and Venezuela.

“I ask you to continue using your voices to defend democratic freedoms,” Uribe said to the lawmakers. “In this hour of Colombia, in this hour of Venezuela, your voices are fundamental. From the heart, thank you for everything you have done for us, for defending democratic values, for your fight, and I strongly encourage you not to abandon the fight.”

Uribe then launched into a detailed explanation of why he opposed the accords.

First, he said, FARC’s promises cannot be trusted because it is not merely a revolutionary group, but a major drug cartel.

“The FARC became the first narco-terrorist cartel in the world and the world’s first cocaine cartel,” Uribe said.

“Days before the referendum, FARC reaffirmed its Marxist-Leninist platform and expressed that the president of Colombia had recognized their insurgency and the accords were a recognition of the triumph they had obtained,” Uribe said.

As a result, he added, FARC cannot be a reliable partner in the peace agreement, one that would foster democracy and economic growth.

“I would say that the FARC is the largest cocaine cartel in the world, one with a Marxist-Leninist platform,” Uribe said.

Another issue, he added, is that although FARC has admitted that its armed attacks and kidnappings had caused pain, the group has not expressed regret or repudiated its involvement in drug trafficking.

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