Sunday, March 1, 2015

Power Corrupts, and....

Lord Acton.
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." - Lord Acton; April 1887.

Alvaro Uribe was unquestionably Colombia's most popular and powerful president of recent times. Thanks to his firm and aggressive policies, Colombia's guerrillas were beaten back, laying the groundwork for today's peace negotiations.

However, anybody who lived thru that time remembers how Uribe's aggressiveness could carry over into paranoia, which caused him to accuse principled leftists and even critical journalists of being guerrilla supporters.

Alvaro Uribe: the almost-dictator?
The consequences of that became clear last Friday, when two high officials of Uribe's government were convicted for their roles in the 'chuzadas' or eavesdropping case. In that scandal, the president used the DAS, then Colombia's secret police, to spy on political opponents and critical journalists. (The DAS was dissolved in the wake of the scandal.)

Uribe was so powerful that he succeeded in amending Colombia's Constitution to enable himself to
run for a second consecutive term. If the Supreme Court had not blocked his try for a third term, Uribe might still be Colombia's president today, instead of in the Senate, from where he attacks the Santos administration's peace talks with the FARC.

Ex-DAS director Maria
de Pilar Hurtado.
The chuzadas scandal, which many observers said was worse than Watergate, was only one of many which scarred Uribe's eight-year administration. Under Uribe's watch, the military also allied itself with right-wing paramilitary death squads, which committed horrific massacres while the regular troops stood by. And soldiers also murdered thousands of innocent young men and reported them as guerrillas in order to receive bonuses, in what became known as the False Positives scandal.

Uribe's great power may have caused a moral breakdown. Or, a lack of scruples may have helped Uribe, in Machiavellian fashion, to attain power. But in Uribe power and questionable morality coincided and for a while threatened to carry Colombia down the path of Latin American caudillismo.
Ex-Secretary of the presidency.

It was fortunate - and perhaps surprising - that after almost eight years of Uribismo the courts
retained enough independence to defy the president's try push a third term. Unfortunately, however, the same has not happened in nations such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Nicaragua, where presidents hold near total control - and the potential for near total corruption.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

No comments: