Álvaro Uribe Vélez (born July 4, 1952) is a politician who was the 58th President of the Republic of Colombia between August 2002 and August 2010 (suceded by Juan Manuel Santos). Álvaro Uribe was born in Medellín, capital of the department of Antioquía in Colombia. Uribe holds a degree in law from the Universidad de Antioquia and a post-graduate degree in Management and Administration from Harvard University. From 1998 to 1999 after being awarded the Simon Bolivar fellowship by the British Council in Bogotá, he worked as an associate professor at Oxford University. Uribe has maintained a steadfast alliance with the United States. Uribe was elected as President in 2002 and re-elected in 2006, by large majorities.
In 1976 he became head of the Real Estate Department of the city of Medellín's Public Works. From 1977 to 1978 he was Secretary General of the Labor Ministry and from 1980 to 1982, head of the Department of Civil Aeronautics. He was the mayor of his native city of Medellín in 1982 and later, from 1984 to 1986, he was elected as city counselor.
Uribe was elected governor of the department of Antioquia for the 1995-1997 period, during which he developed a model of communal participation in key government decisions such as the creation of new jobs, education, the granting of official state contracts and public safety, which he called Community State. During his term as governor, Alvaro Uribe sized down the number of government jobs by 34% and the number of official vehicles by 35%. Such savings in government spending meant schooling for 103,000 new students. As governor he also devised a program by which, 40,000 people received training in the peaceful negotiation of conflicts. 200,000 of Antioquia's poor became eligible for free health care under the nation's subsidized health insurance System.
Uribe was also responsible for the paving of 939 kilometers of roads. More than double the amount of paved roads in all of Antioquia's history. And extensive repair work was done on the roads which link Antioquia with the nation's capital, Bogotá. The number of kidnapping cases in the department, went down by 60% thanks to the cooperation of the community with the local authorities.
He was elected Senator for the periods 1986-1990 and 1990-1994, terms during which he received the Star Senator, Senator with the Best Programs and Best Senator awards.
Situation in Colombia
Uribe was democratically elected with 62 per cent of the vote and has built roads and lowered crime rates in major cities. He has been harshly criticized by human rights groups for alleged violations of human rights. There are accusations that Uribe has personal connections to the United Self-Defence group of Colombia (AUC) terrorist group. The Colombian military is known to work hand-in-hand with this terrorist group because they share a common enemy, the leftist terrorist group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Protestors in Washington and Bogota have leveled harsh criticism at Uribe and his regime. They allege of around 400 unionist killed in Colombia, there have been 10 convictions so far. Amnesty International in a statement acknowledged, "undoubtedly, Colombia is facing an extremely difficult situation due to the action of armed groups refusing to respect international humanitarian law and to acknowledge the right of the civilian population to stay out of the hostilities" but "expressed dismay for the measures adopted to guarantee greater security are being aime at others whose security against abuses of power maybe undermined.".
Presidential Medal of Freedom
On January 13, 2009, Uribe received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony from United States President George W. Bush. The medal is America's highest civil award. It is given in recognition of exemplary achievement, and to convey the utmost esteem of the people and the President of the United States of America. The citation read:
|“||As President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe has championed the rule of law in a country that endured decades of violence at the hands of illegal armed groups. He has demonstrated a deep commitment to the prosperity of Colombia's people, and his bold policies have spread democratic values and established the foundation for lasting peace throughout Colombia. He has been a courageous partner of the United States. And under his leadership, Colombia has become a model for countries seeking reconciliation and the establishment of a society based on respect for human dignity. The United States honors Alvaro Uribe Velez for his commitment to freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.||”|
- Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Retrieved from the Terrorism Knowledge Base, June 4, 2007.