uribeharvard1CAMBRIDGE — The voice of dissent echoed through the streets of Harvard Square Friday afternoon as protesters rallied in front of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. They chanted “fascist” and “paramilitary,” referring to Colombian President ƒlvaro Uribe Vƒ©lez, who was in town to speak at the school.

The president, a former Harvard Extension student, was invited by the university to host an open-ended forum with college students. The protesters represented those disquieted by the possibility of a referendum that would allow Uribe to run for a third term in 2010. Students at Harvard also presented the president with a letter encouraging the president to cede his position in the name of democracy, arguing that a third term would go against the fundamentals of the country’s constitution.

“We believe that such a decision will weaken the rule of law, as well as threatening the separation of powers of the Colombian state,” the students wrote in their letter.

While Uribe did not formally announce his intention to seek a third term, the actions of the legislature clearly suggest that he could follow the growing trend of Latin American leaders amending their Constitutions in order to extend their time in power.

Students tried from every angle to get him to disclose his intentions, but Uribe asserted that what he ultimately seeks is a competent leader for his people. “My own destiny does not depend on me, it depends on the constitutional court, on the people and on my God,” Uribe said. “Of course, I consider that it’s much better for my country to have many leaders committed with the general principles that we are fighting for, but, at the same time, … we have lived (through) many, many years of weak governments.”

Uribe also spoke of how his administration has improved the country on many fronts, including his record on human rights, health care, labor laws and public safety.

“This is the government that has recovered freedom in Colombia,” Uribe said. “During our administration, we have received over 51,000 terrorists members who have demobilized.”

He encouraged people to visit Colombia, ending the forum by saying that “the only risk of going to Colombia is wanting to stay.”

About The Author

Blast correspondent Michelle O'Berg is a also Spanish-language television reporter

6 Responses

  1. Mitch

    Very narrow minded and biased article from the reporter, she clearly depicts Uribe as a dictator to whom most of the country is against, and it just happens to be totally the opposite: people of Colombia does want a third period and is supporting a reelection.

    The uptight and wealthy colombians who can afford to go to Harvard obviously do not benefit from him governing, but truth is that the millions of signatures already recollected in the country show that common people would like him to govern again.

    Do a better job next time choosing your reporters Blast, this article just sucks.

  2. Eduardo Mejía

    Mitch, I completely disagree. This is a balanced article stating what happened during his visit. The fact that the protestors were there claiming things you don’t agree with doesn’t mean you can blame the reporter for stating them. This is a journalist who is famous in Colombia and has gained a reputation for being objective and professional. I believe she actually is Uribista, in fact.

    It’s true many back Uribe, but the majority although they back him, they also agree that a third term would not be the best choice for the people. Michelle, keep up the great work… I know many, many people are proud of you and this article. You are the best! Keep your head up, and only listen to constructive criticism when it’s constructive. Great article! =)

  3. Sandra

    Mitch, She is just informing what happened. She would have been narrow-minded and subjective if she LEFT OUT that information. Especially since the forum revolved around students questioning his third term (most of them did). I actually thought it was very objective and well-written. Good job Michelle! Good coverage Blast!

  4. Rafael

    Interesting discussion. While this article is not technically biased or subjective, the lack of greater context makes it look a bit unbalanced. A reader unfamiliar with the topic might get the impression that the opposition is strong and completely justified. Some information on how the reelection process has developed might provide some argument in favor of the separation of powers, and maybe some note on how strong the president’s internal popularity is despite exterior criticism.

  5. Michelle

    Thanks, Rafael. I agree. Mentioning Uribe’s popularity indices would have been good. I appreciate the feedback. Hay que escuchar la opinion de la gente, y siempre tratar de aprender y mejorarse uno. Saludos!:)


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