“Not a step back”

Interview with alvaro Uribe Velez, the most promising and ultra-right candidate in the Colombian presidential elections on 26 May. May

alvaro Uribe Velez is considered the most promising candidate in Colombia’s presidential elections on 26. May. With its slogan "Hard hand, big heart" He is highly popular with the electorate, who see him as the man to end the internal Colombian conflict. Among observers, he is considered an ultra-right candidate who is said to have had close contacts with drug traffickers and paramilitaries in the past. Although Uribe Velez presents himself as a clean-cut man, his authoritarian discourse and unanswered questions about his past are causing polarization within Colombia. The right-wing paramilitaries see Uribe Velez as their candidate and openly support him in the electoral campaign in several regions of the country.

You are defined as an ultra-right politician. Do you see yourself in this role?

Velez: No. This definition does not work in Colombia. I am simply a democrat with an authoritarian style. A capitalist with a social vocation. In Colombia, there are zones that are effectively no longer under the control of the state. Guerrilla groups and paramilitaries wield power in large parts of the country. Their main goal is to restore the authority and legitimacy of the state. Like?

Velez: First with a democratic concept of authority. Two elements are crucial: the government sets an example of respect for the law. And the authority in the sense of security defends all citizens of the state. This means democratic authority, which defends the investors and entrepreneurs so that they are no longer kidnapped. democratic authority for the simple peasant, so that he is no longer displaced. For trade unionists, journalists and teachers. In short: security for all. This means that the government has to curb all aggressions against society. What does it look like?

Velez: In addition to the first concept, a personnel increase in the security forces. So an increase in police and army. Third, reform the judiciary to make it more effective. Fourth, and one of my key points: massive and transparent cooperation between the citizens and the security forces. Fifth, international cooperation. And sixth, a rough commitment by the president to work for the maintenance of public order. In their concept for more security, they advocate arming one million Colombians to act as citizen guards. These should support the security forces against insurgent groups…

Velez: Not against insurgents, but for general security. This sounds like the model of the Convivir self-defense groups of the mid-1990s, which made negative headlines, especially in their province of Antioquia. How are they now going to make sure that these groups or their leaders are not led or used by the paramilitaries?

Velez: When I was governor of the province of Antioquia, the convivir groups worked. We have directed and controlled them. There they have done good service. Not in other parts of the country. When I was in the USA, there was a similar thing called Community Policy, in England Neighbourhood Watch. The idea is legally sound to guarantee a high level of security. For this we need the cooperation of the burghers. If everyone participates, transparency can be ensured and the restoration of human rights can be achieved. What role will the U.S. play in Colombia in the future and what will be its attitude toward Plan Colombia? I totally support it. We need the help of the international, democratic community. With the U.S., we want Plan Colombia to include airspace surveillance in the future. Every day twenty planes fly out with drugs, they come back with weapons. This figure calculates the army. In addition, we need more practical projects than those currently in execution.

Velez: For example? To educate the peasants. That means eradication of drug cultivation and reforestation. In the end, we need Plan Colombia against terrorism, kidnappings, massacres and against the attacks and takings of the Colombian districts by the armed groups. Are you ready for peace talks with all the armed groups??

Velez: I am a friend of the negotiations, but they must have clear conditions. I will propose international mediation. For talks, however, a rejection of terrorism and a ceasefire are necessary. Should there be a peace process, one must weigh the benefits of it. National and international media have claimed several times that they had relations with the paramilitaries and drug traffickers…

Velez: I have been in Colombian politics for three years and I have nothing to reproach myself for. I have addressed many controversial ies, but never have I left the ground of capture. I am not an unknown figure in politics, I have been known for three years in politics. They argue vehemently for an increase in the number of professional soldiers…

Velez:From currently 54.000 to 100.000. How are they going to finance it??

Velez: This costs $150 million a year, and we must do this to eradicate corruption and patronage politics. And if it takes a tax that doesn’t burden the poor and the economic well-being of the country, I will enforce that. The current expenditure for the military is two percent of the gross domestic product. If it is necessary, I will increase them. How will they ensure that in the future there are no more links between the military and paramilitarism??

Velez: With a strong state, with popular support and a strong army. Wir werden Bewusstsein fur einen Rechtsstaat bilden, der sich nicht mit illegalen Gruppen vermischen darf. So you can fight against the guerrilla as well as against paramilitarism. They repeatedly called for a blue helmet mission in Colombia…

Velez: I made this proposal in 1995, when I was governor of the province of Antioquia. Today this is no longer possible. Today we must support Plan Colombia. What we need is support for the burgers. There is a village in Colombia called Cardono. On 19. November it was attacked by the guerrillas, on 20. the inhabitants put up civil resistance. I therefore propose a UN Human Rights Commission that protects the civilian population and respects the Colombian army. At the beginning of April, the chairwoman of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Mary Robinson, published a letter in which she complained that a candidate in the Colombian election campaign was apparently receiving the support of paramilitaries. This was meant for them. They announced a response to this letter…

Velez: No. This woman does not know this candidate, nor his theses. I give them the guarantee that my policy of security will be transparent. Second: There is no step back! We Colombians will regain our right to live in peace. In Europe, no one knows that 34 people die here every year.000 people are murdered. What do they mean by "Not a step back"?

Velez: By this I mean my policy on security. (Tommy Ramm)