Alvaro Uribe Vélez life and biography

Alvaro Uribe Vélez picture, image, poster

Alvaro Uribe Vélez biography

Date of birth : 1952-07-04
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Medellín, Colombia
Nationality : Columbian
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-07-23
Credited as : Politician, President of Columbia, World's political leader

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Alvaro Uribe Vélez, born July 4, 1952 in Medellín, Colombia is a Columbian politician and the current President of Columbia.

Alvaro Uribe Vélez won a landslide victory in Colombia's spring 2002 presidential elections by pledging to end his South American country's nearly four-decade-old guerrilla war. An attorney by training, Uribe was an unexpected win as an ultraconservative law-and-order candidate, but reports from Colombia hinted that citizens had wearied of the violence and political stalemate between the army, a Marxist guerrilla group, and paramilitary forces. Uribe was reelected to office on May 28, 2006, Colombia's first modern-day leader to win a second consecutive term.

Father Slain

Uribe was born in the early 1950s and hails from a well-to-do landowning family in the Antioquia province. He studied law and political science at Antioquia University, and later took courses at Oxford and Harvard universities. He began his career with a bureaucratic post in the Antioquia state government, and rose to political prominence first in Medellín, Colombia's second-largest city, as a local council representative. In the early 1980s, he served as its mayor, but his political rise was marred by family tragedy, when his father was slain in 1983 on the family ranch. He was the victim of a guerrilla attack by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist insurgency group that had gained much ground in rural areas in the 1970s. FARC forces were estimated to number 25,000, and were pitted against 12,000 paramilitary troops.

Uribe served two terms as senator from Antioquia, and won the governorship of the province in 1995. The FARC conflict still persisted. In part, the rebels financed their side by kidnapping middle-class Colombians for ransom money, which made ordinary life for many a deadly game of evasion. During his two years in office, Uribe won praise for making significant progress against FARC rebels in his jurisdiction. Uribe established the Convivirs, rural security cooperatives made up of self-defense citizenry patrols that supplied the military with intelligence. The groups were so successful that they were soon implemented nationwide, but claims of abuse of power led to their curtailment in 1997.

Formed Own Party

The death toll from Colombia's internal war would number 30,000 by the end of the 1990s, and many in Colombia hoped for an end to it, or at least a cease-fire. Uribe's predecessor as president, Andrés Pastrana Arango, won election by pledging to negotiate a truce with FARC. After taking office in 1998, Pastrana conceded the FARC forces some jungle territory, ostensibly slated to be the venue for peace talks, and was roundly criticized after FARC used the area to mount an offensive. The civil war raged on over the next four years. Peace talks broke down entirely in February 2002.

Once a Liberal Party member, Uribe formed his own breakaway political party, Colombia First, and declared his presidential candidacy with a promise to end the war with a renewed commitment of troops and resources. His campaign slogan, "Strong hand, big heart," resonated with voters, and as election day approached, he began to take a large lead in the polls over the other leading candidate, Liberal Party candidate and former Interior Minister Horacio Serpa.

Survived Three Attempts

To become a candidate for the presidency of Colombia is in itself a dangerous act. In 1990 alone three candidates were assassinated, and in February 2002, candidate Ingrid Betancourt was kidnapped by FARC rebels and was still being held after the election. There was a FARC contract on Uribe's life, and three assassination attempts were made. In April, a car bomb narrowly missed his armored vehicle and killed three. FARC leaders criticized Uribe's plan to double the regular forces of army combat troops and the National Police force in an effort to end the civil war. The guerrilla group claimed that abuses of power by anti-FARC paramilitary groups--who are known to harass those suspected of FARC ties as well as union activists, left-leaning intellectuals, human rights workers, and journalists--lead to a repressive political climate that brings Colombians to the FARC side.

Uribe took a surprising 53 percent of the vote in the May elections, more than 20 percent ahead of Serpa, which meant that a run-off election would not be necessary. He became the first candidate in Colombian history to win the presidency outright in the first round. In June 2002, two months before his scheduled inauguration, Uribe met with U.S. President George W. Bush, and pledged further cooperation with the U.S.-led war against international drug trafficking, much of which is centered in South American nations like Colombia. He hoped to win increased foreign aid, but Colombia was already the third-largest recipient of such U.S. funds. In 2000, most of the $2 billion earmarked for "Plan Colombia," a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration plan to reduce Colombian drug exports, had little result; the country was still thought to produce 80 percent of cocaine in illicit U.S. markets. Both FARC and the paramilitary groups that fight it have been accused of financing their forces through drug trafficking.

Recent Developments

Uribe's Colombia First Party also seemed to have softened its stance on the FARC war, and Uribe mentioned that he would be receptive to a United Nations strategy to once again begin negotiations. He asked for international support. "Any country in a democratic world needs to have solidarity with the democratic society of Colombia, which is suffering this violence that is just terrorism," said Uribe as quoted by Christopher Marquis in a New York Times report from Juan Forero.

In March of 2004, Colombian secret police announced that they had broken up a plot to assassinate Uribe using suicide bombers. Luis Hipolito Ospina, a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), is accused of training 22 suicide bombers, who ranged in age from 12 to 25.

Late in 2004, the congress of Colombia voted to amend the country's constitution to allow Uribe to run for a second term as president. Previously, a person could only serve as president for one four-year term. By the time he reached the end of his first four-year term, in 2005, he had achieved several things, according to a reporter in Business Week Online: Colombia’s security situation had dramatically improved, the economy was growing, and the Bogota stock exchange was doing extremely well. In addition, he began pushing for an immense renovation of the country’s road system, the largest infrastructure overhaul in Colombian history.

Uribe's efforts paid off on May 28, 2006, when he was elected to a second term in office with a resounding 62% of the vote. During his first term, he had sharply curtailed the violence in Colombia, and it was evident that the people largely approved. Many challenges, however, were in store, as allegations of wrongdoing against the country's military and key lawmakers began to gain momentum in the autumn of 2006. Leftist violence appeared to be on the uprise as well. How the troubled country and its determined leader would fare in the long run remained to be seen.

Uribe is married and has two sons. His hobbies include yoga and training horses.

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