Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Mapping out a Potential Post-Uribe Political Landscape in Colombia - Juan Manuel Santos

Even if Alvaro Uribe is determined to be ineligible for a third term, it's quite possible that the next president of Colombia could be equally terrible on human rights. Uribe's former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, has said that if Uribe is ruled ineligible, Santos will be the candidate for the ruling Unity party. Santos's background as Minister of Defense is full of controversy. It was under his watch when the Colombian military attacked a FARC camp and killed Raul Reyes. While many Colombians were thrilled with the news, there was the little issue of Santos having the military violate Ecuadorian sovereignty in the attack. Additionally, Santos admitted that extrajudicial killings and the murder of civilians were not infrequent under his watch. While he claimed he admitted as much so that the Ministry could "resolve" the problem, he did not really take any substantial activity to combat tese type of extrajudicial and paramilitary activities, which continue to be one of the biggest problems for human rights in Colombia.

Santos's potential candidacy isn't some pipe dream, either. Certainly, Uribe is seeking re-re-election, a move that Congress has approved. However, the possibility of a third campaign for Uribe is not a done deal. While a top judge has recommended the rejection of a referendum on allowing a third term for Uribe, and even a majority of Colombians opposing a third term for the current president. While far from decisive, this legal and popular opposition gives some hope that democracy in Colombia can continue as it has. But with candidates like Santos, it's hard to imagine that there will be any real effort to rein in the out-of-control paramilitary activity in the country.