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8/12/08

Colombia: Uribe plays the populist card

Alvaro Uribe shows his warm and gentle side.

"Populist" is one of those words that is used as a put-down in politics, when in fact it's quite an innocent little term in itself. It's a lot like the way the USA uses the word "liberal" as a code for "communist", when in the UK (for example) 'liberal' is the most neutral of terms.

In LatAm, when you read the phrase "populist president", the same thing happens. It's that sneaky commie codeword feeling, and it almost always refers to Hugo, Evo, Studmuffin in the same disparaging manner. Sometimes you'll get the epithet thrown at Klishtina, and as from the 15th August expect Paraguay's Fernando Lugo to wear it (though with Lugo you get the feeling it'll be with pride and a winning grin). Is the whole point here that it's wrong to be popular? I really don't understand politics, sometimes..............

So what's with Alvaro "dubious past" Uribe and populism? Y'see, Colombia's got this stupid little thing called they call 'A Constitution' that disallows any President from running for office a third time. It used to be true that Presidents couldn't run twice, but Uribe fixed that by bribing this person. But anyway, this 'Constitution' thing is a bit of a pain for Uribe, cos he really wants to turn Colombia into his own little kingdom, being so popular and all that. So what he's done is to organize his troops and raise a petition with five million signatures to ask the people that do laws and stuff to change things so he can run again.

Nobody denies Uribe is popular, and with consistent 80% approval ratings it was fairly easy to seize this "post operacion jaque" moment and get a list of signatures from his 45 million loyal subjects.....SORRY!!...that should read "fellow citizens". But this is TRUE populist politics of a very dangerous variety, and the international community should do more than just raise a quizzical eyebrow at the usurping of power that is going on in Colombia version 2008. However, it's unlikely that any fuss will get kicked up in the international arena, not with the friends wot he got, y'know dude........