The isolation of Álvaro Uribe?

¿Pero como así, mijo?

These are worrying times for Colombia´s ex-president Álvaro Uribe, as the political tide turns against him, the media deserts him, and the governing class close ranks behind President Santos.

Is Uribe in danger of losing his political voice?

Uribe is a politician used to the limelight, and unconditional support and loyalty. In 2010 he left power as Colombia`s most popular ever president. And despite the attacks on his government throughout the last two years, he has maintained a strong following not only among those who instinctively share his politics, but among the millions – particularly in rural areas – whose feel their lives improved significantly during the Uribe government as the FARC was pushed back.

Whether you or I support him is irrelevant, it is a simple fact that many feel a very real connection with the ex-president.He will have been dismayed then by last week´s poll that showed his popular appeal as low as 53%. Ok, not disastrous for an ex-president, but the fall of 3% between June and September is now part of a negative trend.The polls are one thing, but the national politics will be even more concerning.

Congress voted en masse in favour of President Santos´ peace talks, leaving Uribe – or at least Uribism – as the only force against them. Uribe will have hoped for more disquiet in congress, greater indication from his allies that they are with him; but for now Santos holds all the cards. The president even brought retired police  chief and rumoured potential Uribista candidate for the 2014 elections, Óscar Naranjo into the negotiating team, dufusing a potential opponent.

Following the vote, last Wednesday I spoke to Colombia Reports:

“As Santos’ coalition partners rally behind the president, Uribe is in danger of becoming a lone voice against the talks.”

“However, Uribe may prove to be right and if the FARC are bluffing, then the Conservatives and U Party members still loyal to the ex-president could well swing behind their old boss, and in a blink of an eye.”

“But for now the prudent thing for all politicians to do is to support the president, to wait if and until the talks break down to strike,”

All is far from lost for Uribe, the future in Colombian politics is famously impossible to predict, and sections of the political class could yet jump ship and join him – particularly as I said if the peace talks fail, and or as we approach the elections.But it also true that 77% of the population support the forthcoming peace talks, and no politician wins votes by telling their electorate that their dreams are built on false hope – at least not while the dream is still alive.Uribe´s politics of NO NO NO are finding it difficult to get traction outside his circle of ´true believers´.

And finally, with the news last week that Pacho Santos has left his morning radio slot on RCN, Uribe has been left with precious few spokesmen in the Colombian media.

Pacho Santos was Uribe´s vice-president and has remained a fiel servant of his old boss. The morning show was seen as a counterweight to other, less Uribe-friendly output.

During the Uribe years the media was unquestionably on his side, perhaps unquestionly so. But President Santos – himself a former journalist, and of course familiarly tied to a media oligarchy – now has the vast majority of the nation´s mass communication outfits either on his side, or at least losely in his court.

According to La Silla Vacia, an independent digital news source, even the Medellín-based El Colombiano newspaper the number one cheerleader for Uribe in the written media is shifting slightly its editorial view following the departure of loyalist Ana Mercedes Gómez.
All this is a very different picture from that taken earlier in the summer when Uribe launched the new political movement Puro Centro Democrático (PCD) – the platform to take Uribism back to the presidential palace in the Casa de Nariño.
At this time, Santos was plummeting in the polls, the FARC were at war with the army in the south west department of Cauca, and the ex-president´s mano dura mesage of security was striking home.So while Uribe himself cannot stand himself for president, the nation was beginning to view at least curiously the emergence of a PCD candidate to lead the opposition to the Santos regime (and  to his re-election campaign in 2014).Uribe may win this battle in the long run, but Colombia must hope that Uribe is wrong and that the FARC will demobilise. The ex-president would do well to prepare for this eventuality, and must begin to set out an alternative manifesto to the current government, a prospectus that goes beyond security and peace. If he does not then the danger for him is that his isolation will be complete.

Posted by Kevin Howlett from

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