Colombia’s Perilous Success

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's remarkable success in fighting the FARC guerillas and attracting foreign investment may tempt him to seek a constitutional amendment enabling him to run for third term. But this would be a grave mistake, because the political system's deepening institutionalization has been a key factor in strengthening the economy and weakening the FARC.

Recent months have been very good for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. His “Democratic Security” policy now seems to have definitively turned the tables in the country’s fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which have seen their leaders killed and their hostages freed. Uribe has also proven to be a strong economic administrator, attracting increasing flows of foreign direct investment to Colombia. But success presents Uribe with a new set of challenges that risk undoing most of his achievements.

The first and most tangible challenge is that Uribe – with popularity ratings of more than 90% following the rescue of 15 high-profile hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, in early July – will be more tempted to run for a third term. This would not be catastrophic per se, but amending the constitution again to favor one of the players would undermine the country’s relatively deep political institutionalization – one of the factors that has helped attract foreign investors. Changing the rules of the game to prop up personal rule would help perpetuate weaknesses such as a lack of accountability, and prevent important government policies from becoming entrenched as state policies.

One can only hope that Uribe has learned the lessons of doomed third-term experiments in the region – Peru’s Alberto Fujimori and Argentina’s Carlos Menem spring to mind – and leave the presidency on a high note. If he does, he will probably be remembered as one of Colombia’s most successful and influential presidents, and can look forward to a continuing career as a regional and international statesman.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

    The Summit of Climate Hopes

    Presidents, prime ministers, and policymakers gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit. But with no senior US representative attending, is the 2015 Paris climate agreement still viable?

  2. Trump greets his supporters The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

    • In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. 

    • Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.
  3. Agents are bidding on at the auction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Man Who Didn’t Save the World

    A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," for which he spent $450.3 million. Had he given the money to the poor, as the subject of the painting instructed another rich man, he could have restored eyesight to nine million people, or enabled 13 million families to grow 50% more food.

  4.  An inside view of the 'AknRobotics' Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Two Myths About Automation

    While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

  5. A student shows a combo pictures of three dictators, Austrian born Hitler, Castro and Stalin with Viktor Orban Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

    The Hungarian Government’s Failed Campaign of Lies

    The Hungarian government has released the results of its "national consultation" on what it calls the "Soros Plan" to flood the country with Muslim migrants and refugees. But no such plan exists, only a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to help a corrupt administration deflect attention from its failure to fulfill Hungarians’ aspirations.

  6. Project Syndicate

    DEBATE: Should the Eurozone Impose Fiscal Union?

    French President Emmanuel Macron wants European leaders to appoint a eurozone finance minister as a way to ensure the single currency's long-term viability. But would it work, and, more fundamentally, is it necessary?

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now