In one of those massive and inexplicable pieces of travel luck we stumbled on a political rally featuring former President Uribe. The rally was literally on our street corner, and there were about 300 people attending.
Uribe might reasonably be described as the father of modern Colombia. He held the Presidency from 2002 to 2010. Everyone we’ve asked so far has credited Uribe with ending Colombia’s recent violence. Nobody has actually credited any particular policy (more on this later), just Uribe. He had extraordinarily high approval ratings throughout his eight years as President. And in one of the question and answer sessions at the rally an older woman claimed she would “kill anyone for you, anyone!” This got the greatest applause of the night.
Here’s Uribe explaining his views on the minimum wage: it should be raised, but only with a corresponding decrease in corporate tax so it’s cost neutral for businesses (as opposed to Venezuela’s pro-worker policies that end up with workers losing their jobs).
Uribe has been influential in forming a new political movement that is standing in this year’s congressional and presidential elections. They’ve even chosen to put his name in the title: Uribe Centro Democratico. It is possible this will be more effective than it was for Jim Anderton’s Progressive Coalition.
Uribe Centro Democratico’s presidential candidate also attended and spoke with gusto. For the policy wonks in our readership, here’s some of the more substantive things he said. He wants:
- A housing scheme where your rent payments to government give you a share of ownership (sound familiar at all?)
- Lower corporate taxes
- Any medicine that a doctor prescribes to be paid for by the government (no, no, no! For a better approach see Pharmac)
- A direct hotline that anyone can call to the superintendent of every hospital (which reminded me of this classic West Wing scene)
Here he is, in full fight. Viva Colombia!
Uribe clearly remains a massively influential force in Colombian politics. Maybe the best analogy is Lee Kwan Yu in Singapore. It is, however, a mixed blessing for the new presidential candidate. On the one hand, he gets a powerful endorsement. On the other, several of the people in the audience didn’t actually know his name.
Turns out it is Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.
Oscar, our advice to you: more work on name recognition, less spurious health policies.