Interview with Carlos Gaviria

“Our blindness doesn’t allow us to see what’s happening in the country”: Carlos Gaviria

(Translated by Steve Cagan, A CSN volunteer translator)

Carlos Gaviria Díaz

Document I, El País. The former presidential candidate and leader of the Alternative Democratic Center (Polo Democrático Alternativo- PDA), Carlos Gaviria Díaz, affirmed today that a sort of “political blindness” has moved into Colombia, which doesn¹t allow what occurs in the country to be seen.

“It seems to me that our blindness, unilateral vision, does not allow us to see clearly what happens in the country,” said the politician in his intervention in the Ibero-American Tribunal, a forum organized by the Casa de América in Madrid and the EFE Agency (the Spanish news agency).

Gaviria, ex-president of the Constitutional Court and former presidential candidate, made an accusation that under the presidency of Álvaro Uribe (who was a student of his during a long university teaching career), a “perversion” of democracy has come into being.

“The carrying forward of democracy has been replaced by a perverse strategy of simulating democracy,” argued the PDA leader, who expressed the opinion that since Uribe has been President, a version of democratic exercise has been consolidated that is oriented towards assuring that the “traditional elites” not lose their privileges and benefits.

In the face of Uribe’s conviction that there is a “more profound democracy² in Colombia, Gaviria proclaimed that there is no democracy when the people are (marginalized, discriminated against and segregated.”

“Unless the Colombian people is a somewhat strange and masochistic community, that has decided by itself to live in this state of affairs,” he added ironically.

In a more serious tone, he related the popular support that Uribe enjoys to the “fatigue and fear of the oppressive violence that we have been suffering for a long time,” which has allowed the president “to exchange justice and equity for a promise of security.”

This has meant “giving carte blanche to the president,” according to Gaviria, for whom the case of Colombia is “an extraordinarily interesting phenomenon of mass psychology,” in which ³we do not live in a democracy, but we assume that we do live in one.²

³As if the government that rules us were democratic,² he continued, when ³ those who govern engage in lawlessness, in clear violations of the rule of law, and the people do not acknowledge it.²

The basic problem, concluded Gaviria, is ethics, because, ³ the great majority of Colombians do not seem to be in possession of clear distinguishing criteria of what is correct and what is incorrect, of what is good and what is bad.²

³One is surprised that behavior that is absolutely censurable is applauded,² said the leftist leader, who put forward as examples that the Minister of Justice ³should libel a judge and continue being a minister,² or that the president ³should seduce two or three reluctant members of Congress to give their votes for his reelection, and there is applause.²

And nothing happens when later ³a proposed law is approved that gives special help to a municipality that some of these members of congress come from. It is absolutely scandalous,² he said.

³In Colombia, right now, the President might engage in any of these lawless behaviors and nothing has happened. The next day it is very possible that the polls might reveal greater support,² he pointed out.

Gaviria, who was the candidate who had the second most votes in the 2006 election, with 22% of the votes (Uribe won with 62.2%), and took over the seats of the Liberal Party as the second most powerful, was also very critical of the policy of demobilizing the AUC (Colombian Self-Defense Units) paramilitaries.

In his opinion, in this process the principles of ³justice and reparation² is very far off, because of a law that he accused of being ³precarious² and of leading to ³a camouflaged paramilitarism, which is even more dangerous than the open form.²

The demobilization is a ³dark² and ³failed² process, affirmed Gaviria, because it has been clear that many drug traffickers have joined into the process and confessed to paramilitary crimes in order to benefit from more lenient jail sentences.

He pointed out that this is the only way to explain that despite the figures that they had always maintained of the existence of 11,000 paramilitaries, the government now says that some 40,000 have demobilized.

On the subject of the suspicions of links between members of the government and members of congress with the AUC, he remembered the words of a paramilitary leader, in which he said with assurance that a third of the Congress was at his side, and again e wondered, ³can this be a democray?²

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