April 30, 2021
The John Brademas Center
New York University
130 L Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20005
Dear Brademas Center Directors:
We write to you on behalf of the Colombia Support Network (CSN), a human rights and educational non-profit organization with headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin, with respect to your invitation to former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez. It is especially inappropriate for your organization to invite former President Uribe, who has been responsible for violence and conflict in Colombia which we have detailed in reports since the first days of his presidency.
Let us describe some of the programs and initiatives of Mr. Uribe which have caused such violence and suffering for so many thousands of Colombians. There is substantial proof, including testimony we have received, that Mr. Uribe, when he was the Director of Civil Aeronautics in Antioquia Department (Province), helped drug lord Pablo Escobar obtain permits to mount landing strips in rural areas of Colombia to assist the movement of planes taking illegal shipments of cocaine to the United States and elsewhere. Later as Governor of Antioquia Mr. Uribe promoted the formation of paramilitary forces through a series of organizations called “Convivires”, which were responsible for murders throughout Antioquia Department. Mr. Uribe’s ties to these illegal forces have been proven, and are the subject of court proceedings in Colombia. In fact, investigations in the Colombian Congress at present are considering evidence of Mr. Uribe’s ties to paramilitary figures and his efforts to pay imprisoned former paramilitary members to provide false testimony against Senator Ivan Cepeda, a human rights leader in Colombia whose father was murdered a few days after a meeting with a Colombia Support Network delegation in Bogota. Mr. Uribe’s brother, Santiago Uribe, has been convicted of sponsoring training of an illegal force at the ranch he owned with Alvaro, the group known as “Los Doce Apostoles (the Twelve Apostles). This organization carried out killings of civilians over a period of several years.
As President of Colombia from 2000 to 2008 Mr. Uribe, whom your program literature says will share “insights in pursuit of citizen and environmental security”, was responsible for increasing insecurity in the country, including the phenomenon of murders by military units who captured and killed innocent civilians, known as “false positives”. President Uribe’s government developed a scheme of promotions and privileges for Army units which reported large numbers of “kills”. As far as environmental protection is concerned, Mr. Uribe’s record has been terrible. His promotion of mining throughout the country, paying no heed to organizations seeking to protect rivers and forests, caused a great deal of damage to the countryside, as did his administration’s construction of large dams, which inundated campesino and indigenous lands, with substantial loss of life. And he organized a celebration at the elegant Tequendama Hotel in Bogota for Army General Rito Alejo Del Rio Rojas, whose collaboration with paramilitary forces caused many casualties of innocent civilians.
We could cite many other instances of Alvaro Uribe’s actions and decisions which caused losses of life and property to hundreds of thousands of Colombians. I ask on behalf of our Colombia Support Network’s Board of Directors and membership that you withdraw your invitation to Mr. Uribe. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.
John I. Laun
Co-Founder and Program Director
Colombia Support Network