FORMER COLOMBIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH MBA STUDENTS
ÁLVARO URIBE CALLS FOR STRONGER DEMOCRACY IN LATIN AMERICA DURING INFORMAL TALK
BY ALINA ZERPA

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Former colombian President Álvaro Uribe spoke to and visited with students at the School of Business in February, coming at the invitation of Roberto Rave, an MBA student who serves as an advisor to the Republican Congress of Colombia.

The former president, who remains extremely popular with most Colombians, spoke to participants in the School’s Miami Executive MBA en Español, and then followed the lecture with a question and answer session. Afterwards, he spent more than half an hour talking to students, signing autographs and posing for selfies.

During his lecture, Uribe discussed the current state of economies in Latin America and the need to strengthen democracy to improve the quality of life in the region. “Democratic values and a private sector are a must for the country to progress,” Uribe said. “When there isn’t a high education level, well, people must go to another country to find it.”

Uribe, who is credited with reducing Colombia’s crime and poverty rates when he served as the war-torn nation’s 31st president, was as warmly received by the class as he is in his homeland. During his 2002-2012 presidency, homicides, kidnappings and poverty dropped considerably, and Uribe left the top office with a 75% approval rating. One student simply thanked him, saying, “On behalf of all Colombians, thank you for repairing our country.” Rave expressed sentiments that many share: Former Colombian President Meets With MBA Students Álvaro Uribe Calls for St ronger Democrac y in Lat in America during Informal Talk By Alina Zerpa “He is the guide and shares in our sense of patriotism.”

The visit marked Uribe’s second time to the University of Miami; during his first visit in November 2015, he spoke out against the peace negotiations his successor, Juan Manuel Santos, initiated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), warning that the negotiations would weaken the country’s institutions. His vocal opposition was seen as critical to last year’s failure of a national referendum on the peace accord.

During this most recent visit, Uribe echoed many of the sentiments he expressed previously, particularly his call for democracy and his belief in Latin America’s ability to be incredibly successful. “In Cartagena [Colombia], there is an acceptable quality of life on the side of the city that has industry,” he said. “On the other side, it is full of poverty due to the lack of [business].”

Pointing to Venezuela as an example of a country that should not be in its current state of impoverishment and turmoil, Uribe told the story of the time he advised the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez that Venezuela needed a strong private sector because the country’s oil wealth would not sustain it forever. Chávez’s answer was that the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro told him Venezuela did not need a private sector.

Uribe also urged the crowd to seek more information, especially since technology is so readily available. “I had to ask my son how to use my first MacBook,” he joked. “I watched so much television and read so many newspapers.”

As the two-hour talk ended, Uribe urged governments to be more responsible to the people they represent. “There are three factors that should be in the model: confidence in investments, strengthening the press and having integrity in your region,” he said.

 

Spring 2017
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