How will the former English prime minister Tony Blair and his Australian colleague John Howard have felt to receive the Medal of Freedom from one of the most rejected leaders in the world, George Walker Bush, until 20 of January president of the United States? I don’t know, but the Colombian president Álvaro Uribe looked very proud to receive this medal from his great friend, who unfortunately for him leaves the White House soon.
Uribe, Blair and Howard receive the prize because of their efforts to promote democracy, human rights and peace. But the most important reason must have been that Bush felt that they were the least critical leaders in the world towards his policy.
It is ironic in Uribe’s case that a president who has been criticized enormously because of his foreign policy, his wars in Afghanistan and especially Iraq, his treatment of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, honors a president who has equally received fierce criticism because of the violation of human rights in his country.
And it is even more ironic that exactly because of the human rights violations in Colombia a majority in the American congress didn’t want to ratify the Free Trade Treaty with Colombia.
It must have been bitter for Uribe that several human rights groups wrote a letter against his prize. Among them Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, whom he has accused of sympathies for the FARC.
But it was to be expected and one wonders why Bush did what he did. The only reason I can think of is that he has felt very lonely during the last period of his presidency and that he felt the need of company and support.
Bush is off now, but Uribe is going to stay until August 2010 and perhaps longer. No happy tours on Texas ranches with mr. Obama are awaiting him however.
How will he solve this problem? He cannot go on accusing Human Rights Watch and Amnesty of FARC sympathies. He will have to change. Will he be able?
This column was published in Colombia Reports, 13 January 2009.
The medal could damage mr. Uribe’s image, the Colombian daily El Tiempo writes.