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Colombia is in the midst of an economic crisis, highlighted by the fall of several pyramid schemes. Colombian president Alvaro Uribe has vowed to stamp out corruption arresting 52 employees and declaring a state of emergency.

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Colombia in economic crisis
Producer: Zaa Nkweta

ZAA NKWETA, TRNN: With Colombia in the midst of an economic crisis highlighted by the fall of several pyramid schemes, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has vowed to stamp out corruption, arresting 52 employees and declaring a state of emergency. I spoke to Forrest Hylton about the actions the Colombian government has undertaken.

FORREST HYLTON, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Uribe is often very quick to step out against people whose activities he tolerated for some time. When those activities become scandalous, then he tends to pose as, you know, prosecutor number one. So now, all of a sudden, he’s after the pyramid schemes, but these pyramid schemes arose on his watch, and there was kind of nobody minding the store for quite some time on this issue, so it’s very hard for him to now pose as the regulator. That’s what he’s doing in order to try to push this free trade deal. He spoke with Obama on the telephone about it. The New York Times ran an incredibly fawning editorial piece about why the United States should sign a free trade deal with Colombia. But it’s clear that until Uribe gets his house in order and begins to deal with popular protests and unrest, as well as consistent human rights violations on the part of the Colombian armed forces, he’s not likely to get too far in today’s Washington, which is in a moment of transition.

NKWETA: And where does he stand domestically? From what I understand, the coalition government of which his party is a part of, its partners seem to be moving away from them. He’s also lost his bid to serve another term, to put in another election bid. Where does he stand politically? And where do you see this going in the future?

HYLTON: Only six months ago it seemed quite likely that Uribe would be running for a third term. Now it seems quite unlikely. The Conservative Party has departed from his coalition. They were able to destroy a project for the victims of human rights crimes in Colombia, particularly paramilitary crimes, before the coalition kind of began to splinter. So Uribe does have one recent legislative victory in his hands in terms of stamping out the fire that the victims were trying to light under his feet. And at the same time, it’s clear to everybody that the center is really now no longer holding, and Uribe is not in control to the extent that he has been since he came to power in 2002. So the ground has really shifted under Uribe’s feet. He knows that with the new administration and UNASUR and so forth that he’s kind of vulnerable. So he’s really trying to cover himself now and not get caught out, exposed. In terms of everything that’s happening in North America as well as South America, I really think he’s sort of McCain in slow-motion: McCain crashed and burned really fast; I think Uribe’s kind of going through a slow-motion process of the same thing. What are we looking at six months from now? I would say that Colombia for the first time in years is now up for grabs, and it’s anybody’s guess what’s to come, because there are so many forces in play and Uribe is now no longer able to even create the illusion that he’s in control.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Forrest Hylton teaches history at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Medellín. He is the author of Evil Hour in Colombia (Verso, 2006), and with Sinclair Thomson, co-author of Revolutionary Horizons: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics (Verso, 2007). He has contributed to New Left Review, NACLA Report on the Americas, and CounterPunch, and his short fiction and translations have appeared in the Brooklyn Rail. Also, he authored the novel Vanishing Acts: A Tragedy (City Works Press, 2010).