San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ex-Colombian President Uribe defends his fight against organized crime

Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe in a visit to Costa Rica on Monday defended his administration’s policies amid ongoing scandals over political spying and corruption that allegedly took place while he was in office from 2002-2010. Uribe highlighted Colombia’s progress against drug traffickers and leftist guerrillas, although he said his country was still far from being “a paradise.”

“Enemies of our labors in government accuse us of robbery, … and now they accuse us of intercepting communications,” Uribe said at press conference with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.

Uribe was in Costa Rica to participate in a forum on public security and government administration.

Uribe downplayed the accusations, pointing to his administration’s achievements in reducing poverty, fighting organized crime and drug trafficking, and diminishing the threat of the Marxist guerrilla group FARC.The former president said recent criticisms are an attempt to discredit his administration, adding that his focus had been designing a strategy to fight organized crime and the FARC while respecting human rights.

“We left the Armed Forces in excellent shape to ensure human rights are respected,” Uribe said. “FARC dreamed of taking power in Colombia, and I’m the one who changed that dream into a nightmare.”

Since leaving office in August 2010, Uribe has been hounded by scandals, including accusations of illegal phone tapping, which led to arrest warrants for former Secret Service chief María del Pilar Hurtado, who obtained asylum in Panama, and former Presidency Secretary Bernardo Moreno.

Uribe said his efforts against organized crime and drug traffickers had created “many enemies,” and that he hasn’t “retired” upon leaving office, but has remained active in the “democratic battle.”

“I’m a popular fighter, and that irks so many of the criminals that my administration fought,” Uribe said. “I don’t like appeasement, because all that does is permit crime to spread.”

“Former President Uribe will outline a series of strategies that I’m certain will complement the proposals that we are pushing forward in Costa Rica,” Chinchilla said.

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