Pubdate: Thu, 15 Aug 2002
Source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times (TX)
Copyright: 2002 Corpus Christi Caller-Times


True To His Word, The President Will Tackle Guerrillas, Drug Lords.

When Colombia's new president, Alvaro Uribe, declared a "state of unrest" 
in his troubled nation and assumed sweeping new powers, it came as a shock 
to no one. During his campaign, he pledged to take just such steps.

He will impose a 1.2 percent tax on individuals and businesses with assets 
of $60,000 or more - a levy that is projected to bring in $800 million. Ten 
thousand new police officers will be recruited, as will 6,000 soldiers. And 
the government reserves the power to impose certain restrictions on civil 

Why would a nation embrace such a program? Over the last decade, the fabric 
of Colombia's civil society has unraveled. Colombians are being brutalized 
by left-wing guerrillas, drug traffickers, right-wing paramilitaries and 
even, in some cases, by their own military.

Uribe won the presidential election outright with 53 percent of the vote. A 
poll taken Monday by Caracol TV indicated that more than 72 percent of 
Colombians support Uribe's plans.

The nation has seen one peace initiative after another founder. Uribe's 
prescription is bluntly direct. Forget the olive branch: His weapon of 
choice is the hammer, and he has the public's support to wield it - for now.

Past experience in Latin America with such strategies gives little cause 
for optimism. But it's the Colombians' choice. May Uribe proceed with 
restraint - and may he always count the cost.
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