20 May 2011

LSE wrong to host killer

One might have thought that the London School of Economics at least would have learned the wisdom of caution after getting its fingers burnt for other dubious guests. And yet the LSE and the London Business School are both hosting the visit of Colombia's notorious rightwing former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez on Monday.

Uribe was George Bush's favourite Latin American leader, seen as the model of a "war on terror" style stabilisation in the region, and he arrives in London days after the debate in Colombia's Congress over a proposed victim's law. Uribe's former defence minister Juan Manuel Santos is now president and he promised reparations for all victims of political violence, significantly including victims of state forces, as well as leftwing guerrillas and the rightwing paramilitary groups generally seen as state proxies. In his heated interventions, Uribe has objected to defining the confrontations as an "internal armed conflict", insisting on his preferred Bush-era formulation of a "war on terror". Uribe refuses to identify the guerrilla movements as anything other than "terrorists". Santos has been at pains to find common ground with his former boss – neither would grant "belligerent status" to the guerrillas – but the spat highlights how the government is trying to move on from Uribe's own unrepentantly belligerent presence.


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