- By Michael Wilkerson<p> Michael Wilkerson, a journalist and former Fulbright researcher in Uganda, is a graduate student in politics at Oxford University, where he is a Marshall Scholar. </p>
Colombian president Alvaro Uribe won an election in Colombia’s Senate to move forward with a public referendum allowing him to run for a third term. He still has to pass it in the House, and of course the referendum itself would have to pass with the public.
This is almost twilight zone territory. Consider the Washington Post‘s Juan Forero’s description of Uribe’s status in the U.S.:
Uribe’s supporters, including Republicans in the U.S. Congress, also see him as a stalwart U.S. ally and a bulwark against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who, along with the presidents of Ecuador and Bolivia, is a vehement opponent of U.S. policies. Uribe’s government is negotiating a pact with the Obama administration that would deploy U.S. servicemen and aircraft to Colombian military bases.
That same pact restarted a sporadic feud between Uribe and Chavez, who has called Uribe an American pawn and temporarily withdrew Venezuela’s ambassdor to Colombia over the base issue.
Now correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Chavez’s willingness to manipulate the constituion to stay in power one of the reasons for tensions with the United States for nearly a decade? Isn’t doing something similar why Manuel Zelaya got kicked out of Honduras in his pajamas?
To be fair, Zelaya only got ejected after trying to continue with a referendum to lift term limits after the Honduran Supreme Court ruled against it. It looks like in Colombia, as in Venezuela, the other branches of government might not interfere.
Obviously, Uribe’s move puts the Obama adminsitration and all the Uribe fans in Congress in a tough spot. Just on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton met with Colombia’s Foreign Minister and thanked Colombia for its help moving toward “restoring the democratic and constitutional order in Honduras.”
So now what? Support Uribe as long as he has domestic support for his amendment, or encourage him to respect the current constitution and risk a new Colombian president who might be less U.S. friendly?
If this goes through, I predict Hugo Chavez will have a field day on his
unedited video diary candid television show Alo Presidente.
JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images