NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Change In Colombia

August 23, 2010

Recently, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe left office, and his successor, Juan Manuel Santos, was inaugurated.  Santos was elected on June 20 with an astonishing 69 percent of the popular vote, not least because the former defense minister has pledged to continue many of Uribe's policies.  According to Tom Donohue, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: "President Uribe is one of history's great men.  He saved his country.  It's that simple." 

Uribe's legacy is impressive, says the Chamber -- 

Public safety: 

  • Colombia's homicide rate was cut in half and kidnappings were reduced by 90 percent.
  • Law and order have been restored in rural municipalities; right-wing paramilitaries have been disarmed, with more than 40,000 fighters demobilized. 

Labor unions: 

  • U.S. labor unions continue to claim Colombian trade unionists are targets of violence; however, homicide rates are nearly three times higher in the United States (5.4 per 100,000) than among Colombian labor union members (1.9 per 100,000).
  • A resident of the District of Columbia is 17 times more likely to be murdered than a Colombian trade unionist.  

Education and health care: 

  • Nearly 90 percent of Colombian children are enrolled in school, up from 71 percent before Uribe took office.
  • Currently, 73 percent of Colombians have health care coverage, up from 54 percent in 2002.  

Narcotics trafficking: 

  • Coca production in Colombia has been reduced by 40 percent over the past decade, according to the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.
  • Since 2000, Colombian security forces have interdicted cocaine and heroin shipments with an estimated street value between $35 billion and $40 billion.  


  • The Colombian economy expanded strongly during most of the Uribe administration; exports tripled, investment from abroad quintupled, and the number of international tourists visiting Colombia doubled.
  • The World Bank now rates Colombia as the most business friendly country in Latin America; Colombia now has 11 free trade agreements covering 47 countries and 1.4 billion consumers, including one with Canada that will enter into force within weeks.  

Source: John Murphy, "Change in Colombia," U.S. Chamber of Commerce, August 6, 2010.


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