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Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Jesuit priest protests over honour for former Colombian president
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Javier Giraldo SJ
In September, widely respected Colombian Jesuit priest Javier Giraldo wrote a public letter to US Jesuit priest and peace activist John Dear protesting the decision to invite former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe to Georgetown University in Washington as a 'Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership'.

Uribe stepped down as president of Colombia on 7 August this year and he has already taken up his post at Georgetown. This week the Colombian House of Representatives opened an investigation into Uribe’s involvement in the illegal wire-tapping of government critics during his time in office.

My Dear John:

I send you brotherly and loving greetings.

I write to you with great concern regarding the fact that Georgetown, our Jesuit University, has hired the outgoing president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez as a professor. I am constantly receiving messages from individuals and groups who have suffered enormously during his term as president. They are protesting and questioning the mind-set of our Society, or its lack of ethical judgment in making a decision of this kind.

It is possible that decision makers at Georgetown have received positive appraisals from Colombians in high political or economic positions, but it is difficult to ignore, at least, the intense moral disagreements aroused by his government and the investigations and sanctions imposed by international organizations that try to protect human dignity. The mere fact that, during his political career, while he was governor of Antioquia Province (1995-1997) he founded and protected so many paramilitary groups, known euphemistically as “Convivir” (“Live Together”), who murdered and “disappeared” thousands of people and displaced multitudes, committing many other atrocities, that alone would imply a need for moral censure before entrusting him with any responsibility in the future.

But not only did he continue to sponsor those paramilitary groups, but he defended them and he perfected them into a new pattern of legalized paramilitarism, including networks of informants, networks of collaborators, and the new class of private security companies that involve some millions of civilians in military activities related to the internal armed conflict, while at the same time he was lying to the international community with a phony demobilization of the paramilitaries.

In addition, the scandalous practice of “false positives” took place during his administration. The practice consists in murdering civilians, usually farmers, and after killing them, dressing them as combatants in order to justify their deaths. That is the way he tried to demonstrate faked military victories over the rebels and also to eliminate the activists in social movements that work for justice.

The corruption during his administration was more than scandalous, not just be-cause of the presence of drug traffickers in public positions but also because the Congress and many government offices were occupied by criminals. Today more than a hundred members of Congress are involved in criminal proceedings, all of them President Uribe’s closest supporters.

The purchase of consciences in order to manipulate the judicial apparatus was disgraceful. It ended up destroying, at the deepest level, the moral conscience of the country. Another disgrace was the corrupt manner in which the Ministers closest to him manipulated agricultural policy in order to favor the very rich with public money, meanwhile impeding and stigmatizing social projects. The corruption of his sons, who enriched themselves by using the advantages of power, scandalized the whole country at one time.

In addition, he used the security agency that was directly under his control (the Department of Administrative Security) to spy on the courts, on opposition politicians, and on social and human rights movements, by means of clandestine telephone tapping. The corrupt machinations he used to obtain his re-election as President in 2006 were sordid in the extreme, with the result that ministers and close collaborators been close to jail.

He manipulated the coordination between the Army and the paramilitary groups that resulted in 14,000 extrajudicial executions during his term of office. His strategies of impunity for those who, through the government or the “para-government”, committed crimes against humanity will go down in history for their brazenness.

The decision by the Jesuits at Georgetown to offer a professorship to Álvaro Uribe, is not only deeply offensive to those Colombians who still maintain moral principles, but also places at high risk the ethical development of the young people who attend our university in Washington. Where are the ethics of the Society of Jesus?

I am writing you these lines because I am sure that you will share our concerns and perhaps you can forward them to the Jesuits at Georgetown and to other circles of thoughtful persons you know and to those who are in sympathy with justice.

With a fond embrace,
 Javier Giraldo Moreno, SJ.

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Tags: 'Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership'., Alvaro Uribe, Georgetown University, Javier Geraldo, John Dear

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