National Press Club

Former President of Colombia Discusses New Book Before Standing-Room Only Crowd

October 11, 2012 | By Aileen Roberta Schlef |

Former president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Vélez discucces his book, "No Lost Causes" at a National Press Club Book Rap, October 10, 2012.

Former president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Vélez discucces his book, "No Lost Causes" at a National Press Club Book Rap, October 10, 2012.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Book & Authors, October 10, 2012

"No Lost Causes" by former President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Velez.

It was a standing room only crowd that gathered Oct. 10 to hear former President of Colombia Alvaro Uribe Velez tell the riveting story of Colombia’s dramatic turnaround during his years in office, 2002-2010.

In a conversation with Rick Dunham, Uribe discussed his memoir, "No Lost Causes," chronicling his “permanent dialogue with the different sectors of Colombia” and his personal journey to become the national leader who would lead Colombia’s ascent from being a reputed “failed state.”

Colombia had known little peace is nearly 200 years of independence and had been overtaken by drug kingpins, terrorist groups and incredible poverty. When Uribe left office, he had an 80% popularity rating, and he remains actively engaged in national issues. During his tenure, the country emerged from decades of violence, kidnapping, and narco-traficking. He achieved what some had considered impossible, important military victories against the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and other paramilitary groups.

His sense of destiny was founded, he says, by a sense of “sadness forever, but no hatred.” His inauguration day was marked with a violent bombing in Bogota. He said he is a “member of the community –- half of all Colombians –- who had lost a loved one to violence.” In April 2002, close associates had been kidnapped on a peace mission, joining 2,800 that had been taken captive in a year. He says, “Our sole mission was to restore security and to liberate every Colombian hostage.” Today, the nation is more peaceful, has a stable democracy, an improved system of education and healthcare, and is actively pursuing international trade and investments.

At great personal risk, Uribe set out a course that focused on building security, democratic values, social cohesion and financial investment. When the newly inaugurated president discovered that the federal budget lacked the money to pay soldiers, he taxed the wealthiest. Many took loans on their property. The new president promised business incentives to encourage their generosity. He worked internationally to build alliances and secured access to technology and weapons, increased trade and investments. President George W. Bush was a critical supporter.

Alvaro Uribe Velez was educated at the Universidad de Antioquia and received a post- graduate degree in management and administration from Harvard, where he studied conflict resolution. He credits his mother with nurturing “the energy and tenacity” in her children. An early activist fighting for women’s rights, she was elected president of their city council. His father was murdered in a kidnapping attempt by a FARC guerilla in 1983.

President Uribe had been a senator, governor of Antioquia state and mayor of Medellin. Since leaving presidency he is a visiting scholar at several universities and vice chair of the U.N. Secretary General's Panel of Inquiry investigating the 2010 flotilla incident in Gaza. He is clear that, “I am accountable for failure” and I share victory, such as the bloodless rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and 14 additional hostages in 2008.

He said he lives each day remembering the 2003 failed rescue of 11 hostages, including several close associates, writing, “The march was supposed to be a turning point in Colombian history –- our Selma.”

The proceeds from "No Lost Causes" will fund the establishment of a new nonprofit university in Colombia.