|President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Colombia Primero coalition|
Posted: August 2002
A lawyer by profession, Uribe drew his greatest support from members of the military who favor his tough stance against militants and his promise to expand Colombia's armed forces.
Businessmen endorse Uribe's economic plan for its fiscal discipline, which they hope will attract foreign investors. Uribe has also promised to create new jobs, increase education spending and eliminate corruption.
One of Uribe's more controversial proposals involves creating civilian community watch groups to assist federal security forces in combating terrorism.
Uribe continues to face harsh criticism for his past support of armed civilian groups called CONVIVIRs. The groups started out small in 1994, but became part of a massive counterinsurgency campaign which Uribe continued after he became governor of Antioquia state from 1995 to 1997.
The citizen watch groups successfully reduced the region's high kidnapping rate, but were banned in 1997 for allegedly targeting civilians and colluding with paramilitary groups. Uribe was not directly implicated in those allegations.
Public support for Uribe soared since peace negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC leaders collapsed in February 2002. Uribe's tough stance against militants -- developed after his father's death in 1983, allegedly at the hands of FARC guerrillas - has become increasingly popular with Colombians angered by the guerrillas' brutal methods.
Uribe's landslide victory in the presidential election on May 26 signalled an endorsement of his militaristic approach to resolving Colombia's 38-year old civil conflict.
The 50-year old president-elect gave his acceptance speech in a Bogota hotel under heavy security, vowing to bring "democratic security for all."
Since his electoral win, Uribe said he would consider cease-fire talks with the left-wing rebels as a premise for future peace negotiations. Unlike his predecessors, Uribe also said he would include the country's largest paramilitary force, the AUC, in later peace talks if the right-wing militia agreed to a preliminary cease-fire.
Uribe officially became Colombia's 38th president during a subdued inauguration ceremony -- attended by some 500 invited guests --on Wednesday, August 7th.
-- By Liz Harper, Online NewsHour