Salt Lake City — In 2006, President Alvaro Uribe Velez was re-elected to a second term as President of the Republic of Colombia. As the first president in over 100 years to serve two consecutive terms as Colombia's president, Uribe led the country into a period of great economic growth.
Uribe will be the keynote speaker at the Annual Business and Trade Conference hosted by Zions Bank to be held on May 26 at the Marriott Hotel (75 South West temple).
During his keynote speech Uribe will assess the global economy and geopolitical risk.
His two terms as Colombia's president is considered by many in Washington, D.C., as a prime example of how to transform an economy that was on the brink of collapse into one that is formidable and strong.
In spite of Uribe's economic strides, his presidency was primarily characterized by his efforts to demobilize the rebel groups within Colombia and to bring peace to his drug ravaged country; actions that led him to receive the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George Bush.
During a recent exclusive interview with El Observador de Utah, Uribe stated that during his presidency he "led [Colombia] with a strong hand on my heart," in an effort to maintain order and to re-establish the economy "hand by hand without digression."
Uribe's leadership has created a global interest in Colombia's economy and its national businesses development.
One of the most important advances in Uribe's mandate was to achieve an increase in foreign investment. During Uribe eight years in office foreign investments in Colombia grew by 50 percent; setting a standard for the rest of Latin America, which only grew up to 20 percent.
He claims that with this growth, Colombia has resurfaced on the map of global investors.
Uribe's efforts to strengthen and build international alliances allowed Colombia's leadership to gain a better understanding of global economic developments.
Free Trade Agreement
Prior to the establishment of a free trade agreement with the United States, Uribe had already encountered criticism from a sector of the U.S. Congress that was concerned with human rights issues of Colombian workers. These concerns stemmed from the ongoing high number of murders of Colombian workers. Uribe added that Colombia has improved a lot regarding these attacks. He said, "There were years in which 300 leaders of the workers were killed. From [the beginning] of my administration, we took on the task remedy this problem and last year there were only 14 murders. There are still some, but it shows the country's progress in this area."
Investing in Colombia
Colombia's economy was greatly enhanced by the increase in foreign investment during Uribe's government.
He said currently Colombia is the third Latin American market in number of inhabitants, preceded by Brazil, who is in first place and followed by Mexico in second place.
"In addition Colombia, has the highest investment level in Latin America and is the second Latin American country in number of imports to U.S. agricultural products. Not to mention that Colombia has the United States as its principle supplier for whole process of modern equipment for its economy."
The formula that helped Uribe to pull Colombia from its former economic abyss was: improved security, promotion of investment, and social cohesion.
He sees unemployment as the biggest problem of a recession, especially among the working population. To help the working class Uribe also suggests that in times of recession the government must establish a strong educational policy.
For Uribe, immigration reform is a complex issue. "There are professionals and people who have immigrated and are good workers. There are good students and good citizens, but USA has [seen] the taint of drug trafficking. The United States is working to combat drug trafficking and [it] is a hard task."
Fighting drug trafficking
The former Colombian president believes that going after the leaders of the drug cartels is not enough, because a second or third leader will simply take over and continue with the organization. "We must continue a strong fight. If you ask me, what do I think of the struggle in Mexico, I would say that we first have to applaud them, because they are brave and admire the courage with which Mexico has [fought] it."
Uribe concluded the interview stating that the death of Osama bin Laden is an act of perseverance and although it may be hazardous to the immediate stability of the region, we "must continue to work against radicals in the same manner and with the same perseverance that so far we have done."
Recently the United Nations appointed Uribe the vice-chairman of the panel investigating the Gaza Flotilla Raid that occurred in May of 2010.
The commission will investigate the Israeli attack on the humanitarian fleet which left nine Turk civilians dead. Uribe was named the deputy director of the team.
Zions Bank's Trade and Business Conference will also focus on global and domestic economic trends, international risk and overseas opportunities for Utah companies.
Register online at www.zionsbank.com/conference or by calling (801) 844-8573. Seating is limited.