[News] Columbia - Uribe the Teacher

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Fri Oct 5 15:15:21 EDT 2007

Uribe the Teacher


A Few Things the Colombian President Forgot to 
Mention in His Speech in New York Last Week on Education

By Laura Del Castillo Matamoros
Managing Editor, Narco News

October 4, 2007

BOGOTA: Last Thursday, one of the great 
luminaries of contemporary Latin American thought 
graced New York’s Sharaton Hotel with his 
presence. The occasion was the Clinton Global 
Initiative’s annual conference, led by 
ex-president Bill Clinton, that same 
philanthropic figure who devised one of the 
noblest initiatives in the history of social, 
military and economic aid that a great power has 
ever offered an underdeveloped country: Plan Colombia.

We are speaking, kind readers, of nothing more 
and nothing less than the philosopher-president 
Alvaro Uribe Vélez, who, with his speech at the 
September 27 forum on education in conflict and 
post-conflict zones, has reached a new milestone 
in reflection on the education problems facing Colombia.

What follows is the brilliance with which the 
president left the auditorium stunned:

“In my country we have a great obstacle to 
education: illicit drugs. That is why we need to 
eradicate illicit drugs, because terrorist groups 
force rural families to cultivate coca and not to 
send their children to school.”

Of course. Why didn’t it occur to anyone sooner? 
All the experts on the subject have been wrong: 
the problems in education lie not in the lack of 
opportunities, nor in economic inequalities, nor 
in the lack of resources that the state provides 
to public schools and universities. No, President 
Uribe hit the nail on the head. The problem of 
education is another product of the great evil of the contemporary world: coca.

This concern over the country’s educational 
situation was what brought Uribe to the United 
States last week, hoping to meet up with his old 
friends and win over some of the holdouts in the 
Democratic party. Fortunately, many ended up 
seeing Colombia from a new perspective, as a 
country where there is really no “armed conflict” 
or “civil war,” where there are 
<http://www.narconews.com/nmonth0900.html>no more 
paramilitaries but rather guerrillas and drug 
traffickers, as the president claimed on Thursday 
before the UN General Assembly. These are more 
than enough reasons for one to realize that the 
president has done nothing but guard the 
country’s future; a future in which foreign 
multinational corporations play a deciding role 
(many of them, in return for tax breaks, create 
foundations that give notebooks to poor kids). 
This is why we must fight those terrorists, who 
don’t let the corporations work as comfortably as 
they deserve. And for that to happen, more 
resources are needed so that the second phase of 
Plan Colombia can happen. That way, everybody 
wins. It is truly incredible that some resentful 
people go through the trouble to question the social component of this project.

In fact, today new and innovative pedagogical 
learning models are being built, led by soldiers 
from the Colombian army. In many rural areas of 
the country, it is quite common for military 
troops, funded by Plan Colombia, to commandeer 
school buildings as security checkpoints, 
temporary barracks or shelters to protect 
themselves from the terrorists. Surely, Uribe 
must have been proudly thinking about such 
actions when he spoke at the conference of how 
important it is for children to cultivate values 
like living within a community and solving 
problems peacefully. In Colombia, despite the 
tension it might provoke, the army doesn’t 
hesitate to approach children through 
recreational activities. Just look, kind readers, 
at this moving story, taken from the Prensa Rural 
website, and which clearly shows how harmonious 
the coexistence is between the troops of the 
army’s 15th Brigade and the children who live in 
the municipality of El Tarra (department of Norte de Santander):

That same day (August 18, 2007), at 9 pm, in 
the village of El Milagro in the municipality of 
El Tarra, Mrs. Ofelia Oscuro sent her three 
children to the local school. At the school, 
troops from the 15th Mobile Brigade set up a 
military checkpoint. When the children arrived, 
the soldiers forced them to remove their cloths, 
verbally mistreated them and finally did not let 
them continue into the school to receive classes 
normally, but rather sent them home after these 
outrages. The oldest of the children was just 10 years old.”

And if the children can’t go to school due to the 
fighting, no problem. The Colombian Army is 
always willing to make it up to them with fun 
activities like excursions to military bases, 
with sweet incentives, supported by the 
government. Activities like Club Lancita (in 
military jargon, a diminutive form of “lanza,” a 
work many soldiers use to refer to their 
comrades), or practical training sessions where 
the children are prepared to serve as informants 
in their own communities. Of course, the 
non-governmental organizations, devoted to 
dirtying the good image of the armed forces, 
criticize activities like these that complement 
rural children’s education. Just read this 
article from last year by the Coalition Against 
the Involvement of Children in the Colombian 
Armed Conflict, to get an idea of how they complain.

It seems like these activists are unable to 
understand that in a country like this one – 
where there is no “conflict,” just “terrorist 
attacks” – fear and shock therapy can become 
great didactic learning tools. And that’s not to 
mention that these activities aim to convert 
those peasant children into the soldiers of 
tomorrow. One must realize that in the long term, 
just like in natural selection, only those who 
deserve to enter university (that is, those who 
can pay for it) will be able to. In that sense, 
those children out there don’t have many options. 
And so the best thing is for them to continue 
educating themselves as adults in our armed 
forces, conveniently defending the interests of 
those luckier than them. In this way, we will be 
able to live in harmony and, while we’re at it, 
avoid them turning into social leadera, trade 
unionists or other such communist abominations.

I should add that with these activities, the 
armed forces help children to remain optimistic 
amid the offensive against terrorism, like all 
the good Colombians who believe in the 
government. Not like those foreign organizations, 
who only see the dark side of everything. Just 
look at this quote that accompanies a drawing of 
an upside-down pig that the psychologists of 
something called the Ecuadorian 
Inter-Institutional Committee had Diego Maldonado 
– a boy who lives on the border with Ecuador – do 
as they were carrying out a study on the supposed 
damage that fumigations cause in that part of the country:

“My piggy died and I loved him very much. He was 
going to help me buy a uniform so I could go to 
school. Whoever reads this and sees my drawing, 
please help me finish elementary school. All the 
plants and animals are gone and nothing’s left.”

Poor boy! He’s been traumatized. All right, the 
government just recently concluded that the 
fumigations strategy was not as effective as had 
been thought and causes some minor damage to the 
environment. But one must look at the positive 
side of things: for example, in this particular 
case, if the pig dies, he can go work in the 
school garden. If the fumigations destroy the 
school gardens, they can plant them again, and if 
the boy gets sick from the herbicide sprays, 
well, let him put some effort into getting better 
and getting back to cultivating vegetables and 
raising animals so that he can study. It’s all a 
lesson in perseverance and tenacity – another way 
that Plan Colombia supports rural education.

But of course, the non-governmental 
organizations, the infamous “NGOs,” try to 
convince the poor that they should complain and 
promote underdevelopment. If they keep at it, 
Colombia is going to turn into another nation of 
bums, just like all the countries pulled down by 
Marxism, where education is free for all, where 
everyone follows the law of least effort. 
Fortunately, the presidents understands well that 
in a democratic country, education is an 
investment, not a public service, as he stated at Clinton’s conference:

“People should know that democracy provides 
opportunity for them to raise their social level. 
And the way that those people can raise their 
social level is education. In addition to that, 
education creates opportunities for more 
productivity, more competitively, and more income.”

“Those people” don’t understand a thing, and even 
want to turn their children into enemies of the 
state. Later on, those children can’t be stopped, 
and they begin to turn to subversive acts like 
the National Strike for the Defense of Public 
Education that took place last May. The situation 
was nearly out of control: classes were suspended 
in schools and universities for a month and a 
half. High school and college students occupied 
public educational facilities, and many teachers 
stopped giving classes and went out into the 
streets. All in protest of the cut in “transfers” 
(national funds sent to pay for regional public 
services) and the measures taken in the National 
Development Plan (including a cut in pension 
payments for university professors, forcing the 
universities themselves to assume the costs).

Fortunately, the Colombian government has 
experienced pedagogical teams in place to put a 
stop to all this ignorance: the ESMAD (Spanish 
initials for the National Police Mobile Antiriot 
Squad). They made sure to put “those people” back 
in their place in the only way it can be done: 
with a firm hand. Just read this fine example of 
coexistence from a communiqué of the District 
Educators’ Association, published in those days 
when the dangerous and uncultured masses tried to destroy the nation’s order:

 police squads under presidential orders, 
without warrants or prior accusations, violently 
invaded educational institutions using teargas, 
jumping over walls, breaking down doors and 
intimidating everyone present in which ongoing 
assemblies were being held, and proceeded to 
evict the students by force, amid protests by 
defenseless neighbors. Several youths were 
injured in the course of these events and had to be hospitalized.”

The above occurred in one of the high schools 
occupied by its own students protesting the 
mediocrity, lack of resources and despotism that, 
they claim, are common in such institutions. Poor 
little things, surely they were being – as 
President Uribe said at the time – “manipulated 
by political interests,” because the children and 
youth of Colombia cannot, of course, think for themselves.

Maybe the pedagogues of the ESMAD were a little 
rough on them, but “those people” have to learn 
to appreciate what they have. How is it possible 
that they don’t know of the great sacrifice the 
government makes when it invests 20 percent of 
the United States’ generous aid to this country 
in social and economic programs, reducing the 
funds for eliminating terrorists (who surely must 
be leading those protests) and for the war on 
drugs to 80 percent – especially when the drugs 
are the real culprits in the educational crisis the country suffers?

The chapter on the Colombia’s educational 
situation in the report Lifting the Curse 
(Desaher el embrujo, published last year by the 
Platform on Human Rights, Democracy and 
Development) recognizes that the educational 
coverage for young children rose from 82 percent 
in 2002 to 88 percent in 2005. But despite this, 
as President Uribe would put it in one of his 
famous sayings – “instead of contributing, they 
have to criticize.” For the dissidents, the rise 
in coverage means nothing as long as the family 
is often unable to pay the costs of 
transportation, school supplies, lunches and 
uniforms. How can they be incapable of paying 
those nearly symbolic costs? The problem lies in 
the fact that they don’t know how to invest their 
money (they spend it all on food). As such, they 
don’t want to progress, compete, or rise 
socially. That is the real problem and one of the 
causes of the country’s underdevelopment.

Ahh, yes. And they also complain in this report 
about the supposed lack of investment in quality 
education. What do they want? For the public 
schools to have the same level of teachers as the 
private schools, where children really are 
educated with the goal of productivity and 
competitiveness? Please – that kind of advanced 
education is a privilege only for the children of 
the good families that have written the history 
of this country in the color red. Those same 
children who will study in the best universities 
of the United States and Europe when they grow 
up, in order to come back later to Colombia and 
assume their positions of power. The other 
children, the ones who, politically and 
economically speaking, are the sons and daughters 
of nobody; the only thing they really need to 
learn is to read and write, in order to vote for 
the others come election time. And for that, 
there is no need for investment in “quality” education.

President Uribe definitely could not have 
explained any better how the education system 
works in Latin America’s oldest democracy. 
Surely, after the conference he was able to share 
a moment with President Clinton to remember the 
old times, when Plan Colombia was nothing more 
than an idea what would one day guarantee an 
education for both men’s grandchildren at 
Harvard, Oxford, Princeton or whichever one of 
those universities, where their children’s 
children can and deserve to end up
when this war between the ignorant shows no signs of letting up any time soon.

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