* Palabras al Margen

Palabrasalmargen.com es un portal de opinión y análisis político donde queremos que confluya y se exprese la academia colombiana crítica y comprometida con la construcción de un país democrático, en el cual prime la justicia social, el respeto a los derechos humanos, la diversidad y la búsqueda de la paz.

Como investigadores colombianos o que hacemos investigación sobre Colombia, hemos decidido escribir una carta (que encontrarán al final de este correo) para protestar la invitación, y especialmente para cuestionar el anuncio engañoso y sesgado que se ha usado para publicitar la charla. Al hacerlo, nos consideramos parte del movimiento de académicos que ha opuesto visitas y homenajes previos de Uribe a universidades estadounidenses como Harvard, Columbia y

Gracias de antemano por su interés y apoyo.


Dear Dean Rouse,

As scholars who are from Colombia, do research on the country and/or are concerned with its political events, we have decided to write a letter to protest the invitation that Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School has extended to former president Alvaro Uribe Velez this week, and especially to question the deceptive and biased announcement that has been used to publicize his talk.

The announcement praises the achievements of Mr. Uribe’s government concerning economic growth, security, poverty reduction and even the decrease in the number of internally displaced people. While some of those achievements indeed happened, the Uribe government was also (and perhaps more so) characterized by the multiple human rights violations that were carried out by the armed forces against innocent civilians; by the systematic political persecution that the opposition and journalists suffered, which included illegal tapping of communications by the state’s intelligence agency; by the collusion of hundreds of members of Uribe’s political coalition with paramilitary armed groups, likely the most sanguinary armed actor in the country’s ongoing war; and by the corruption of high ranking officials, which included several ministers of Uribe offering bribes to Congress members to vote in favor of a constitutional change to allow for another reelection.

All these events are being investigated by the Colombian judicial system, which has issued multiple criminal convictions of members of Uribe’s closest circle. These events are of public knowledge, as they have been widely documented by Colombian, US and other countries’ main newspapers, TV news channels and social media (a quick glance at Wikipedia can confirm this). Furthermore, these events have been the object of rigorous research by many prestigious academics, as well as by international and Colombian human rights defenders (including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International).

For all these reasons, we are profoundly disappointed by the fact that Mr. Uribe will be treated as a guest of honor at Princeton University, an institution that claims to cherish human rights, justice, and democracy. More importantly, we strongly oppose and condemn the fact that the Woodrow Wilson School, an institution that portrays itself as a center for rigorous scholarship and critical thinking, has decided to make his invitation public through an announcement that completely overlooks the proven and well-known abuses that Mr. Uribe’s government committed against human rights and democracy. At the very least, the School could have included a reference to the very controversial nature of his tenure in office (instead of simply glorifying it).

This letter is part of a wider movement of academics, who have opposed previous visits of Uribe to US university campuses such as Harvard and Columbia, as well as honorary distinctions given to him by institutions like Georgetown University. As the letters addressed to these institutions have stated, inviting Mr. Uribe and highlighting the achievements of his government while denying its misdeeds deeply offends the direct and indirect victims of criminal acts committed during his tenure, as well as many Colombians who believe that his government severely affected the country’s rule of law, its democratic institutions and its chances of achieving peace. Both the invitation and announcement place the Woodrow Wilson School in particular, and Princeton University more generally, at risk of legitimizing Uribe’s government and the crimes and ethically questionable acts committed therein.

The following quotations detail some of the illegal and unethical actions for which Mr. Uribe’s government has been denounced. It was extracted from the letter that many Colombians and Colombianists addressed to Harvard University in 2010, when Mr. Uribe was invited to the Kennedy School right after leaving office:

«As has been consistently denounced by a diverse number of human rights groups, scholars, community leaders, journalists and individuals inside Colombia and elsewhere, here is a brief list of some of the ethical and legal problems that taint Mr. Uribe’s legacy today. (Source: Human Rights Watch):

· The frequent extrajudicial killings of civilians attributed to the Colombian Army, which the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions recently described as «systematic.» The Attorney General’s Office is reported to be investigating cases involving more than 1,700 alleged victims in recent years. Uribe refuses to acknowledge the magnitude of the problem.

· Recent scandals over widespread illegal surveillance and wiretapping by the national intelligence service, which answers
directly to Uribe. The surveillance focused almost entirely on major opposition political figures, Supreme Court justices investigating the infiltration of paramilitary mafias in the Colombian Congress, as well as on journalists, trade unions, and human rights organizations. (Please note that one of the people signing this very letter was a direct victim of these criminal acts of surveillance, along with his family).

· The repeated verbal attacks and intimidation of critics by Uribe and senior administration officials, who often try to link
legitimate human rights work, journalism, or union activity with the brutal left-wing guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

· Ongoing anti-union violence, with the offenders rarely brought to justice. Colombia has the highest rate of killings of trade union members and leaders in the world. More than 2,700 are reported to have been killed since 1986, according to data collected by the National Labor School (Escuela Nacional Sindical or ENS). The ENS recorded 49 such killings in 2008, up from 39 in 2007. It recorded 20 of these killings in 2009 as of mid-June. Ninety-six percent of the killings remain unsolved.

«Moreover, after his presidential period ended earlier this year, the intensity of the accusations against Uribe’s administration increased in unprecedented ways, marked by the ongoing criminal investigations led by the country’s Supreme Court against some of his closest aides. Politicians closely allied with the violent project of paramilitary warlords were consistently named by Mr. Uribe to public office during his two terms in office. «Even worse, today more than a hundred members of Congress are involved in criminal investigations for their links with paramilitarism, all of them were members of President Uribe’s coalition. The corrupt mechanisms he resorted to obtain his re-election as President in 2006 have pushed several among his ministers and close collaborators to face imprisonment.»

We hope that you take this letter as an invitation to think more critically about the guests that the Woodrow Wilson School invites, as well as to offer more nuanced announcements of their trajectories when their political roles are disputed in the contexts where they come from. This would certainly increase the School’s and University’s pluralism. It would also impede prestigious universities like Princeton to be used as tools of legitimation of governments that violate human rights, weaken democracy and the rule of law.


Maria Paula Saffon Sanín, Ph.D., Race and Ethnicity Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, Lecturer, Politics Department, Princeton University

Juan F. González Bertomeu, J.S.D.; Professor of Law, ITAM University, Guest, Politics Department, Princeton University

Jeremy Adelman, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, Director of the Global History Lab, Princeton University

Mark Beissinger, Henry W. Putnam Professor of Politics, Director of the Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), Princeton University

Miguel A. Centeno, Professor of Sociology and International Affairs, Princeton University

Diana Andrade-Melgarejo, Ph.D Candidate, History Department, Princeton University

Robert Karl, Assistant Professor, Dept. of History, Princeton University

Susan Stewart, Avalon Foundation University Professor of the Humanities and Director, Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, Princeton University

Gabriela Nouzeilles, Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Princeton University

Christophe Litwin, PhD, Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, Princeton University

David Minto, Fund for Reunion-Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, Princeton University

Tony Grafton, Henry Putnam University Professor of History, Princeton University

Thomas Hare, William Sauter LaPorte ’28 Professor in Regional Studies, Princeton University

Teresa Davis, PhD Candidate, History Department, Princeton University

Mary Harper, Executive Director, Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, Princeton University

Alessandro Giammei, Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows and Lecturer in the Council of the Humanities and French and Italian, Princeton University

Tineke D’Haeseleer, Mellon-Cotsen East Asian Postdoctoral Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, Princeton University

Deborah Yashar, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

Iwa Nawrocki, PhD Candidate, History Department, Princeton University

Jessica R. Mack, PhD Candidate, Department of History, Princeton University

Andrea Oñate-Madrazo, Ph.D Candidate, History Department, Princeton University

Matthias vom Hau, Fung Global Fellow, Institute for International & Regional Studies, Princeton University

Jon Elster, Robert K. Merton Professor of the Social Sciences, Columbia University

Mary Roldán, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Dorothy Epstein Professor of Latin American History, Department of History, Hunter College, City University of New York/ CUNY Graduate Center

Andrés Fabián Henao Castro, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Boston

Esteban Restrepo Saldarriaga, Associate Professor, Law School, Universidad de los Andes

Miguel Gualdrón, PhD Student, Philosophy, DePaul University, Chicago

Renata Segura, Associate Director, Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum, Social Science Research Council

Oscar Javier Parra Vera, MSc Candidate in Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Oxford

Lina Britto, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Northwestern University

Sofia Jaramillo, Carnegie Mellon University, Master Student of Public Policy and Management

Victor M. Uribe-Uran, Associate Professor of History and Law, Chair, Department of History, Florida International University

María del Rosario Acosta López, Associate Professor, Philosophy Department, DePaul University

Sara Koopman, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, York University

Catherine C. LeGrand, Associate Professor, Department of History, McGill University

Paulina Pardo, Ph.D. Student, Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh

Miguel García-Sánchez, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Universidad de los Andes

Carolina Maldonado-Carreño, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Universidad de los Andes

Andres Molano, Assistant Professor, School of Education, Universidad de los Andes

Juan Carlos Rodríguez Raga, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Universidad de los Andes

Rodolfo Arango, Professor, Departament of Philosophy, Universidad de los Andes

Margarita Fajardo, Assistant Professor, Sarah Lawrence College

Santiago Virgüez Ruiz, Research Assistant, Department of Political Science, Universidad de los Andes

Tatiana Alfonso Sierra, Ph.D. Student, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Visiting Professor, Universidad de Los Andes

Alejandra Azuero Quijano, SJD candidate, Harvard Law School, and Ph.D. Student, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

Silvia Otero Bahamon, Ph.d. Candidate, Political Science, Northwestern University

Natalia Ramirez-Bustamante, SJD candidate, Harvard Law School

Jacob N. Kopas, J.D. Harvard Law School, PhD Student Political Science, Columbia University

Ana María Ibáñez, Dean, Economic Department, Universidad de los Andes

Camilo Castillo, Candidato a Doctor en Derecho, Universidad del Rosario

Nathalia Hernández Vidal. Ph.D. student, Department of Sociology, Loyola University

Javier Revelo-Rebolledo, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Jose Rafael Espinosa, Student, The Harris School of Public Policy, Master of Public Policy, University of Chicago

Pilar Riaño-Alcalá, PhD, Professor, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

Winifred Tate, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Colby College

Ricardo López, Associate Professor of History, Western Washington University

Ana Maria Bidegain, Professor, Florida International University

Libardo José Ariza, Associate Professor, Law School, Universidad de los Andes

Camila de Gamboa Tapias, Ph.D. in philosophy, Binghamton University, Associate Professor, Law School, Universidad del Rosario

Ana Arjona, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University

Teo Ballvé, Assistant Professor, Peace & Conflict Studies Program, Department of Geography, Colgate University

Juana Dávila, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University

Jose Luis Venegas Ramírez, Student, Law and Philosophy Departments, Universidad de los Andes

Alex Fattal, Assistant Professor, Department of Film-Video and Media Studies, Pennsylvania State University

Jorge González Jacome, S.J.D. 2013, Graduate Fellow, Writing Workshop Teaching Assistant, Harvard University

Julieta Lemaitre, Associate Professor, Law School, Universidad de los Andes

Marco Palacios, DPhil. Oxon, Profesor-investigador, El Colegio de México

Roosbelinda Cárdenas, Assistant Professor, Hampshire College

Antonio Barreto Rozo, Associate Professor, Law School, Universidad de los Andes

Lina Beatriz Pinto García, PhD Student, Department of Science & Techology Studies, York University

Kristina Lyons, Assistant Professor, Feminist Science Studies, Department of Anthropology, Latin American and Latino Studies, and the Science & Justice Research Center, University of California, Santa Cruz

Marisol de la Cadena, Professor of Anthropology, UC Davis

Jose Antonio Ramírez-Orozco, Ph.D. Student, Urban Planning, Columbia University

Alexander Huezo, Ph.D. Candidate, Geography, Florida International University

Albert Berry, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Toronto

Jean E. Jackson, Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, MIT

Elisabeth Jean Wood, Professor of Political Science & International and Area Studies, Yale University

Equipo Editorial del portal de opinión Palabras al Margen, Colombia