The Medal of Freedom belongs to the Colombians, said Uribe

· Conflict, Politic, Society, Violence

The president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, said in a press conference in Washington that the Medal of Freedom given by president Bush to him, belongs to all Colombians and the policemen and soldiers that work for peace in his country.

The president was one of the three foreign leaders elected by president Bush to receive the highest honor of the US government to civilians. In this case, Bush gave the Medal to three of his most near allies during his eight years government: the former prime ministers of UK, Tony Blair, and Australia, John Howard and the Colombian president Álvaro Uribe.

Uribe said to journalists in Washington that the Medal is dedicated to all the Colombians who have suffered violence during the last 60 years and soldiers and policemen who fight for peace in the country.

The election of Uribe to receive the Medal rose a big debate in United States by humanitarian organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that argued that Bush is blind before the problematic of human rights in Colombia.

Colombia endures a 60 years conflict that involves communist guerrilla, drug trafficking mafias, right-wind paramilitary groups and accusations of human rights violations by security forces.

Although the presidency of Uribe has dropped the statistics of violence in the country since 2001, humanitarian organizations consider that the government should do more to protect the life of the most vulnerable groups like unionists and leaders of the indigenous and Afro-Colombian minorities.

The discussion for human rights in Colombia was also the main reason to get a strong opposition in the Congress of the United States by the Democrats to sign a free trade agreement with Colombia, an issue in which president Bush was committed. Bush said in his last press conference as president last Monday that it was one of the disappointments during his government.

Blair, Howard and Uribe approved the US invasion to Iraq, an aspect that was pointed out by some groups that criticized the decision of Bush to give to them the Medal of Freedom.

About the Latin American leader, Bush said that president Uribe has been committed to freedom, democracy and the rule of law in his country. He has revived the hope of Colombia, said Bush.

By his part, president Uribe gave the Order of San Carlos Medal to the Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, the Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutiérrez and the US Ambassador Susan Schwab.

The ceremony was hold yesterday in the Colombian Embassy in Washington. Uribe said that the three US officials have worked for the Colombian cause in the support for the sign of the free trade agreement between Colombia and US.

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