President Alvaro Uribe will leave office as He who can walk on water—as proven by the 69 percent of those of us who cast ballots for Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe’s former defense minister and heir. Uribe’s “democratic security” plan, in which we willingly paid a military tax in exchange for security, gave us peace—on the surface.
And if you did not think, too hard, about how that peace was being achieved, you could become dangerously intoxicated, giddy happy, with the security results the media, equally intoxicated, pedaled in your face.
Gladly, you joined the caravans of cars escorted by military choppers and you traveled to parts of Colombia which the FARC had closed you off from. Ecstatic to again smell the air of your grandparents’ birthplace, drunk with nostalgia because you did not think you’d again see this vegetation, the bamboo trees, the river with its rock-layered bed, you recalled a song abuelo strung on his guitar—“alla en aquel viejo alto …”—or a recipe that took abuela all morning to chop and marinate and grill. Lick your lips! You could taste her lechona.
“Señor, gracias por cuidarme!” you screamed at the soldier stationed at the paytoll. His long whiskers said he’d never shaved before. He looked at you and replied, “hola, mona!” He asked if he could take your blue eyes home with him.
You did not care that, from above, professional soldiers pointed their M-60s to the rim of your car. The soldiers’ binoculars studied the nearby bushes, the ones you could touch if you stretched your hand out the window, just a tiny bit more, as the air ran through your fingers. Who, or what, were the soldiers expecting to find? The soldiers’ grenades were ready for the call, but instead you turned up the song on the radio and opened up the sunroof, and this was the way to spend a long weekend. Mmm, a trapiche was near here, making panela, because molten brown sugar was in the air, the smell of the melcochas from childhood; up next, the dung of Zebu cattle made you roll up the window.
But did you not realize that the next moment may have been an explosion, a loud noise that blew out all the car windows? No. Uribe made you believe it was okay. But he himself wore bulletproof suits.
That same giddy feeling lured in investors’ confidence and flew in the tourists.
But it was a false sense of security. The military developed an anything-goes-attitude and eight years later, with the scandal of the false positives, you feel betrayed. But why are you shocked?
Lesson: Open your eyes, ask questions. Yes, idolize Uribe like a saint (and thank you, President Uribe, really, truly thank you for the last eight years, I mean my thank you), but I know it takes centuries for the church to rule that a saint actually walked on water.
Not long ago, I saw a documentary in which a Peruvian woman, a lawyer from the privileged class, cried and begged forgiveness because as a Peruvian citizen she did not see what human rights abuses were happening under President Fujimori. Dear me, I hope I don’t—ever—have to cry and beg forgiveness.