A Tone-Deaf Webinar: Álvaro Uribe Joins an Untimely Conversation with NYU

Photo courtesy of trendsmap.com Belatina, latinx
Photo courtesy of trendsmap.com

If anyone needs a visual representation of what is tone-deaf, then look no further. NYU  Washington, DC and The Brademas Center decided to host Colombia’s former president, Alvaro Uribe, on a webinar yesterday. 

Nevertheless, I joined the webinar, held via Zoom, where we were able to catch on a few moments that are worth discussing. The event was filled with technological issues throughout its duration, though. They claimed it was due to the massive number of participants. 

Uribe was joined by international lawyer and Chief Executive of the Inter-American Institute on Justice and Sustainability, Claudia S. de Windt. Geovanny Vicente-Romero, a writer, political strategist, and Columnist for CNN moderated the event.

Even though Colombia is crumbling into pieces at the moment, NYU claimed it mattered now more than ever to join Uribe in a conversation about a sustainable Colombia, where they were meant to analyze politics, the planet, and democratic security. What a paradoxical wonderland. 

So much for their commitment to promote and foster ethical, efficient, and dynamic learning. 

 

“Despite the current challenges, Colombia remains an important force in the region,” Vicente-Romero said in the opening remarks. 

That conversation might be interesting, but let’s not forget Colombia’s current state.

In recent days, Colombia has been struggling to come up for air. The country, known for coffee and its bountiful supply of flowers, has been inundated with blood and despair due to the brutal reaction of the anti-riot police, ESMAD, to protests. 

The protests began on Wednesday, April 28th, when Colombians took to the street to show dissatisfaction with President Ivan Duque’s proposal of a tax reform (Reforma Tributaria). Though the tax reform proposal was withdrawn, many Colombian continue protesting the ongoing injustices they’ve been facing for far too long.

Plenty of people, including scholars and even NYU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, CLACS, denounced the event. The outrage was shared throughout social media, where people took their time to explain the insensitivity of such conversation. 

Unsurprisingly, NYU censored the participants by not activating the chat feature of the Zoom meeting. Instead, they opted for a Q&A feature, which we all know can’t be all too reliable. 

Uribe has been linked to inciting violence in the past and as recently as last week, thanks to a since-deleted tweet. 

Translation: Let’s support the right of the soldiers and police to use their weapons and to defend their integrity, the people, and the goods from the criminal acts of terrorism. Photo courtesy: trendsmap.com Belatina, latinx
Translation: Let’s support the right of the soldiers and police to use their weapons and to defend their integrity, the people, and the goods from the criminal acts of terrorism. Photo courtesy: trendsmap.com

Though he tries to justify his actions by saying he only speaks from the love of the country, anyone can get pricked while trying to read between his lines. 

“Everything you do, you must do with love,” Former President Uribe said during the webinar. 

I won’t lie; the lagged connection took away a lot from the flow of the conversation. But they moved forward.

Vicente-Romero attempted to ask other questions whenever the connection came back up. In one of those short instances, the topic of human rights came up. Uribe didn’t shy away from it. 

He stated that people often claimed that he had violated human rights when that wasn’t the case. He then went on to say how he believes in being an open book, which is why he tried to uncover and share as much information with Colombian citizens as possible when he was president. 

Uribe hinted at transparency with these statements, yet Colombia’s own news stations won’t accurately report the current events. So instead, many Colombians have sought help from influencers, artists, or anyone with large online platforms that can lend them their “live” features to stream the truth of the streets. Urban artist Rene from Residente Calle 13, and Colombian artist, Adriana Lucia, are among the people who have shared their platforms. 

Photo courtesy: Instagram Live with Rene from Residente Calle 13 and protester showing the rubber pellets being fired at them. Belatina, latinx
Photo courtesy: Instagram Live with Rene from Residente Calle 13 and protester showing the rubber pellets being fired at them.

In another moment, Uribe expressed how much he listened to university students when he was president and how that allowed him to streamline a better plan for Colombia. 

“I spoke to university students and noticed that there was a vicious cycle,” Uribe said. They wanted to leave Colombia for good. There was lots of violence.”

He explained how he focused on the importance of investments to turn this mindset around. Sadly, Colombia’s poverty rate remains high with 27 percent of the population suffering from economic inequalities.

The webinar was cut short due to connection issues. But it did allow its viewers to see the danger of disillusion first hand.

Colombia needs help. And this conversation was not the solution.

 

I reached out to Vicente-Romero and NYU for the official recording (it was a recorded session), but I’ve yet to hear from them. The snippets of the recording provided were found on Twitter.