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Proposed 'Alvaro Uribe Way' Angrily Divides South Florida Colombians

AlvaroUribe.jpeg
Roberto Koltun
/
Miami Herald
Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe during a press conference at the University of Miami in 2018.

Colombians either revere or revile former President Alvaro Uribe. That's apparent now in South Florida, too.

Former President Alvaro Uribe is a polarizing figure in Colombia. Now a dispute has erupted that shows Uribe can be just as polarizing here in South Florida — as Miami-Dade County decides whether to name a street after him.

Many Colombians revere Alvaro Uribe for beating back their country’s violent Marxist guerrillas more than a decade ago. Many revile him for his ties to right-wing paramilitary groups that have terrorized Colombia. Uribe is under house arrest this month for alleged witness tampering involving complaints about his alleged involvement with them.

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He denies those charges. But his controversy has now hit the streets of Miami. Or – a street. Uribe supporters in the Colombian-American community have asked the Miami-Dade County Commission to rename a part of Southwest 117th Avenue, between Bird Road and Coral Way, as "Alvaro Uribe Way."

This week the commission put the item on its agenda — and that’s caused an angry split in the Colombian community, the third largest Latino group in Florida behind Cubans and Puerto Ricans. Colombian expat Fabio Andrade is leading the pro-Uribe effort.

“Colombians were only associated with guerrillas and with narcos before Uribe became President in 2002," said Colombian expat Fabio Andrade, who heads the Weston-based business nonprofit Americas Community Center and is leading the pro-Uribe effort.

"President Uribe brought back stability — he brought back the country. So I think it’s very important as Colombian-Americans that we honor that.”

But Uribe’s critics argue the street renaming would instead honor a man who has sponsored murderous criminal militias in Colombia.

Carlos Naranjo is a spokesman for the Miami expat group Colombian Progressives. It has scheduled a protest for Friday at 6 p.m. at the Miami-Dade County Government Center in downtown Miami.

“It is an outrage — you shouldn’t be glorifying people that are being investigated for human rights abuses," said Naranjo.

"An Inter-American Court of Human Rights investigation just opened," Naranjo added, "investigating [paramilitary] massacres under Uribe's Administration.”

The Miami-Dade Commission was supposed to take up the Uribe street-naming issue on Monday but the discussion appears to have been postponed.