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Proposed 'Alvaro Uribe Way' Angrily Divides South Florida Colombians

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe during a press conference at the University of Miami in 2018.
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.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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