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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars President Alvaro Uribe and the "saving" of Colombia, October 11, 2012
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This review is from: No Lost Causes (Hardcover)
Until Alvaro Uribe was elected as its president, Colombia was a country in name only. It was a land of isolated cities surrounded by an almost impenetrable terrain of mountains and jungles where FARC and ELN leftist guerillas, paramilitary vigilantes, narco-traffickers, and other outlaws reigned supreme. Citizens put their lives in danger as soon as they passed the checkpoints around the towns and ventured into the country. Almost every Colombian family has a member who was kidnapped or murdered by one or another of these terrorist groups.

Try to imagine this incident happening almost EVERY DAY in America: A family driving from Atlanta to Nashville gets stopped at a guerilla roadblock on I-24. They get dragged out of their cars and watch the guerillas machine-gun their elderly grandparents with AK-47s, then carry the children off to a mountain hideout, saying they will murder them if the parents don't return with a ransom.

This barbarity was a NORMAL part of life in Colombia prior to Uribe being elected president. For over a century the national government, holed up in the cities, had taken a hands-off approach to the reign of terror in the countryside.

Uribe explains the essence of life in Colombia that he knew growing up:

==============================
For as long as I can remember, there has been a paradox at the heart of Colombian life. On the one hand, our country suffers from its well-known maladies and afflictions. On the other, it is a country that is also capable of stunning, almost inconceivable goodness-- a place where the laughter seems heartier, the food tastes better, and the sun shines brighter than anywhere else. The overwhelming majority of our lives take place in the latter place. Learning how to reconcile the two worlds was, for most of our history, the very essence of being Colombian.

A well-known American traveler named Frank Vincent once visited Colombia and wrote: "The whole genius of the nation seems directed toward civil dissension and guerrilla warfare. Hence, while the people complain of poverty, they offer so little guarantee and security to foreign life and capital as to be quite unable to secure the presence and help of either." Vincent wrote this in 1890. A century later, it would still ring true.

Why? In our case, we were held back by the same two intimately linked problems that have been our undoing time and again during the past two hundred years: 1) our difficult geography, and 2) the historic inability, or unwillingness, of Colombian governments to project sufficient federal authority.

I remember watching as my father, such a proud and democratic man, talked with these outlaws with guns. And I remember yearning, at the purest, most primal level, to live in a Colombia where armed men would never invade our farm, where my family would all be safe, and where no one would ever have to lock herself inside her house, staring at the door in terror.
============================

Uribe tells his story as a member of a well-to-do but humble family who dedicated their lives to the cause of restoring civil government to Colombia. Uribe's father was murdered and his brother gravely wounded by leftist outlaws. Uribe faced almost daily assassination threats as he rose up the political ladder as mayor of Medellin, Governor of the Department (State) of Antioquia, and President of Colombia. As president he mobilized the police, the army, and the courts to defeat the guerillas and drug criminals. During his administration kidnappings, murders, and bombings became so rare as to become newsworthy.

Uribe proved himself a wise administrator in almost every area of government. He made the government more transparent and responsible to the people. He restored the government's finances by courageously raising taxes and cutting excessive bureaucratic spending. He helped to restore sustainability to Colombia's public and private pensions. He encouraged the development of modern infrastructures among the ports, railroads, and highways. He encouraged the urban planning that has made Bogota and Medellin models of urban development. Of course he had a lot of help in these things, but as President he set the leadership tone of peace, progress, prosperity, and optimism that has spread throughout the country. Almost every Colombian you talk to these days says, "Our country is going up!"

From this book you will learn not only about how Uribe saved his country from being submerged in criminal anarchy but also:

1. About Colombia, a large and now stable country of fifty million, just a few hours flight time from Miami. It has a beautiful geography and fantastic biodiversity. It has uncounted natural resources and a large population of increasingly prosperous consumers, making it a trading partner that is likely to benefit our economy by selling us what we need and buying the products that we export. The majority of its people are aligned with our views on democracy and free market economics.

2. How the law-abiding people can prevail when their leaders inspire them to stand up to terrorists. Colombian judges, soldiers, and politicians woke up every day knowing they and their families were specifically targeted for assassination by the terrorist groups they fought and prosecuted. They refused bribes that would have made them wealthy, choosing to give their lives to the cause of justice rather than becoming corrupt pawns of guerillas and drug Mafioso.

3. How guerilla insurgencies are defeated. There has been something of a post-Vietnam War myth in Leftist circles that guerilla movements can't be defeated. And yet Colombia's entrenched insurgencies, operating for decades in the most guerrilla-friendly terrain on the planet, WERE defeated after Uribe mobilized his intelligence operatives to infiltrate them and then sent the army into the jungle to hunt them down. Over a period of years they were killed off and incarcerated faster than they could replace their losses. Some of their leaders died in combat. Some were obliterated by airstrikes. Some died of natural causes. Uribe learned that negotiations were futile until AFTER the leadership was killed or captured. He had to eliminate the leadership first, and then offer to negotiate a return to society for the demoralized rank-and-file.

4. To appreciate the necessity of democracy. We Americans often become frustrated with the democratic process and say, "We have way too many people who are too stupid to vote!" And yet Colombians, who are so much poorer and less educated than we are, elected Uribe as their President and elected other strong leaders to the Legislature and regional governments who they knew would risk their lives to restore order to the country. If democracy can work to elect the best leaders in Colombia, then surely it can work here.

5. To understand that we Americans must never shrink from our role as being the both the advocate and the "arsenal" of democracy. Says Uribe:

==========
Over the years, many countries offered Colombia their condolences. But only one country ever stepped forward to offer us real, tangible military aid that helped us address our problems. The Colombian people will forever be grateful to the United States, and to presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, for providing us with many of the tools we needed to defeat terrorism and extend the reach of the democratic state.
===========

6. At the same time recognize that opportunities for dialog with our ideological adversaries in Latin America may be possible. Uribe portrays Cuba's Fidel Castro as being an advocate for peace. He says Castro warned him not to place any trust in negotiating with the FARC because Castro knew their leaders and knew they had no sincere desire for peace. It would seem from Uribe's account that Cuba's ambitions of fomenting Communist insurgencies in Latin America are finished. Uribe's accounts of meetings with Hugo Chavez are more ambiguous. Uribe says that Chavez funded the FARC to the tune of $300,000,000. And yet Uribe says there is a sense of Latin American solidarity that prevents Colombia and Venezuela from considering themselves enemies.

This book is a very personal and moving view of how President Alvaro Uribe led Colombia away from anarchy and terror and into a constitutional government that balances libertarian concerns with the necessity for being strong enough to suppress the insurgent and outlaw groups that threatened the country's existence. Uribe has transformed his country by inspiring its people with his values of integrity, social justice, respect for the law, and willingness to give up his own life to defeat the insurgents and drug criminals who sought to bring down the government. His story is an inspiration for all peoples and governments.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Account of Events, October 20, 2012
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This review is from: No Lost Causes (Kindle Edition)
As a Colombian living in the U.S. I saw the presidency of Alvaro Uribe as the one and last hope Colombia had. I witnessed through the news the events that took place during his presidency, and this book corroborates and details those moments I followed so closely, plus other events that weren't so publicly disclosed. He is an amazing person, smart, caring, an idealist of the best kind. He doesn't dream on clouds, he sees potential in all the positives of a situation without ignoring the negatives. I will always and forever be an admirer him and of his presidency, and I continue to follow all his efforts nationally and internationally to see Colombia walk towards a better future. His book is concise, precise, and well written. The events flow nicely from one chapter to another, I couldn't put it down! Highly recommended if you are a student of Latin American social and political current events. A good lesson on strong leadership.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, October 20, 2012
This review is from: No Lost Causes (Hardcover)
This book is a perfect book for those wanting to understand how Colombia went from being nearly a "failed state" to being the darling of investors looking to expand in the emerging region. The story of Colombia under Uribe Velez is one of hope, hard work, sacrifice, and the unequivocal belief that, quoting former President Uribe, "all human problems have a human solution." On top of this book narrating a great story, it is a pleasure to read (i.e. it flows very easily).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book seen from a Dutch perspective, October 25, 2012
This review is from: No Lost Causes (Kindle Edition)
As a Dutchman having lived in Colombia for many years and having suffered the death of a relative
in an attack in Colombia, I found this book very impressive, because it exposes the true nature of the FARC and its claws on
Colombia for many decades.I hope with president Santos the new approach of "talks"with the FARC will not lead to a backlash
again. I would also like to use this platform to express my repudiation of the holandesa Tanja Nijmeijer who is naively being
used as an "ďnnocently looking" woman guerrillera, but has in effect colombian blood on her hands. Shame on her and all the other
so-called freedom fighters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, December 31, 2012
This review is from: No Lost Causes (Hardcover)
I've learned so much I never knew about Colombia. It has also strengthened my cero tolerance against drug trafficking and terrorism.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars review of "No lost causes" by Uribe, December 30, 2012
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This review is from: No Lost Causes (Kindle Edition)
Over the last 10 years I spent almost 2 years cumulative during my many visits to Colombia. I observed Uribe on TV many times and was impressed with his transparency and penchant for telling the truth. Although he has long speeches. The book answered a lot of questions I had regarding his actions against the FARC. I was impressed with his leadership and always wondered what motivated him to trade his life to save Colombia. I was also pleased to see he did so much to improve the social programs in Colombia.

Almost all the Colombians I met will tell you how much they love their country, and in the same conversation tell how they bought themselves out of serving in the military. Uribe in his book describes how he and a lot of his fellowmen are much different than a large percentage of the Colombian population.

The book played down some of his weak spots, in my opinion. He did mention his temper, but I saw it in action one time and for a little guy, he can sure explode!

A very good book to read about Colombia. I hope its required reading for students in Colombia and any student of political science.

On the future of Uribe, I hear he might run for a seat in the Colombian senate, but I hope he finds other ways to use his energy.

On the future of Colombia, I hope Santos gets a little more grit in dealing with the FARC. At present, I suspect if he wrote a book, it will be titled "Tiptoeing through the tulips".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uribe Came to Work, Not Complain, December 25, 2012
By 
NA Miles "VDH" (West Rising Sun, IN) - See all my reviews
This review is from: No Lost Causes (Hardcover)
Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe believes human problems have human solutions.

FARC terrorists controlled half his country's vast and rugged territory when the man from Antioquia was elected a decade ago; worse, they were somehow aided by Colombia's left-wing neighbors to the east (Venezuela) and south (Ecuador).

Roughly 30,000 Colombians were killed annually with 3,000 more kidnapped; drug traffickers generated $3 billion annually; and unemployment was nearly 16%. Few believed progress was possible, and seemingly no one (sans perhaps the USA) cared to assist. Colombia was mainly on its own in this war across an ungovernable, mountainous land of isolated towns twice the size of Texas.

And yet President Uribe, unlike other world leaders, refused to blame his predecessors for the massive problems he inherited (p. 167).

Colombian democracy had tried & failed Neville Chamberlain-like appeasement several times; it was now desperate for a Churchill or Reagan. Uribe was arguably the nation's last hope.

"Instead of being a government that begged for dialogue with terrorists, we were engaged in a profound dialogue with people," Uribe notes on page 319.

However, not only did Uribe spend his presidency visiting tiny villages to fight for the rebirth of civil society, but due to his disciplined yet sophisticated upbringing, Uribe also fit the bill for a commander who wisely took action where others hadn't.

His military rescued dozens of hostages -- some whose elaborate plans garnered global attention -- and eliminated top FARC outlaws year after year.

Mr. Uribe used maturity and self-control in dealing with the ignominious Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), fatuous Rafael Correa (Ecuador)& other dangerous leftists who supported terrorism & murder (p. 276). He made overtures and prevented escalations that might have led to full-scale war.

But Uribe never lost sight of the mission to defeat evil, thus he crossed the aforementioned neighbors' borders when necessary to destroy FARC commanders and obtain vital information that prevented future massacres of innocent Colombians.

Ultimately, term limits disallowed a third term for this brave man, but his mark was made:

By the time Alvaro Uribe left office in 2010, Colombia's homicide rate was cut in half and kidnappings dropped to fewer than 300 per year. Via a robust military that achieved peace through strength, much of FARC had miraculously been demobilized.

Under a more business-friendly environment that encouraged investor confidence, necessary austerity measures to tame violent labor radicals, taxes were lowered, poverty fell by 15%, tourism of this gorgeous nation (10% of the world's biodiversity) increased, foreign investment doubled, exports tripled and economic growth was close to 7% -- despite the Great Recession suffered by Western Europe and North America concurrently.

By the time Uribe departed office, Colombia was more economically integrated than ever with the rest of the world. The republic went from being nearly a "failed state" to being the prize of investors looking to expand in an emerging region.

Uribe's mettle, humility and passion saved Colombia, plainly and simply.

This book is a marvelous read if you're interested in hearing one of the 21st century's great leaders explain how and why he kept my wife's nation safe and led them on a rapid path toward prosperity -- amidst a current of disingenuous stereotypes and media-created myths and outdated cliches.

This is one of many reasons President Bush awarded Uribe the Medal of Freedom -- the United States' highest honor for a civilian -- in January 2009.

Others, here in America and abroad, throughout history, can learn from such intrepid but sentient decisions.

The book flows nicely, totally kept my interest, and all in all, was a perfect holiday read for me, my wife and her father.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read!, December 3, 2012
By 
Tim (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: No Lost Causes (Kindle Edition)
Anyone with an interest in Colombia or wants to understand how Colombia has changed, should read this book. Reads more like an adventure novel full of kidnapping and attempts to kill Uribe. Keeps you glued to the page wanting to read more. Highly recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Lost Causes, November 25, 2012
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This review is from: No Lost Causes (Kindle Edition)
Informative, interesting and factual, subjective but that is what is to be expected. Uribe also criticizes himself as well as praises his accomplishments.... in short, a pleasure to read and I wish there were a sequel. Colombia is a jewel of a country and may it continue to benefit and carry on with Uribe's fine work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wow!, March 4, 2013
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This review is from: No Lost Causes (Kindle Edition)
This should be a movie! I have spent time in Colombia over the last eight years and have followed the new and politics but this was an incredible insight. I highly recommend.
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No Lost Causes
No Lost Causes by Álvaro Uribe Vélez (Hardcover - October 2, 2012)
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