Gore shuns Uribe at Miami conference

Language: EN
Type: Newspaper Story
Publication: Miami Herald, The (FL)
Author: From Miami Herald staff and wire reports
Date: April 20, 2007
Copyright: Copyright (c) 2007 The Miami Herald


Miami Herald, The (FL)
April 20, 2007

Gore shuns Uribe at Miami conference
From Miami Herald staff and wire reports

Former Vice President Al Gore told the organizers of an environmental conference that started Friday in Miami that he would only keep his speaking engagement if the conference disinvited Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, according to Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos.

Gore withdrew from the Green Forum, organized by Poder magazine and New America Alliance, on Friday to avoid appearing with Uribe, who is battling new accusations that he aided far-right death squads.

"The allegations that have arisen over the past month and earlier this week are deeply troubling," Gore's spokeswoman, Kalee Kreider, said in a statement. "He believes that President Uribe should have every opportunity to address these unsettled allegations in Colombia, but until this very serious chapter in history is brought to a close, Mr. Gore did not feel it was appropriate to appear at the event."

Kreider said that at the time Poder invited Gore, Uribe was not part of the event.

Santos called Gore's demand "very unjust."

"As a proud member of President Uribe's cabinet, I deeply disagree with Vice President Gore's decision not to attend this conference. Gore has been misinformed and ill-advised," Santos told The Miami Herald.

In the scandal surrounding Uribe, the information was based on "simple hearsay and innuendo," Santos said.

Speaking at the Green Forum Friday, Uribe said, "I deplore the cancellation of Vice President Al Gore in this meeting."

Before leaving for Miami, Uribe, the Bush administration's closest South American ally, said at a news conference in Bogotá that Gore's decision was a sign of the damage being done to Colombia by the constant accusations against the president. Uribe said he still planned to attend the Green Forum.

Uribe called the news conference to refute an opposition lawmaker's allegations that while Uribe was governor in a northern state in the mid-1990s, he let paramilitaries use his property for meetings and killings.

Considered terrorist groups by the U.S. government, the paramilitaries are responsible for some of the worst massacres in Colombia's long-running civil conflict. Many of the group's commanders are wanted in the United States on charges of exporting hundreds of tons of cocaine.

Gore's office informed conference organizers that he "would not attend the event because he could not share the stage with the president of Colombia after the political debates in Colombia against the Uribe Velez family and against the president," Uribe said in the hastily called news conference at the presidential palace.

Ditching the normal fare of soap operas and reality shows, all of Colombia's major networks carried the nearly two-hour news conference live.

Editor Isaac Lee of the magazine Poder confirmed to The Associated Press that Gore's decision not to attend was related to the latest accusations against Uribe.

"Al Gore knew he was going to be on the podium with Uribe," Lee told The Miami Herald. "We are very sorry he's not here. Al Gore is not replaceable.

"This is something between Vice President Gore and President Uribe," Lee said.

The U.S. Senate froze $55 million worth of U.S. military aid to Colombia earlier this week on allegations that the head of Colombia's armed forces -- who has also worked closely with the United States in its multibillion-dollar anti-narcotics strategy, Plan Colombia -- collaborated with the death squads.

Eight Colombian legislators are already in jail on charges of helping the paramilitaries launch a nationwide offensive that killed thousands.

Uribe was reelected in a landslide last year on promises of continuing a hard line against a five-decade leftist insurgency.

Copyright (c) 2007 The Miami Herald