Monday, March 30, 2009

"My Friend" Clinton in Medellin

I was riding in a taxi the other day, when the taxi driver mentioned that "my friend" would be speaking at the meeting of the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), which is taking place in Medellin these days. I didn't immediately realize that he was talking about Bill Clinton, ex-US president. "My friend", oh well. "Ojala", I responded, which means "I wished!". 

Well, I'm not sure I'm going to have the chance to shake friends with "my friend", but it's worthwhile listening to what he has to say if he visits my new hometown anyway.

He met with President Uribe at the Plaza Mayor, the main congress center, just 4 years old, where the majority of the IDB meetings are held. He also visited a school in Baranquilla built by the Colombian singer and superstar Shakira. 

One of the central statements of his speach were: "I believe the best outcome for us would be a 21st century economy in which more money is made in the production of goods and services and less money is made in finance". He continued: In such an economy, “people make money in finance the old-fashioned way, by making investments in products that people want to buy, but not by building sand castles in the sky,” So less borrowing and more "real economy". Well, this seems obvious in hindsight. 

He also encouraged the Colombian officials to engage in a dialog with the left. I'm sure that the Colombian president Uribe had to swallow hard when he heard that. Having lost his own father in the civil unrest in Colombia, Uribe is known to be a hardliner with respect to FARC, and he has been very successful with his policy of pushing back the FARC into the most remote jungles of the country.

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