Letter: Dramatic political reforms in Colombia

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Sir: Phil Davison's analysis of current events in Colombia ('Figurehead rumbas while Colombian military rules', 26 July) is far from reality. During my many visits to Colombia in recent years I have witnessed a society that is undergoing dramatic political and economic reforms.

Under President Cesar Gaviria's leadership, Colombia has adopted a new constitution that, in modernising the country's political and judicial institutions, opens political participation to all segments of Colombian society and transfers many political powers and responsibilities from the central government to local elected authorities.

It also provides new guarantees for human rights for all Colombians. Human rights violations occur in Colombia, but increasingly they are being pursued successfully in the courts as the reforms of the judicial system, also promoted by President Gaviria, take hold; all of which reflects President Gaviria's consistent stand in favour of human rights.

In economic policy, President Gaviria has reduced tariffs, reformed the foreign exchange, capital and labour markets, and given new incentives to attract foreign investment. In addition, Colombia has negotiated several free trade agreements with its Latin American neighbours. Internally, a far-reaching programme of deregulation and privatisation is combining with these other reforms to impart a new dynamism to the Colombian economy, which is demonstrated by an increasing rate of economic growth.

President Gaviria's administration has intensified his predecessor's campaign against drug trafficking with increasingly successful results.

As far as political violence and guerrilla activity is concerned, President Gaviria has succeeded within the framework of the new constitution in reconciling the major groups to the political process.

They have laid down their arms and have stood for elected office. Those that remain are declining in numbers and losing support. Increasingly, they are confined to the remoter parts of the country and pursue activity that has more in common with criminality than political activity.

The country I see when I visit Colombia is implementing widespread political and economic reform. Colombia's challenges are many, but lack of political leadership is not one of them.

Yours ever,

TRISTAN GAREL-JONES,

MP for Watford (Con)

House of Commons,

London, SW1

28 July

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