| NEW YORK April 26
NEW YORK April 26 Colombia must "stay the
course" of security, investment and social cohesion to keep
investor confidence high and terrorism at bay, the country's
former President Alvaro Uribe said on Thursday.
"The country is doing well but I have concerns," Uribe told
participants at the Bloomberg Link Latin American Investment
Conference in New York.
"I didn't leave a country converted into a paradise, but the
country was doing much better. We elected President (Juan
Manuel) Santos with the same platform, and he has expressed he
will keep continuity with the same political guidance, and I am
critical at some moments because we need Colombia to perform as
an outstanding country."
Uribe left office in 2010 after two four-year terms under
which the armed forces and government took back control of large
areas once off-limits because of an insurgency fueled by the
illegal drug trade. During his tenure, confidence in the country
and foreign investment surged.
Uribe said Colombia still has many areas that are
under-invested in need of foreign expertise and capital.
Only 30 percent of the Andean country's land has been
explored for oil because of past security issues. Now Colombia's
oil firm Ecopetrol and private corporations are planning to
explore some 62 million acres (25 million hectares).
"Colombia has had a very diversified economy and it has all
the possibilities (to) stay the course, but we need investors
not only to buy stocks in our markets but to originate new
projects," Uribe said.
Colombia has a legal framework for private ports in both in
the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean and has 70,000 square miles
(180,000 sq km) of flat land for biofuels production, he said.
Uribe said he is not worried about his regional neighbors'
actions, such as the recent expropriation of oil firm YPF by
"There are no implications for the region, this is something
isolated for Argentina," Uribe said. "The bond spreads of
Argentina are higher than Venezuela. And while the spreads for
Colombia are at the lowest, Argentina's are at the highest. The
markets know how to read every country and not a region as a
whole; they know how to establish a difference between Argentina
On Thursday, Colombian bond yield spreads were unchanged at
150 basis points wider to comparable benchmark U.S. Treasuries,
according to the benchmark JPMorgan Emerging Market Bond Index
Plus (EMBI+). Argentina's spreads were also unchanged on
the day but 981 basis points wider.