The Boston Globe

Colombian leader holds town hall meeting in East Boston

Sept 29--They arrived before dawn for a glimpse of him, traveling from Maynard, Boston, and even Connecticut. A white-haired man held a sign in Spanish saying “four more years.’’ Another man, wrapped in a flag, grew teary-eyed at the mention of his name.

29 de septiembre de 2009

Hundreds of Colombians poured into East Boston High School’s auditorium early yesterday morning to greet President Álvaro Uribe, who has achieved folk hero status in this immigrant enclave for reducing violent crime in the South American nation, and for taking a hard line against drug trafficking and terrorism.

Dressed in a blue-striped shirt and wire-rimmed glasses, the graying leader hardly cut a dramatic figure as he stopped in Boston last week on an official visit to the United States. But the sight of him inspired Colombians to climb onto the wooden seats to snap photographs and chant his name.

“I don’t have the words to describe the feeling,’’ said Rubiel Patiño, a 50-year-old painter who lives in Maynard and traveled to Boston to see Uribe, wrapped in the Colombian flag. “The emotion is huge.’’

But Uribe’s conservative administration has also faced harsh criticism for alleged human rights abuses. In June, the group Human Rights Watch said Uribe was largely failing to address allegations of abuses and killings of civilians and trade unionists. Uribe is also facing criticism for possibly seeking a third term, which would require a change to the constitution.

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