BUENOS AIRES — Authorities found and deactivated a bomb Tuesday at a theater in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires where former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe was to deliver a speech, officials said.
“During an inspection, security personnel found the bomb in a lamp in the theater. It is of the type activated by cell phone,” a judicial source said.
Uribe, known for tough law-and-order policies during his 2002-2010 presidency in Colombia, had been scheduled to deliver a speech at the Grand Rex theater in downtown Buenos Aires on Wednesday.
Theater security and maintenance personnel found the bomb on the second floor, where Uribe, following a press conference, plans “to host a cocktail party with many personalities,” said investigating Judge Norberto Oyarbide.
Speaking to reporters at the entrance to the theater, Oyarbide said the bomb “was simple, but large enough to kill people who were close to it.”
Federal police rushed two trucks with with explosives experts to the site and closed off traffic for more than an hour on the busy Corrientes Avenue, where the theater, one of the largest in Buenos Aires, is located.
After an exhaustive search to check for any other devices, some 30 police officers remained at the entrance, preventing anyone from entering the building.
Uribe’s speech to the WOM Leadership symposium 2012, a forum on management and leadership, had drawn calls from leftist groups for a demonstration to protest his presence.
Other scheduled speakers include Manuel Estiarte with Spain’s FC Barcelona football club, and Guy Caron from the Cirque du Soleil.
Uribe’s speech will proceed as scheduled, Oyarbide said.
During his presidency Uribe secured a controversial peace deal with Colombian right-wing paramilitary forces that led to the demobilization of 30,000 fighters, and launched peace talks with the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas.
However the country’s largest leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), rejected negotiations with Uribe and derided him as a warmonger.
Several foreign leftists, including at least one from Argentina, have reportedly spent time with the FARC guerrillas, according to news reports.
Uribe’s hardline policies against Colombia’s leftist guerrillas resulted in a wave of complaints of human rights abuses against the armed forces.
While Uribe left office with high approval ratings, details about domestic spying of journalists, judges and opposition politicians, as well as corruption among supporters, have emerged in recent years.
A string of former top officials from his administration have been put on trial, including Bernardo Moreno, his former chief of staff, and ex-agriculture minister Andres Felipe Arias, a friend of the ex-president.