Colombia at a critical juncture The inheritance that the president of Colombia Iván Duque Márquez received


Rodrigo Pombo is a university professor and member of the FAES Network in Colombia

The new, young and brilliant president of Colombia does not have it easy. Heir to one of the most critical moments of the republican life or, at least, of the contemporary life of the country, he has decided to play his cards strangely, if by stranger we mean to carry out the greatest political reform of all time without even presenting some bill that seeks to transform it. He has decided not to buy the consciences of politicians in parliament in order to gain governability, which, in Colombia, constitutes the greatest culture innovation of political activity in Bolivar’s homeland.

And he has done so knowing that he ‘lost’ the parliamentary majorities (if he ever had them) and that he received an entirely divided nation on account of a referendum to approve the agreements reached between the government of Dr Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC exterrorists.

With the Colombian peace process, what should have been an authentic state policy in the face of the scourge of organized crime, it ended up becoming a crude government stance that divided the Colombian nation to achieve results —some positive, yes, like the demobilization of 12,000 ex-combatants— even if frankly insufficient, at least in view of the expectations generated (310 pages of promises). In sum, some agreements known to be unattainable due to the fiscal costs that they represent and that, inexplicably, are part of the constitutional block according to the Congress of the Republic. This is part of the "glorious" legacy that President Ivan Duque Marquez received.

As if the national division were a small matter, since 2016 the macroeconomic fundamentals began to show their weaknesses, their decline, not because of the fall in oil prices exclusively, as the outgoing government was placed on approaching the agreements with the FARC, even against the popular will expressed at the polls. The sovereign power said NO but the ‘regime’said YES. This is how democracy is understood in Colombia.

In this way, from the forgetfulness of the Santos government that turned its back on economic growth and the loneliness experienced by the productive sector in so many years, we are left with a large part of the sorrows of the moment, from which, I hope and aspire, we will leave with the spirit of winners and with patriotic breath under the firebrands of President Duque Márquez.

In addition to this already disheartening situation, two colossal tragedies were added. One, frankly foreseeable; the other, extraordinary, unpredictable and not yet sufficiently well pondered.

On the one hand, in the 'Santos era', illicit cocaine cultivation quadrupled (more than 200,000 hectares cultivated) and illegal mining skyrocketed. However, the most traumatic of all is that the war against criminality found its main obstacle in a very prolonged, exhausting and huge negotiation with terrorism that resulted in a constitutional replacement of great size. All of which, in itself (and everything has to be said), led to the net paralysis of the forces of constitutional order. The criminals were left without their executioner. The Colombian nation relieved its political Charter.

In other words, some things were well negotiated with the FARC, very few others (such as demobilisation and disarmament) and pessimistically the majority, among them, the issue of drugs, as an efficient cause of the current Colombian conflict.

On the other hand, we find that 'the new best friend' of former president Juan Manuel Santos, Mr Nicolás Maduro and his regime, began to export with resounding success something more than oil. They began to export their people, their nationals, their compatriots, by thousands in the beginning, by millions at the end. Everyone, without exception of any kind. As if they were victims of a socialist experiment of the 21st century. Misery is rampant in Venezuela and the effects are being felt by the whole region and, if I am rushed, by the whole world. More than 4.5 million people have left Venezuela in a window of time less than 4 years, of which 1.6 are settled in Colombian territory.

How can we face a difficult macroeconomic situation and the immeasurable Venezuelan diaspora with a seismically divided nation like the one inherited by President Duque? How can we do it without having the political majorities that allow governability? And how can we respond to the legitimate demands of an increasingly emboldened left-wing political opposition that demands compliance with agreements with narco-terrorism that are financially unfeasible from the outset?

These are some of the challenges (certainly the most relevant) facing the government of this young, brilliant and courageous president. His feat will consist in governing; in governing well; in administering the legacy of discomfort, disunity and uncertainty that he fortunately received in his hands. And he will do so, I want to believe, with the humanist stoicism of one who directs the destinies of a people without expecting anything in return other than to know that the bliss is being done by people who, for their stoic effort, deserve the best.

That is why Duke's glory will consist in going down in history with humility, with the satisfaction of the duty fulfilled, of having saved a homeland that refuses to accept chaos and anarchism and socialism as an inevitable future.

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