Petro or Hernández will inherit a country mired in a serious humanitarian crisis and a ‘genocide’ of social and environmental leaders
Which Colombia will find the new president who will be elected this Sunday? What legacy does Iván Duque, outgoing president, leave to the next president? A recent report by 500 non-governmental organizations, defenders of Human Rights, describes the situation as one of hunger and war. One day before the elections are held, citizens have been left wanting to see the two candidates to lead the country for the next four years discuss this and other topics of maximum interest. Gustavo Petro, the man who at 62 years old and after losing the last elections, aspires to become the first left-wing president in Colombia, has spent years talking about a Colombia divided in two. He dreams of executing a change for life. Rodolfo Hernández (77 years old), surprising candidate, who represents a reckless populism, in which the truth, lies and corrections of speech seem to constantly embrace each other. His campaign slogan has been to end political corruption. Hernández did not want to debate with Petro.
On May 23, Iván Duque gave an interview to the BBC in which the most impressive phrase was: «If I could present myself, I would be in the fight and would be re-elected». The president’s optimism collides head-on with the rate of unpopularity with which he ends his term, estimated at 70%. It is true that the Duque government will go down in history for many reasons, but it must be said that almost all of them are negative. For Daniel Samper Ospina, youtuber, journalist and writer, «Duque leaves a Colombia tired of Uribeism. The great summary of Iván Duque’s work is that he buried Uribism, which was the movement that brought him to power. He was an ideological son of Álvaro Uribe, and four years later he leaves a Colombia that he has chosen as candidates for two options for change. That metaphor speaks a lot about the Colombia that Duque leaves to his successor ». Álvaro Uribe, leader of the Democratic Center and man who presided over the country between 2002 and 2010, could not prevent Colombians from turning their backs on their candidate and his party in the first round of the elections. The results herald the end of Uribeism, but in this land it is already known that the dead always come back to life in one way or another.
Having defined that first conclusion, the second is more important and twice as painful: Colombia is experiencing the most serious humanitarian crisis, concludes the NGO report, and this is perhaps the most urgent problem that the new president of Colombia will have to face. Despite the fact that Duque’s numbers show that during his mandate he achieved the lowest homicide rate in the last 40 years and also the lowest kidnapping rate, the real reality is that his government has 865 social and environmental leaders assassinated, which which is described as “a genocide in force, continued and unpunished”.
At the heart of this statistic beats the peace process, signed by the Government of Juan Manuel Santos, and that Iván Duque, instead of supporting, implementing and developing it, chose to tear it to shreds, always obeying Uribe’s ideas. But not only the murders of rural leaders increased. Poverty and inequality also increased. Nearly 13 million people suffer from hunger and do not eat three meals a day, and more than a third of the country’s municipalities suffer from the terror of the new armed structures that have emerged to control drug trafficking.
For Eduardo Pizarro, sociologist, professor, journalist and chronicler of the Colombian conflict, the Duque government leaves an ambiguous feeling: «There is a surprisingly favorable macroeconomic combination and an unfavorable social situation. Foreign investment has increased by 8%, there is a fall in the fiscal deficit, but the social indicators are disastrous. And today we have two candidates, one representing left-wing populism and the other right-wing populism. Both reflect the social anguish that the country is experiencing. This contrast between poverty, inequality and unemployment is expressed in the demand for change, in the break with the political tradition. Here, in Colombia, today there is a political revolution.
Duque’s great handicap is that he has not known how to be a statesman, other analysts say. There is the theory that he has not been able to manage international relations, and, above all, that he has eroded the control and surveillance organs of the government. In two words, he has weakened democracy. In this sense, a report by DANE (National Administrative Department of Statistics), carried out last month, states that 55.6% of young people over 18 years of age consider Colombia a moderately democratic country. 25.4% consider it democratic, and there is 19.1 who believe that it is not. A whole truth that hurts. But in reality, democracy in Colombia has been “kidnapped” by politicians and parties that have failed to comply with his proposals, at the same time that they have fueled corruption.
Marco Tulio Marenco, Professor of Economics at the Universidad del Atlántico, highlights “Colombia’s growth of over 6%, one of the strongest economies when compared to neighboring countries. On the other hand, there is the public debt. Here Duque has made a good effort with respect to GDP, he lowered it by approximately 50%, which will allow the incoming government to have significant room for maneuver, especially for the rating agencies. On the negative side, we must highlight the unemployment rate, which is in two digits, still high, inflation is a worrying trend worldwide, the increase in prices in the basic family basket has been quite felt. In general terms, the situation is not very encouraging because citizens are still feeling the effects of the pandemic.
Finishing supporting the peace process will be one of the most important tasks of the new Government. Duke did not support him. He undermined momentum and legitimacy, and peace was and is a national necessity.