Uribe’s Populism Prevails in Colombia


Source: http://www.publico.es/opinion/populismo-uribe-impone-colombia.html

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Uncertainty governs the future of the FARC, and it also governs the end of the Santos administration after the victory of NO in the plebiscite on the peace agreements.

As is well known, in a plebiscite it’s usual to put forward questions that have nothing to do with the question that is presented formally.  Also, at the conclusion we see a still photo of the voting public, beyond a SI or a NO. In the referendum in Colombia on Sunday, four factors surfaced that don’t refer directly to the approval or rejection of the agreements with the FARC, which have already been signed several times and publicized by the President, by his representatives and by the head of the guerrillas on different occasions:  Havana, the United Nations, and Cartagena.

In the first place, an immense majority – in this case 63% of all Colombians – decided not to leave their houses, because they were hindered by bad weather, lacked adequate infrastructure or transportation, or simply because they had more important problems to worry about. Worries because of necessity or because of the poverty that affects more than half of the population, especially in rural Colombia.

Next, two decisive factors, linked together in some manner, that in this country have been influential for more than a century: the conservative roots of our people, irrational and ready to be manipulated by churches and by local and regional chieftains, and, in general, an unscrupulous political class, added to an anti-communism inspired since the Cold War and based on the Politics of National Security dictated by the Unites States.  The US embassy in Colombia is certainly one of the most active in the world.

Third, an unpopular President, like Juan Manuel Santos, whose battle is basically the changing of Colombia from a far-right savage of the old school, in the service of a despotic society of cattle ranchers, and behind the times with respect to globalization, into a “civilized” right that can produce the changes that are necessary for modern liberalism, with just enough social pretension to get by in 21st century capitalism.

Finally, in some ways representing what Kantor calls “the dead class”, the rise of a rampant conservative populism embodied in ex-President Alvaro Uribe, riding the charger of rejection of the FARC that reverberates in a broad sector of Colombian society, and that he has metabolized into a campaign against the agreements signed by President Santos and Timoleón Jiménez, Timochenko, after four years of negotiations.  The agreements signify an end to a war of 52 years and unnecessarily similar to the British brexit, were submitted to public approval last Sunday, without realizing that referendums, like the Devil, can’t always be trusted.

Definitely, the first obvious result of what happened on Sunday is that the oldest war in the Western Hemisphere continues.  The guerrilla fronts that appeared to be hopeful and optimistic in the reports of their tenth Meeting, returned armed to the jungle, in the midst of a truce that any incident could interrupt with deadly consequences.

Those who voted NO are celebrating the results of the plebiscite- REUTERS

Uribe centers his alternative in “renegotiating” on several aspects the agreements signed by Santos and the FARC:  eliminating the Justice and Peace provision, which he considers “impunity”.  In short the leaders of the guerrillas would go to prison; he would go back to considering drug trafficking to be punishable- in the agreements drug traffickers would be let off if it were “connected” to the rebellion. He would eliminate the possibility that the leaders of the FARC would be allowed to take part in politics. In other aspects they suggest slyly that the agreement could not touch on the status quo in the Colombian countryside and that the return of illegally expropriated land to campesinos who have no land would be suspended and also the suspension of the planned rural census, admitting the reality of a sector that has actually been the historical origin of the violence in Colombia.

Clearly the “renegotiation” of the agreements that the Uribe forces propose would be nothing more than evading the issues, while the plan for peace and the international support for Santos would fade away.  On Monday the President’s chief representative in Havana, Humberto de la Calle turned in his resignation. The President is losing steam, since he had bet everything on a successful conclusion of the peace process.

At the same time, President Santos’ political support is fading away and the so-called “National Unity” is a cage full of crickets in which the leaders are trying to get in position for the inevitable presidential succession.  All of this at a time when the effort to get the peace nailed down had pushed aside all the other national problems: the economy, with a tax reform that would likely be unpopular pushed back until the peace was signed; security, with the negotiations with the ELN guerrillas on hold; and with criminal gangs building up all over the country.

Faced with Colombia’s situation, overwhelmed as it is by the advance of rampant right-wing populism that has no proposal to show for itself other than ex-President Uribe who, if they could eliminate the constitutional prohibition of another term for him, could “fix” the country’s problems, with Santos supporters in retreat…the only real opposition would be an anemic Left, divided and disorganized, for which the disappearance of the guerrillas would provide some necessary oxygen between the civil society and what today is trying to situate itself as a serious option for the future and with capacity to govern, in an uncertain race to the bottom.

The near future for Colombia will be governed by instability. Or by the title of Antonio Caballero’s great novella: “Hopeless”.

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