Letter to the President of Colombia: We are ok, but unemployed . . .

(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator)

[ 06/23/2009]
[ Source: Universidad Nacional ] [ Author: Jairo Bautista]
Oh, and don’t believe that I forgot: I am still waiting for the publication of your statements about your and your family’s income, in which you show us that as a good follower of Christ, you have not fallen into the sin of greed, and that you did not take a little money from the DMG, or that your children did not move from being their father’s children to corporate executives, that they have plans to be the next owners of that little ranch of almost one and a half million square kilometers called Colombia.

Mr. President, Álvaro Uribe Vélez:

From this virtual platform I have attacked the idea that the Colombian economy went through a period of upsurge and flourishing between 2004 and 2007, during the first part of your term. There were multiple reasons for this argument. How can a country say that it is in the midst of an economic boom when the indicators of inequality proliferate? When the country had been for a long time in first place in Latin America in unemployment rates? When 60% of workers were in the informal sector? I know that you have not read any of my opinion pieces, first of all because you do not read any newspapers, according to your former press secretary (but I suspect that he does read El Tiempo); and secondly, because you are surely not interested in listening to any criticism. Besides, a man like you should spend what little time you have left after participating in all forums sponsored by industry and landowners to which you are invited, democratic security councils, and community councils praying a thousand rosaries with your Minister of Transportation, who will undoubtedly remind you that the country’s highways are a disaster, just like your morality and ethics as the national leader.
Allow me to remind you that in no historical period have countries considered unemployment part of happiness and prosperity. Nevertheless, in Colombia, a country that holds second place in the bizarre “contest” of the happiest countries in the world, it has been everywhere claimed (with you as the main spokesperson) that we enjoy an unquestioned economic strength, so strong that six months ago the country was shielded from the international economic crisis, according to the experienced and “highly intelligent” Minister of the Interior.

But unfortunately (for you and your faithful followers), the economic reality is obstinate and silly. And it remains so despite the pack of lies that the functionaries of your government have spread around. They have succeeded in convincing a large part of the uninformed public that the country’s only problem is the “narcoterrorists” of FARC. And built on that enormous lie, they have spread the awful mistakes of an economic policy designed to enrich the elite. You may know a great deal about telling stories and making wars and portraying yourself as “the man with the eyeglasses,” but very little about economics. Really, we must recognize that the only goal in your government’s agenda that has turned out well has been the war, and even that hasn’t worked out so well, since neither Ramírez (Martha Lucia) nor Santos (Juan Manuel) came out looking so well, the first because of the scandal about some “chimba” towels that some of her family’s companies sold to the Army, and the second because curiously, the false positives weren’t a story, or contingent phenomena, but the logical answer to his security policy.

The country has been in a permanent economic crisis during your term as President. Your and your ministers’ incapability and incompetence has been clear: the labor reforms did not succeed in reducing the unemployment rate and if indeed it did go down it was a rebound effect from the economic recovery of the postcrisis of the late ‘90s. The truth, Mr. Uribe, as I said, is that Colombia has the highest unemployment rate of any Latin American country, according to the 2008 OIT report. Surely neither you nor your Minister of Social Protection has read the report, you because of listening to court gossip or murmuring from the opposition, and your Minister because he is giving donations and jobs in Congress, so that you were able to be re-elected a few years ago. Let’s not speak about agriculture: we have we have gone from being the coffee-producing country that fulfills our childhood dreams to being coffee importers, and also (importers ) of rice, corn, and most of what we eat, in order to export and palm oil, an almost useless change that demonstrates the mood of your alter ego in power, the little ex-minister Arias, who now aspires (modestly, it’s true) to replace you, a man who makes people in his party laugh and his opponents angry. Because don’t forget, in agriculture there is a cumulative fall in production of more than 25% in the time that you have been in power, while he has dedicated himself to talking about prayers, chastity, oh yes! . . . and to closing out the Carimagua business.
The pension reform constituted a real attack on workers’ rights and although it was already announced, they weren’t going to fix the horrible mistake committed by Law 100 (your famous initiative when you were a Senator). Today one of the themes of debate is that less than 20% of those who are currently part of the pension plan will be able to get a minimal pension, and that is too serious in a country in which less than two million people participate.
As if this were not enough, the famous policy of investment confidence that basically consists of giving everything to investors, to owners of capital, has been a complete failure: it did not succeed in creating a consistent dynamic of investment. Investing is confused with buying again, so that a business that changes hands (a Colombian one for a foreign one as in the case of SAB Miller-Bavaria) is considered an investment, when economically it is not. And let’s not speak of the first-place prize: taxes: there have been 5 tax reforms during the Uribe administration, all of them to eliminate the income tax on big business and move financing from the State onto the shoulders of workers and consumers. Laws about export processing zones have been passed (well-known now because of the scandals about the President’s children), in which the income tax on those who invest there is cut in half; a law about investment confidence was created to basically freeze taxes on those who could pay at least a minimum fee to enjoy this benefit, a fee that guarantees that the conditions under which they pay will not change for the next 20 years. Mr. President, isn’t it true that the lands that Bavaria sold to your children at ridiculously low prices in the plains of Bogotá are payment for your tax leniency or for not having imposed any taxes on the owners of Bavaria for that wonderful transaction, which at one point was valued at more than 150 thousand million pesos?

But there is even more. In your personal legislative arsenal the famous law of secondary residence is awaiting passage. It almost completely removes payment of any taxes on those who want to buy a second luxury house in any of our ecological paradises available for that purpose. Surely you, the same president who goes around paying out rewards to butchers and assassins, forgot the small detail that more than 1.2 million houses are needed in this country for the poorest; it would be good if instead of thinking about bringing foreigners to live in luxury houses, you thought about finding real solutions for the thousands of families who remain homeless or who have to go into debt to your friends in the financial sector, in order to get a moderately reasonable place to live.

Oh! And the jewel on the crown remains: Familias en Acción [Families in Action]! Mr. Uribe, you institutionalized begging as public policy! It is incredible how you and those who want to imitate you (like Lucho Garzón) have been able to transform the large masses of the population into a huge group of people without dignity, ready to sell you their vote, in hopes that the monthly alms will arrive promptly. But Mr. President, remember not to bite off more than you can chew. Fiscal reality says that there is no money for giving out as many alms as you have promised, and since you have no public assets to sell, because all of them have dried up during your long government, and since taxes are low because we are in an economic crisis, it is up to you to help the debt by financing all the handouts. You, as a good Catholic, should be happy to help or give to community councils, true governmental homilies. And Mr.Uribe, remember that as you say: the debt must be paid.
But at least the educational revolution remains. Deceived for a moment, I thought that we were speaking about some Cuban experiment that would be tried in Colombia, surely on the advice of the ex-extreme leftist José Obdulio. In charge of the Educational Revolution is the  talented Cecilia Vélez, a true revolutionary: during her time working in the District Secretariat for Education in Bogotá she proposed the concession of the public high schools, and increased the contracting of services to private high schools, and fiercely attacked the teachers, policies that form part of the revolutionary expertise of your government. At least she has not had scandals to protest, but her initiative in spite of the increase in coverage achieved by the increase in the number of children per teacher, has not been at all successful: we continue to perform poorly according to international academic standards, we continue to do poorly in inclusion and equality, the drop out rate continues to increase. Much of this is due to economic reasons . . . but your revolution insists that the government has no money to educate children and therefore families have to pay for it. The problem Mr. Uribe, is that your economic policy is so bad that a large percentage of families do not even have enough to pay that small amount. As a result, our children either are not educated or poorly educated . . . Oh! And clearly, the teachers, those professionals who earn an average of 900 thousand pesos a month and have to face 40 children with a blackboard and chalk, are, as usual, the cause of your revolution’s failure.

Mr. Uribe, your government is definitely proof that wealth must be redistributed mostly to the richest, favors must be granted to your family and political followers through public policy, the wealthiest must be courted so that they become multimillionaires, criticism must be ignored, recognition of economic reality must be refused, deliberate lies with statistics to deceive the public must be used, and workers’ salaries must be cut.

Oh! And don’t think I forgot: I am still awaiting the publication of your statements about your and your family’s income, in which you show us that, as a good follower of Christ, you have not fallen into the sin of greed, and that you did not take a little money from DMG, or that your children did not move from being the darlings of their father to powerful business people, who plan to be the next owners of this little ranch of almost a million and a half square kilometers, known as Colombia.

Meanwhile, Mr. Uribe, you can continue telling the country that everything is going well, but the people, nevertheless, will continue insisting that they have no work; you can insist that there are no violations of human rights in Colombia, but, what a surprise, people insist on disappearing; you can insist that there are no displaced persons, only migrants, but they continue to fill city streets; you can insist that the country is in good shape . . . but the country insists on being in poor shape, and every day that you sit on Bolívar’s throne things get worse.

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

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