EL ESPECTADOR, February 2, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Diego Molano is landing in a portfolio plagued by tensions with the citizenry. It’s been plagued in recent years when its legitimacy is questioned for every scandal and for unnecessary confrontations. Besides his worrisome past declarations about social protest and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, which deserve reflection on the part of the new Defense Minister, the important thing is that there be a change of tone and of attitude in an entity that is key to the peace in this country and to the stability of its institutions.

Minister Molano, a man who is prepared and has experience, arrives as a Defense Minister who last year had to confront the Supreme Court of Justice because of his behavior during the citizen protests. That may be one of the paradoxes to be resolved in the Duque administration: Is the government here to support reflexively every action by the Armed Forces, or to defend the citizens when there are abuses of power? In the past, the balance was clearly inclined toward the first option.

The Minister will cause an immediate impact if he understands that this apparent tension does not exist. All those years of war have encrusted the idea that in every criticism there is a dichotomy between “friends and enemies”. That’s not the way it is. When Colombians seek reforms in the Armed Forces and to assign responsibility for the abuses that were committed, they are expressing a concern that is shared by the members of the Armed Forces themselves. The best way to shield the institution is to be open and to correct errors, not to insist that everything is just fine and take shelter in the empty expediency of the “rotten apples”.

If the Ministry of Defense stops fighting with journalists, with the NGO’s, and with the citizens that are protesting, and avoids shooting itself in the foot, that will help to strengthen the Armed Forces when they begin to amend the bonds of confidence that they have worn out. The opposite means appealing to blind loyalty where the “country’s heroes” never make any mistakes, and such an attitude doesn’t fit in a democracy.

More than that, the Defense Ministry is in arrears with re-thinking its strategies in a complex panorama of insecurity. For a long time we have stuck to the inefficient solutions of the past. That implies, yes, establishing bonds of cooperation with the transitional justice system (That’s why it’s important that Molano clarify his past statements.) Also, it’s necessary to re-evaluate the use of glyphosate and the relations with the coca growers, as well as the general strategy for fighting the dissidents, the drug traffickers, and the criminal gangs.

The Duque administration has not shown interest in reforming the fight against crime, but the modern Ministry of Defense has to start with reality: the country and the world have changed, and it’s time to innovate, as well as to modify the traditional strategies that have been used.

The position that Molano has accepted is complicated, and he comes to it in the midst of a serious lack of confidence. His work, now, is to show Colombians that he has the vision and the ambition to correct the direction of the Defense Ministry.

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