By Elisabeth Ungar Bleier, EL ESPECTADOR, May 5, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Arrogance is not a good adviser, as neither does it seem that those who are talking of hatred of President Iván Duque are good advisers. Ever since we heard about the text of the tax reform bill, it was clear that the political parties had not been consulted—not even the Democratic Center Party—and not the trade associations, or the social and labor union organizations, and according to what came from some interviews with the Chief Executive, he didn’t know the details of the bill either.
The criticisms and the voices that rejected the reform, coming from different social and political sectors, increased when they considered how it affected the poorest people and the middle class, and also didn’t resolve the fundamental problems. In spite of that, the administration didn’t listen to them, the way they didn’t listen to those who suggested that they withdraw the bill. The blindness of arrogance kept him from seeing the time bomb that was about to explode. While the people took to the streets in protest, the government insisted on going ahead, because it thought that withdrawing it would send a bad message. That was wrong. Arrogance kept them from understanding what was going on, what the citizens, the business owners, social organizations, political parties, and academics were telling them.
When thousands of citizens were marching in the length and breadth of the land, the President ordered the military to help in the cities—another euphemism to call on the military and legitimate the use of weapons by the Police and the Army, as ex-President Uribe did on Twitter—and now we are seeing dozens of dead and wounded by the illegitimate use of these weapons to violate human rights. By the way, where have the Public Defender and the Attorney General been? Finally, in a listless message televised last Sunday, Duque announced the withdrawal of the bill.
What detonated the demonstrations was the tax reform bill. But the causes are much deeper. Covid-19 put in evidence and aggravated structural problems that come from long ago. Extreme inequity and poverty, the citizens’ loss of confidence in institutions, leaders and demobilized ex-guerillas murdered without the crimes being solved, and most of all, not being listened to, are some of the reasons that they will have to let go of their arrogance and be ready for a dialog, to listen and build consensus.
It’s urgent that the President undertake some leadership to guarantee that they don’t keep using weapons to silence social protest, that they turn to respecting human rights, and that they demand the clarification of the murders and disappearances of citizens that have happened in the framework of the demonstrations. That has to be accompanied by the creation of spaces for conversation where they listen to the voices of those who think differently, of those that have proposals and reject vandalism, of those—literally—that are shouting that they have the right to be heard. It’s time to understand that Colombia is profoundly divided and polarized. The problems can’t be solved by repression and more violence. To do that, we would be returning to the past that left so much killing, poverty, inequity, and desolation. It’s time to understand that arrogance is not a good adviser.