LATIN AMERICA on the Move, April 8, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Even though the majority of the leaders of the Historic Pact Party understand very well that they have to make an effort to get the support of the Liberal Party, not all of its members understand the importance of that task.
For those who do not understand the structure of the Colombian government, it’s difficult to comprehend how important it is to gain the presidency. This is not a small thing. The “presidentialist” regime in Colombia awards enormous power to the person who holds this post, given that they have in their hands a series of tools to place the other powers (legislative, judicial, public, and electoral) under their guardianship. The so-called “appointed positions” or the parliamentary quotas, create a tremendous capacity to co-opt Senators and the Representatives in the Chamber, and the manner in which Justices, Attorney General, Inspector General, Comptroller, Public Defender, and other control agencies are selected, permit the President to have decisive influence on their selection, election, and appointment.
That’s why the oligarchy and the traditional political caste will stop at nothing—fraud or murder—to avoid marginalized sectors of the public having any chance to select one of their own to the presidency.
They know that exercising this kind of power could be a valve that could release a social and political movement that would endanger many of their historic privileges. They are aware of the level of poverty, inequality, inequity and injustice that exists in this country, and they fear that a democratic administration could be overturned or overcome by an avalanche of people of that kind.
Nevertheless, the current progressive leadership knows that the structural changes can’t be obtained overnight. They are aware that the path of insurrection would take us back to wars, to imperialist embargos and failure. And therefore, they are trying to build a common future at mid-range with the workers and the peoples of Latin American, a productive and sustainable (socially and environmentally) economy and participatory democracy as a political instrument.
It’s important to underline that the greater portion of those who live in the Colombian countryside are enduring Colonial domination, where the heirs of the old landowner and slaveholder aristocracy use the government to control the population with a species of bureaucratic patronage, corrupt and mafioso, which intervenes in all aspects of economic, social, political, and cultural life of the people.
In the regions where capitalist development has reduced that control (Bogotá, Cali, and other cities), and in the areas where the campesino, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian communities have built systems of popular organization (Nariño, Cauca, Putumayo, part of Tolima, Huila, and Boyacá, etc.) there has been a transition to ways of social emancipation. In other regions, especially in those most battered by the FARC, that control remains, even though we see substantial liberating advances.
However, it must be pointed out that violence has been the tool preferred by Colombia’s dominant caste to impede the advance of the workers and the people. That land-owning oligarch of slaveholding origin (who today is a transnational financier) has used violent provocation to generate premature uprisings in order to isolate and smash them, and thus, the people’s leaders have disappeared through persecution and selective murder.
That’s what they did during the revolution of the communes (1781), in the early years of the war of independence (1810-13), in the epoch of the democratic societies and the actions by General José María Melo (1854), in the time of the “war of the thousand days” (1899-1902), during the “savage” strikes at the end of the decade of ‘20’s in the twentieth century (the massacre of the banana workers), and before and after the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitan (1948). It’s been a constant of our history.
Now, after 70 years of armed conflict, where the oligarchy succeeded in instrumentalizing the actions of the insurgent guerrillas to impede organization and collective action by the marginalized populations, we are now seeing the conditions for making a leap that would be worthwhile. We could emulate in part our Latin American neighbors, but at the same time, try to surmount those experiences, based on stores of history that it’s necessary to value and define. There are organizational accumulations among the indigenous, campesino, and Afro-Colombian communities, and in their environmental struggles and defense of their territories; they are also building new systems of organization among the young people, the women, and the precarious professionals in the cities; and there are important productive experiences among the small and medium-sized agricultural producers. Besides that, the fact of being able to count on a relatively advanced constitution frees us from falling into “legal fetishism”, and puts us to the practical work of combining the existing institutions, (even though they’re colonial and capitalistic) with the concrete activities that belong to the people.
Because of that, the progressive leadership and the left have designed a strategy for using peaceful paths to the presidency of the country, to establish a “government of transition”, moving toward democracy and peace, of initiating a calm and patient transformation of society, including the concept of “Good Living”, or the “delightful living” suggested by Francia Márquez, by “converting Colombia into a world power of life”; that’s her main motto.
Undoubtedly, we now have an extraordinary team of leaders that embody what’s best for our people. Petro and Francia represent the most advanced of the workers, women, and young people in our cities and campesino, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian communities, which have been carrying out the very important regional, national, and social struggles during the last two decades. In 2008 there was the Social and Communitarian Minga, and the strike of the cane cutters; in 2011 and 2018, the great university student demonstrations; in 2013, the coffee workers strike and the national agrarian strike; in 2017 the civic strike in Buenaventura and Quibdó; in 2019 and 2021, the national strike against the tax reform that turned into a real “social explosion” that affected the whole country for several months. And in the midst of these struggles, there have been innumerable local or regional battles for public services, against mining-energy projects that degrade nature, for substitution of illegal crops, and another series of individual causes.
Their proposed program puts these causes together and lays out their principal solutions.
The situation in the first round; how to broaden the coalition
In this situation, Historic Pact is facing a tactical problem. In order to beat the “uribista-duquista” candidate (Fico Gutiérrez), it’s necessary to add at least six million new votes compared to what they got on March 13, 2022. And, in spite of the extraordinary enthusiasm and the enormous mystique that has been let loose by Francia Márquez’ candidacy for Vice President, everybody is aware that to win in the first round, the coalition has to be broadened.
Therefore, even though the majority of the leaders of the Historic Pact Party know very well that they have to make an effort to get the support of the Liberal Party, not all of the members understand the importance of that task. It’s evident that while César Gaviria may be their leader (the former President who implemented neoliberal policies in 1990), they will have to talk with him and reach some agreements. It’s good to keep in mind that some of the Liberal Party Senators-elect, and the majority of the Liberal Party Representatives-elect in the Chamber, are already with Petro, partly forced by constituencies or by their own convictions, but the significance of official support is very important.
The so-called red lines that Gaviria has put up don’t touch on the essential parts of the reforms envisioned by Historic Pact, in the same way as the changes in the EPS, private pension funds, progressive tax reform, industrialization of productive equipment, etc. Besides, he hasn’t planned to push a constitutional convention, because the constitution adopted in 1991 has a margin for development legislatively, and still less is he going to propose presidential re-election (which was proposed by Uribe); these are matters that concern some sectors of the Liberal Party.
Moreover, making these possible agreements public—so that Gaviria will get himself out of the alliance—would benefit Historic Pact because it sends a message of tranquility to a group of people that are working in different parties or not working in any party, but could be influential because of the deceitful campaigns and the lies that Petro’s competition uses to strike fear in their base about Petro’s supposed authoritarian and antidemocratic tendencies.
In the same manner, reaching agreements with the Liberals doesn’t imply that the Historic Pact Party is submitting to the will of its allies, but rather, it guarantees sufficient governance for an eventual Petro administration. The principle that you have to understand is that a “transition government” requires a great political and social convergence, to be able to consolidate the peace, fortify democratic participation, and go forward–with tranquility and calm—toward the changes that our people need and require.
It’s crucial to comprehend that the fact of seeking an agreement with those “traditional” sectors is also a message to the public about the disposition of Historic Pact and its candidates. And this is not a small matter when the naysayers of the right and the warlike are trying to put forth the idea—as they claimed successfully four years ago (2018)—that “Petro is a threat to Colombian democracy”, and, when it appeared more and more possible that they would win, they started an aggressive campaign that included threats and calls for “arming ourselves” to defend our liberty.
The triumph of Historic Pact is now closer and closer, but its leaders can’t just let themselves be provoked, isolated, or stressed out. The joy and creativity that our young people have shown in the social demonstrations must continue to lead the election campaign as the guarantee of victory.