EL ESPECTADOR, February 28, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

There was a shake-up of Ministers this Monday in Gustavo Petro’s administration, but we don’t share the reading by those who claim that this points to an irresolvable crisis in the Cabinet. Although the form was not the best, something that has characterized the Petro administration, the exits of the Minister of Education, Alejandro Gaviria; the Minister of Culture, Patricia Ariza; and the Minister of Sports, María Isabel Urrutia, it looks more like a recalibration of priorities in administration strategy. That the President spent the whole week talking with the parties in the administration’s coalition, and is showing a healthy disposition to moderate his reforms, is a desirable change of attitude after weeks of unnecessary conflicts.

The departure of ex-Minister Gaviria because of his criticisms of the health care reform is lamentable to the extent that it signifies little opening for dissent and debate of ideas in the administration itself. Nevertheless, if the way he managed differences from the outside generated a loss of confidence by the President, removing him would be understandable. You have to notice what happened to other “dissident” Ministers like Finance Minister José Antonio Ocampo, or the Minister of Agriculture, Cecilia López, who agreed to accompany the President at his announcement. In the long run, a voice like that of Gaviria would be a big help to democratic debate with his freedom of not being an official, and yesterday the President himself opened the door to considering his positions from the outside. That is positive, when up to now he has done nothing but entrench himself in the sectarianism this reform has met with.

The President seems to be sending good signals. His calling together the parties in the administration’s coalition, even though it was not accompanied by announcements of modifications of the health care reform, it did lead him to mention that there is a shared diagnosis in important points of it. If the administration accepts accompaniment and finds a way to agree with the Congress on a prudent reform, he will have scored a big legislative success that will open the door for his future governance. That’s why the President’s negotiating version is what ought to remain, in contrast with his hullaballoo of tweeting throughout last week.

As for the others, the Minister of Sports has been conspicuous by the absence of effective policies, perhaps because she was brought in by a quota to make the U Party happy. The complaints of former Minister Ariza, who left the Culture Ministry, must lead to reflections in the Presidential Palace regarding the attention they give to that position, so that it doesn’t turn into an enclave for the desires of the First Lady. With regard to the Ministry of Education, the act of having left in charge the one who was the Vice Minister, Aurora Vergara, shows that there will be continuity in the work that had been promoted until now by Gaviria. That’s the way it should be, as the principles that were enunciated in the reform of Law No. 30 were promising.

So we aren’t seeing the great crisis that some people were announcing, but rather an administration in the process of changing its tone and gaining internal cohesion. I hope we’re not mistaken, because we are aware that authoritarian somersaults undercut confidence, and that President Petro knows how to listen to his more measured instincts in the long road ahead of him.

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