Editorial, EL ESPECTADOR, May 13, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The political opposition to President Gustavo Petro is continuing to use assaults and speeches that damage the legitimacy of the government itself. The protests they have carried out are one thing, peaceful, and of course, protected by the Constitution, but the speeches are something very different. They are getting more and more forceful, and are calling the President of Colombia a “dictator”, as did the Attorney General of Colombia; a ”guerrilla fighter”, as several members of the Democratic Center Party have done, and even went so far as to say, without shame,  that the President ought to be “overthrown”, as was said irresponsibly and bordering on the criminal, by Retired Colonel John Marulanda, the President of the Association of Retired Officers of the Armed Services of Colombia (Acore). They are playing with a candle in a country of pyromaniacs.

The demonstration last May 10 by hundreds of members of the military and of the Armed Forces reserves was, of course, legitimate. They have every right to protest, to criticize the administration for what they see is its having forgotten the desires of the members of the Armed Forces, and to make themselves heard. What is unacceptable is that that demonstration calls for non-legal recourse, or justifies it, toward the forcible removal of the legitimate President of our country. You could see by the chants, the placards, and the declarations made by the demonstrators, a disdain for the democratic election of the President, and that can’t happen.

The cherry that tops the cake, of course, happened in Sigue la W (radio news). The Retired Colonel, John Marulanda, who was not a spokesperson, but who was known within the organizers of the protests, said that In Peru the military reserves were successful in “achieving the overthrow of a corrupt President”, and that, “here we are going to try to do a better job of overthrowing a guy who was a guerrilla.”

After his words set off the scandal that was to be expected, the Retired Colonel changed his version. “I will correct what I said. It’s not about overthrowing President Gustavo Petro in the way the Peruvian President, Pedro Castillo, was overthrown.” The damage, however, had been done. President Petro himself used it in his social networks to sound the alarm, writing, “Why are they conspiring for a coup d’etat? Because they’re terrified that we will put an end to the impunity.” And so the tension in the whole country started to go higher.

The President’s political opposition has the responsibility not to use that kind of a rhetorical tool to score political points. Questioning the path of democracy does damage to the entire country. Even insisting on calling “guerrilla fighter” a person who has signed the Peace Agreement and who has worked for 30 years in politics and government sends a threatening message to every former combatant. It also closes the door for Colombia to turn the page on her conflicts.

On the eve of local elections, it’s natural that the political nation is on edge. Peaceful demonstrations are one more tool of democracy, but they can’t unleash veiled support for non-legal recourse. Likewise, it’s necessary to call on all of the opposition in Colombia for some reflection. Their efforts, which are so important, cannot be an excuse for radicalism and the destruction of institutions. If there is no responsible opposition, there is not a healthy democracy.  

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