By Carolina Toro Leyva, Contagioradio, September 27, 2023

“multitudinaria marcha en apoyo a las reformas del gobierno nacional”

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Close to 200,000 people filled the Plaza de Bolivar in Bogotá, and not even the rain could disperse them. With chants and speeches in favor of the current administration, the concentrations in different cities in the country moved without any major alarms. The demonstration wound up with a musical and cultural performance in the center of Bogotá.

At around 2:00 in the afternoon, the President spoke to the gathering and to the whole country in a message that took on several subjects. He proposed a National Agreement, based on three points: truth, land, and education.

On this last, he stated that “the education reforms that were  passed in Congress before have been to take away money from education and give it to the bankers, or to spend it on war. (. . .) The first thing we have to do is guarantee education for our society, and therefore in a National Agreement, education must be a central theme,” explained the President.

That being the case, he invited the opposition, the trade associations, the political parties, and other citizens to discuss these subjects. In addition, he assured that his administration would not be “wiretapping” opposition leaders and would not persecute them.

The National Agreement: Petro referred to agricultural reform.

Among the Petro administration’s reforms is agricultural reform through which, he stated, “they would seek to furnish parcels of land to the campesinos of the country. He stated then that, by means of a National Agreement, it would be possible to distribute between 600,000 and 1,000,000 parcels.”

“We want the land to be the second element of a National Agreement. That means that, with the land, we make it possible to produce food; produce food so that Colombia can be a world food production power,” he said.

In his speech, President Gustavo Petro stated that Colombia is the fourth most unequal country in the world, and because of that, what he’s looking for is to diminish poverty and generate justice and peace. “Inequality provoked the drug traffic, provoked the surge of guerrillas, provoked the wars that have accompanied us for three generations,” said Petro.

To change that, he proposed a National Agreement where the “people” could mobilize, and thus his reforms could go forward. In the same manner, he insisted that this Agreement is also intended to produce truth. “We aren’t going to use the legal system to take revenge, but rather to reconcile,” he maintained.

Reform of public services

President Gustavo Petro announced that he planned to present a reform of public services. He explained that it would be a reform centered on the users of the services. He said that with this new reform, the objective is to extend potable water and electrical energy services throughout the countryside.

“At present, the users don’t have rights to public services that should be focused on the user. The rates are established based on profitability for some businesses, while poor people are left without any public service,” he maintained.

Reform of education and reform of pensions

President Gustavo Petro explained that the reform of education will seek to make sure that all young people in Colombia have access to higher education, and that this be a right and not a privilege. “The university is undoubtedly the alternative to violence; we are not going to close the private universities, no. We are going to respect them, but the public money has to go to open public university locations all over the country,” said Petro.

With regard to pension reform, the President maintained that he wants to permit older adults to have a decent pension, enough to supply their basic needs, such as food.

Petro also referred to health care reform and labor reform.

In his speech, the President explained that the project that seeks to reform health care in Colombia has this North Star: furnish access to services for the whole population. “Our health care system is concentrated in locations where the ATM’s are located, those that give out money. There aren’t very many ATM’s here in the south of Bogotá, and if we go to the Pacific, we won’t find any at all,” he said.

With respect to labor reform, he said that the objective is to achieve decent work hours with rest periods and time for being with family. He assured that the project would not lead to unemployment.

President Petro talked about what was sensed in the demonstrations.

President Gustavo Petro arrived at the Plaza de Bolivar and spoke to the demonstrators. He assured them that the objectives of his administration are centered on improving the quality of life of the population, a task that he hopes will be achieved through his proposed reforms.

“This administration is owed to all of you. (. . ..) You are the central objective of our policies,” declared the President.

He indicated that some of the biggest problems that trouble this country are the violence, the inequality, and the poverty, and that to be able to deal with them will require changes. In that regard, the demonstrations of today, September 27, are intended to defend the different reforms they are seeking and make these improvements, according to the President.

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