CAMBIOColombia, December 31, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

From the General who heads the National Police, through Ministers, officials, Justices and Senators, all shared with CAMBIO their plans of action for the coming year. This list of aspirations can turn into a kind of road map, letting us see what they consider most urgent, as well as the perspectives of several of the personalities in charge of the agendas that are newsworthy in Colombia.

General William Salamanca, Director of the National Police

 Director of the National Police, General William Salamanca, said he would put more effort into prevention, so that boys and girls and teenagers are protected. We plan to take on this priority in an integrated way, knowing and understanding the young people’s new socio-cultural dynamics as well as the idiosyncrasies of every region in Colombia. We will continue to confront organized crime in a similar integrated manner, with special attention to the criminal phenomena that affect the citizens the most, theft of cell phones, extortion, kidnapping, loan sharking, cybercrime, theft of motor vehicles and all kinds of theft from people. And we will continue the work we are developing against crimes that affect the environment, with emphasis on illegal extraction of mineral deposits, and deforestation, as these practices not only damage the ecosystem but also have a negative effect on the surrounding communities that require special protection.

General Luis Ospina, Commander of the Colombian Army

Our aspiration for 2024 is to protect our territory from the phenomena that threaten security and that carry out violent acts in our country. We will maintain an operational dynamic based on the accomplishment of four specific objectives: protecting the civilian population, weakening the capacities of the groups that threaten them, protecting governability, and protecting the troops and our strategic capability. The deployment of our capabilities to carry out military operations of interdiction. These will allow us to affect the center of gravity of organizations like the Clan del Golfo who use money as the principal motor for the financing of the criminal apparatus and obtaining war materials and explosives.

Carlos Camargo, Public Defender

The greatest desire I have as Public Defender is that we can continue consolidating a peace process with the illegal armed groups. Therefore we hope that in 2024, the illegal armed groups stop kidnapping and restore all the people that are now in their power. But it’s also urgent that they stop recruiting children and teenagers, and that they restore all the minors in their ranks to their homes. No more talk about peace, but action for peace.

Diana Marcela Gómez, Vice Minister for Women, Ministry of Equality

As Vice Minister for Women, I aspire to strengthen the interinstitutional and intersectional articulation to provide a more convenient and effective answer to the needs and claims of Colombia’s women, and make some decisive progress in seeing that they receive their rights. As Vice Minister for Women in the Ministry of Equality and Equity, in 2024 we want to undertake flagship programs regarding: prevention of every kind of violence against women, thoroughgoing attention to victims, economic autonomy, and participation by women in the fundamental decisions made by society concerning peace, politics, and sustainability of life, transformation of gender stereotypes, and the integrated wellbeing of women. I want to make progress in the building of a society that’s free of violence against women, allowing them to do the projects for living that they aspire to do. I dream of a Colombia that recognizes the faces of women.

Susana Muhammad, Minister of Environment

In 2024 our number one aspiration is to continue reducing deforestation and advancing change in the economic tradition of Colombia’s Amazonia. We also want to initiate eight eco-regions for environmental transformation. This year it was Amazonia and Mojana; next year it should include Bajo Cauca, the Corridor of Life, in Cesar Department, La Guajira, the bay at Cartagena, the Bogotá savannah, and Catatumbo, among other critical regions. Along with that, we’ll put our best efforts into a National Plan for Ecological Restoration. Obviously, hosting the COP16 on biodiversity. Our aspiration is that the year 2024 be a year of breakthrough change, where for an ordinary citizen of Colombia, being a citizens of the country which has the second highest biodiversity to be found in the world, and second with the most hectares of biodiversity; that biodiversity permeates the economy, the private sector, the communities, and the cities, and that it really becomes an identity for us and for our nation’s prosperity.

Néstor Osuna, Minister of Justice

Our first aspiration for 2024 is to present to the country a justice reform that can be summed up in two words: “more justice”. More justice so that nobody faces obstacles to obtain justice and everybody receives a prompt and fair response; more justice in finding out the truth both in big cases and small cases; more justice for families in administrative proceedings, in family court and legal aid, with the creation of the National Family Justice System; more justice to combat impunity and corruption effectively; more justice with rational use of the criminal justice system, with re-socialization and reparation; more justice with judges’ offices in better condition, with more technology, and with full respect for their independence and autonomy.

Likewise, in 2024 we will begin to see the fruits of the new National Drug Policy: campesino families dedicated to growing coca will transfer into the legal economies; effective implantation of the social Rule of Law in the territories most scourged by drug trafficking; implementation of a public health strategy and prevention of the harm done by the problematic use of drugs; reforestation in protected areas that have been affected by illegal plantings; subjecting to justice the criminal organizations that are getting rich from drug trafficking; and the progressive diminution of the production and selling of cocaine.

Justice Fernando Castillo Cadena, President of the Supreme Court of Justice

As a representative of the highest court in the ordinary justice system, in 2024 we face the great challenge of maintaining and consolidating the process of modernization, humanization, and institutional cohesion initiated by the judicial system after the experiences and lessons left by the pandemic we lived through in recent years, as well as by the resulting political, social, and cultural transformations that are affecting our living together in this country.

This great aspiration involves, among other aspects, strengthening the autonomous and independent actions of judges as a firm and secure base for democracy, carrying out elections and the appointment of high officials, which is our duty under the Constitution and the laws, contributing generously and with open minds to the direct experience of judges and justices in the judicial reforms that are going to take place, responding to the challenges of artificial intelligence, elevating the integrity of the justice system, and continuing the implementation of the profound changes being made, such as, for example, the creation of the Agrarian Jurisdiction.

Hernando Herrera, Director of the Excellence in Justice Corporation

Fitting into our aspirations for 2024 in the justice area are, fundamentally increasing the utilization of virtual techniques and TIC, every time it results in being a fundamental mechanism for accelerating paperwork and relieving congestion in the system. That needs to be accompanied by the creation of more judicial offices. At the same time, it’s necessary to continue the struggle against impunity, especially in crimes related to gender-based violence, such as sex crimes, and corruption. Along with that, it’s necessary for the Commission in charge of studying the justice system and proposing reform to issue a coherent proposal, always for the benefit of the citizens and their access to justice. Finally, to promote, as has been done in recent years, the outstanding work of judicial officers, because the good practice of judicial tasks is essential.

Ricardo Bonilla, Minister of Finance and Public Credit

The expectation that we have at the Finance Ministry is that Colombia will close out 2023, a year of economic slowdown and low growth of around 1.2%; and that we will be able to reduce inflation to around 9.7%. We continue to have a low rate of unemployment, around 9.2%, and an exchange rate that has stabilized at around 4,000 pesos. All of that is contributing to the stability of Colombia’s macroeconomy.

We hope that in 2024 we will recover the trend toward growth and show a preliminary growth of 1.5%, which would be higher. We would also like to maintain the downward trend of inflation, and that unemployment could end up at about 5%, a figure that has been staying at one digit, and an exchange rate that is at the best performance possible, at around 4,000 pesos. We are moving in a process of slow but sure normalization.

Bruce McMaster, President of the National Association of Business Leaders (Andi in Spanish)

The prediction of growth for 2023 is continuing to be around 1%, a figure that is certainly not sufficient to meet the country’s social goals, in a context where unemployment is at 9.2% and where at least half of those who do have work are in informal work. Besides that, there has been a significant decline in investment. And in the last “joint survey of industry opinion” by Andi, 39.8% of businesses replied that they have decided not to carry out any new investment projects in Colombia in 2023.

It’s very important that the country reverse this situation in 2024. It’s only through investment and strengthening of businesses and promotion of start-ups that we can manage to be effective in reducing the stalled labor market that we have seen in the last few months and in reducing the high rate of informal work that prevails in this country.

That’s why we at Andi have been calling for the recovery of confidence in the economy. We think it’s key that we build a strategy to create some momentum for economic growth, both in the short and the long run, which would include different sectors, and which would also generate the conditions that would re-activate investment, not only in the public sector, but also in joint projects with the productive sector.

Leonardo Villar, General Manager of the Bank of the Republic

I think that 2024 will be a year where the economy normalizes. In 2023 we had a year of adjustment, a very strong adjustment. The effects of the monetary policy (interest rates) on inflation we will be able to see more clearly in 2024, and we hope to arrive at least at a rate of inflation very close to our objective of 3% in 2025, but 2024 could be a year in which all of those variables that were unstable will be adjusted.

I hope that 2024 will be a little calmer than 2023, a year in which, on the one hand, we had to do a lot of work to celebrate the centennial of the Bank of the Republic, but we also worked hard on the economic situation.

Gloria Inés Ramírez, Minister of Labor

We hope in 2024 to be able to nail down completely everything related to the National Development Plan, which, in the case of employment, refers to the main idea of “decent and dignified work”. I hope that at least we can leave behind those boundaries that prevent every worker from knowing that there is work available that is decent and dignified, and that every employer and employee clearly understands that that concept is built into the relationship.

This Ministry’s big challenge, just like the whole administration, is that the reforms we are working with the Congress on now can be finalized, and that on June 20, 2024, we will be able to say that there is a new pension reform and a new labor reform, and we can move toward equity with those.

On the personal level, I expect to continue working for the change that so many have helped us to build, or starting with the basics, as I always say, because I’m convinced that the change has to be accomplished and that requires the participation of everyone.

Ricardo Roa, President of Ecopetrol

The definite investment plan we have in the Ecopetrol Group for 2024 will reach an amount between 23 and 27 billon pesos (roughly USD $5,900,000,000 and USD $6,900,000,000 at current exchange rates), maintaining current production levels, and taking care of the current hydrocarbon business. We also plan to expend approximately 42% of that on investments focused on energy transition. Supported by that robust financial plan and clearly defined goals, the plan is focused on generating efficiencies that guarantee solid financial results and a competitive return for the shareholders.

The advances in energy transition are centered on investments in unconventional energy renewal projects, natural gas, transmission, and roads, among other things. We’re highlighting an investment in gas of between 3.1 and 3.5 billon pesos (roughly USD $791,611,000 and USD $894,000,000 at current exchange rates) mainly in the Piedemonte Llanero and Costa Afuera in the Colombian Caribe to produce around 135,000 barrels of petroleum equivalent every day, thus contributing to the country’s energy security.

The Ecopetrol Group has the mission of contributing to sustainable development and the wellbeing of Colombian communities where it operates. Its focus is the accomplishment of the objectives of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, efficient use of water, and sustainable development. It’s important to mention that through an approved plan, we expect to expend 3.7 billon (roughly USD $945,000,000 at current exchange rates) on SosTECnibility projects and activities, mainly in the areas of territorial development, climate change, science, technology, and innovation. All of this is in line with the long-term strategy of the “Energy That Transforms” company.

Miguel Uribe Turbay, Senator of the Democratic Center Party

My aspirations for the new year are:

*Stop the health care reform, so as to protect the lives of Colombians

*Modify the pension reform, so as to protect Colombians’ savings

*Take control of the peace process to confront the impunity for     the gangs

*Support the Armed Forces to confront the criminals

*I am going to promote a zero-hunger program in the Senate so that every family will have the food they need.

Jennifer Pedraza, Dignity Representative in the Chamber

I want to complete my thesis and graduate with my Master’s Degree in Economic Science from the National University. I would also like to see the Congress carry out our work on political control, but unfortunately, this has not been a priority on the Chamber’s schedule. We need to examine very carefully, for example, the awful job being done by Foreign Minister Leyva in managing Fomag (Fund for Teachers Benefit Services) It governs the health funds for teachers. Now the press has a more independent voice at the time of taking control, and that’s good, but this is also an unavoidable task for the Congress.

Likewise, we are working on two key bills. First, the reform of Articles 86 and 87 of Statute #30 so that there can be decent financing for public higher education institutions. And second, the modification of the Civil Code to eliminate child marriage in Colombia, which is a source of sexual, physical, and psychological violence against boys, girls, and teenagers.

Katherine Miranda, Representative from the Green Alliance Party

My aspiration for 2024 is to continue the struggle to defend institutional structures, do my job rigorously, and have a responsible debate that will really respond to the needs of Colombians, thus dignifying the role of the Congress as a separate branch of power.

Undoubtedly 2024 will be the year that will challenge us to leave behind so many ideologies and so much radicalism and generate consensus and make progress.

Paloma Valencia, Senator from the Democratic Center Party

I have a personal and moral commitment to Colombia: our health care system was put together with some rights and some wrongs thirty years ago. This is at risk now, just like the future of pensions for Colombians. Pensions shouldn’t be able to be turned into an unpayable debt for the next generations. I hope to be able to dialog with all the political currents so we can reach agreements that would let us conserve what is working, and make adjustments so that there will be improvements for Colombians.

I’m also going to work to build consensus on bills I’ve introduced, starting with the one on agricultural credit. It’s fundamental to bring campesinos some access to financing in Colombia, and make some progress in reducing paperwork and the hidden costs that are being imposed on businesses, especially the smallest businesses on the second step on the stairway to formality.

I’m going to continue traveling around the country listening to Colombians, and I will be a firm and respectful voice, pointing out the biggest economic and security problems they are complaining to us about. I hope to keep on contributing to the building of a great and just Colombia, the Colombia we all dream of.

Laura Sarabia, Director of the Administrative Department for Social Prosperity

One of my aspirations for 2024 is the consolidation of Mission La Guajira. I’m convinced that this program will allow us to guarantee access to potable water and food for the most excluded and vulnerable communities in the department, as well as opportunities for development and progress linked to chains of production. I know that if we accomplish that, we will be able to replicate this initiative in all of Colombia’s forgotten countryside.

Another one of my aspirations for the new year is to see the flowering of the National Agreement. All of the actors are disposed to dialog, and we know that our common purpose is to build the best possible agreement for Colombia.

Andrea Padilla, an animal activist Senator from the Green Alliance Party

In the work of building a country for the animals, the most important action would be the development of a National System for Animal Protection and Wellbeing (Sinapyba). We introduced that and pushed for its insertion into the National Development Plan, not just in normative terms, but in budgetary terms as well. That means we are trying, for the first time, to have money for animals in the Colombian National Budget. Failing to do that would be a failure to comply with the animal protection agreement that the President signed during his campaign; it would be flagrant.

In the area of legislation, we have to move ahead with some bills already introduced: a national sterilization program, regional centers for animal wellbeing, processions on horseback, small pastures with corrals, reform of the law prohibiting mistreatment of animals, transportation of jungle fauna, etc. Creating a regulation to protect animals that are abandoned in different places, their mistreatment or exploitation, is part of a larger proposal to create a state for them. The institutional structure, the funding, and the normative framework are the three pillars of the defense of their rights. To achieve that, we want to make progress with the 15 bills we’ve already introduced, plus the four that we will be introducing in the first part of the session, and the 13 additional measures introduced by other Senators and that the animal rights caucus is supporting.

The third focus of our work will be development plans for municipalities and departments. We are working with the DNP (National Planning Department) to create an animal protection component in every municipality and department, and we are working on seven actions: sterilization, animal wellbeing centers, substitution of vehicles for pulling by animals, the struggle against animal mistreatment and the traffic in jungle animals, education and citizen participation for the protection of animals, and the struggle against cruelty and illegality in shows where animals are used. Developing the countryside will build Sinapybal.

Finally, political control. At present there are some ten cases where we have requested an investigation of alleged misappropriation of public funds for animals in different municipalities and departments. We are also continuing to travel to take control of the management of public animal shelters and shelters for jungle fauna, and also collecting supplies for projects like making a master plan we are working on for centers for attention and evaluation of jungle animals.

And, well, sterilizations for Colombia. I will continue to be a happy contributor to the Animal Route Foundation, where we do more than 1,800 sterilizations every year of homeless animals in municipalities that are hard to get to.

Andrés Idárraga Franco, Transparency Secretary for the Presidential Palace

For 2024, the intentions of the Secretariat are on different paths. In the first place, January will be the month in which the public policies within in its jurisdiction will be decided. The team at the Secretariat has been working on the regulations for public policy on anticorruption and transparency that are required by Statute 2195 of 2022.

In the second place, on the issue of legislation, another field the Secretariat of Transparency has entered, there are two initiatives that will be definitive, one in the Senate and the other in the Chamber: one is the regulations on lobbying in Colombia. The needed legislation has already passed the first debate in the first Senate Committee and has not been scheduled for floor action in the Senate.

The second initiative, the heart of the Secretariat, is what’s called the Jorge Pizano law, or the bill for protection of persons who complain about corruption. It was introduced in the Chamber of Representatives last November 9, and seeks effective protection for journalists and others who complain of corruption. In the words of the Secretary of Transparency, this constitutes the principal tool in the struggle against intimidation (which is the weapon of the regime of corruption).

In the third place, the Secretariat of Transparency outdid themselves all last year to finish putting together what we have called committees made up of victims of corruption. Through those people, we plan to “put a face” on the impacts of corruption. More than a dozen committees have been constituted in different regions of the country, starting out with anticorruption hearings. We are going to consolidate the committees that already exist, strengthening their capacities for filing complaints about corrupt acts, and we are going to strengthen social control.

We are aware of the value of interagency articulation with other branches of public authority, fundamentally with the judicial branch, in which we make what we call “the fight against impunity”. We are keeping up hope that with the next Attorney General of Colombia, there will be a better understanding, and with that opportunity, we will really be able to give priority to attacking the corrupt.

Justice Roberto Vidal, President of the JEP

The year 2024 will be decisive in the history of the JEP. Two and ½ years before this tribunal will end its work of investigation, the Justices and the personnel at the Special Jurisdiction for Peace are hastening our steps to give Colombians the results they expect.

In doing that, we will have an important number of hearings in which the victims and the parties accepted to appear in the macrocases already established will participate. We will have our first results in the cases like the one on Urabá and the one on forced recruitment.

We will have important hearings in the case of violence against indigenous groups, military, paramilitaries, and third parties, as well as on sexual violence.

In the area of litigation, we will have our first judgments, one in the first part of the year and one in the second part. These are the cases of kidnapping by the FARC, and false positives committed by agents of the government. We will also have judgments in cases of failure to admit responsibility. That has to do with individuals who were accepted into JEP jurisdiction and had the opportunity to admit their responsibility. They have the right not to do so, and the right to the presumption of innocence as contemplated in the Constitution. In these cases, the investigators of that Branch send the cases to the JEP’s Prosecution Branch and there the prosecutors re-assemble the investigation in a process very similar to the criminal process, and prepare the charges. These charges then go to the JEP Section on Failure to Admit and there a trial is conducted. We will have the first JEP judgments for parties that do admit, as well as for those who do not admit their crimes.

Regarding the restorative system, where the most responsible parties are sentenced, we will begin with the procedures for reparation. The parties can agree to those projects in advance, and we have already prepared the first projects. One is risk management for the land mines in Antioquia; another that’s very advanced is environmental reconstruction in Bogotá, and the construction of a house of memory in Nariño for the Awá people.

On international subjects, we are going to strengthen the JEP’s strategy in institutional terms. At the beginning of 2024 there will be an opening in the office of the International Criminal Court, about which there is a petition in the Foreign Minister’s Office. We will be working very closely with the Foreign Minister on this.

We also have an intense work schedule with the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, in which the international projection of the JEP will be a great one.

In the national area, the JEP will take part in the justice reform called for by the President, and we will contribute what we have learned, and we will also contribute information on transitional justice and peace negotiations.

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