One Hundred Days of Gustavo Petro: Colombia Is Finally Changing

By Alejandra Garcia on November 22, 2022

Gustavo Petro promised a change, and he is achieving it. One hundred days after his inauguration ceremony in Bogota’s Bolivar Square, the first left-wing president of this Latin American country has managed to implement 50 essential measures to lift Colombians out of endemic poverty and violence.

At a press conference at the presidential palace last November 15, the president listed those reforms, which are focused on achieving peace, social justice, and climate justice. Among these public policies, the president pointed out the security and defense reforms, the Total Peace initiative, the reopening of the border of more than 2,200 kilometers with Venezuela, the tax reform, and others.

“For Petro, there is no time to lose, and he has demonstrated so in his first 100 days in power. He doesn’t care about immediacy, he has to concentrate on changing the social indicators for the next year,” journalist Maria Jimena Duzán explained.

Other experts agree that many things are happening in Colombia for the first time, thanks to Petro. For example, the country is electing for the first time a president who seeks to promote a deep structural change.

Professor Mauricio Jaramillo explained that the leftist leader’s work is successful, especially thanks to two reforms: the tax system and his efforts to achieve ‘total peace’, a process that is including both guerrillas and drug traffickers. According to Gustavo Petro himself, “More than a dozen of them are, in fact, respecting a ceasefire.”

The Total Peace reform makes the search for peace a state policy. Petro ordered the resumption of peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla, which had been suspended since 2019. To do so, he suspended arrest and extradition warrants for ELN negotiators.

The total peace sought by Petro also includes criminal gangs, drug traffickers, and dissident groups of the Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that didn’t accept the 2016 peace agreement.

Regarding the tax reform, the Congress already passed the bill, which is expected to raise over USD$4 billion for the government. According to Jaramillo, this undoubtedly means that the Government will have resources to undertake a good part of the social programs and reforms it has proposed. It is also a sign of calm for the markets that the Colombian State is a financially and economically viable State,” he said.

“An ambitious land reform is also taking place. Meanwhile, reforms of the health care system, pensions, labor laws, police system, and the possible abolition of compulsory military service are under consideration,” the president added at the November 15 conference.

Relations with Venezuela has also been a priority. For Colombia and Latin America to be a zone of peace, the tensions aggravated by the right-wing former president Ivan Duque, apprentice of the nefarious Alvaro Uribe, had to cease.

At the end of August, the two countries reestablished diplomatic relations with the arrival of Colombian Ambassador Armando Benedetti in Caracas and Venezuelan Ambassador Felix Plasencia in Bogota. One month later, Colombia and Venezuela formally reopened their borders, which had been closed for seven years. And in November, flights between the two countries resumed.

Also in November, Petro had a first summit with President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, a milestone in the process of reestablishing relations considering Colombian and Venezuelan leaders hadn’t met since 2016.

Much remains to be done. Colombia has a long way to go to rise from the economic crisis caused by the pandemic and Duque’s mismanagement. Leftist leaders, environmental activists, LGBTQ activists, farmers, and members of the extinct guerrillas must take to the streets without fear of assassination, a terror inherited from decades of social insecurity and violence.

“Change will continue. This is just the beginning,” Petro concluded.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – US