Colombia has been home for a long time. Despite my aspirations for the country, what I’ve learned since 2005 is that Colombia will never “make it” — at least not in my lifetime.
It is a sad reality, driven largely by the ruling elite — who utterly dominate politics, business, federations, and the institutions — and who have little-to-no interest in changing the status quo. In the end, it suits them just the way it is.
Countless articles appear related to leveling up across genres and the economic divide. But most are lip service only. Federations propose a better life for all, but only if doesn’t impact the bottom line. Women’s forums constantly shake the tree for the ladies of Colombia, but in reality they are talking only about those who are already part of that same elite. As for the politicians, their level of ineptitude speaks for itself.
The Edelman Trust categorizes Colombia as one of only five countries that is “severely polarized.” With respect to the United States, Sweden, and Spain, their divisions are first-world problems, while South Africa is a more rational bed fellow.
Colombia doesn’t have a racial divide to overcome. It is 90% economic. A country where 1% own over 80% and that has arguably the best growing climate on planet earth — but has millions upon millions who cannot feed themselves three times a day. No one wants a communist manifesto, but decades of land theft needs to be reversed or that land needs to be productive. Currently just 13% of Colombia’s 32 million usabale hectares are being used. That is simply wrong.
Education, incredibly, is not a right in Colombia. That needs to change within the reform in 2024. A person’s capability to better themselves cannot depend on their bank balance. Colombia needs much more human talent if it is to thrive, but there are those who fear that. I have seen, first hand, classism when it comes to employing graduates in Colombia. This Dickensian thought process has to end.
President Gustavo Petro is no messiah — but neither is he the devil. He has done a better job on the economy than most expected and perhaps those most disappointed in him are the most needy who had such high hopes of reform. His error has been to try too much.
Again, the ruling elite in general understand the need for change. But only on their terms.
There are complaints about the green economy Petro is advancing but no complaints when corporations return from COP28 supporting the same ideas. Equally with Ecopetrol, the reality is that Colombia is a fading oil producer. It’s the way of the world — so why not take advantage of the largest reserves just over the border in Venezuela? If Duque or Uribe had advanced the idea they would have been anointed with savior status.
Those of us who have chosen to live in Colombia do so for a variety of reasons.
But the longer you live here the more frustrating it is to watch a first-world country dining at a third-world table.