Colombian Presidential Candidate Gustavo Petro Promises To Nationalize Pensions, Bypass Congress & Rule By Decree If Elected
Sunday, Colombia held congressional elections, and presidential primaries. Former M-19 guerilla and mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro gained more primary votes than any other presidential candidate and will head to the first round of the presidential elections taking place May 29.
The 61-year-old, should he gain more than 50% of the vote in either the first or second round of the presidential elections would be Colombia’s first leftist candidate in modern history. In an interview with Colombian network Blu Radio, he promised that the first thing he would do is to declare an emergency and rule by decree, bypassing congress.
Listen here (Spanish) to the actual interview
Taking control of the food supply
Petro says that the move would allow him to take control of the agricultural and food supply chain, something that neighboring Venezuela has done, leading to a humanitarian crisis.
“We must decree the economic emergency that empowers the State to buy crops from peasants, small and medium-sized agricultural food producers, protect food production in Colombia, establish a more medium-term policy of subsidy for agricultural inputs and bring that food, as in the past went to (social subsidy program) Idema, to the popular neighborhoods, where the hunger is,” said Petro.
A similar program operates under leftist dictator Nicolás Maduro in neighboring Venezuela.
A similar program operates under leftist dictator Nicolás Maduro in neighboring Venezuela. The CLAP program (Comité Local de Abastecimiento y Producción), an acronym for “Local Committees for Supply and Production. The United Nations Office of The High Commissioner issued a report saying that the structure and execution of the Venezuelan food program is a fundamental violation of the human rights of Venezuelans (download the report here).
Venezuelans must wait in long lines just to enter largely empty grocery stores, to purchase food beyond the government administered CLAP, which requires a certain level of compliance with local committees staffed by Maduro’s partisans. The lack of food has led to a refugee crisis, with Colombia now housing approximately two million Venezuelans.
While mayor of Bogotá, Petro tried to take government control of the municipal garbage collection network with disastrous results. Piles of trash piled up uncollected in Colombia’s capital of nine million, leading to a sanitary crisis, and Petro’s temporary removal from office by the national government.
Nationalizing new pension contributions
Currently, Colombia requires pension contributions by employees and independent professionals. Colombians may choose from either a state option, or a menu of privately run pension plans, somewhat similar to a 401(k) plan in the US, albeit with fewer choices. Petro campaign advisor Ricardo Bonilla says Petro promises to upend that.
According to Bonilla, people earning between minimum wage and four million Colombian pesos (slightly more than $1,000 USD per month), will no longer have a choice of plans, but must contribute to the government plan. Money already in private plans may stay there, says Bonilla. For those earning more than $4 million pesos, the pension contributions on the first 4 million must go to the government, and only the contribution on the surplus amount may be contributed to alternate plans, making the private option only available to higher income earners.