President Gustavo Petro has a punctuality problem. Since he took office, the media has made a habit of tracking the instances he has arrived late to an event — or when he simply didn’t show up at all — and the number is getting quite large.
Photo: President Gustavo Petro being questioned by the Colombian press. (Photo credit: Presidencia de la República)
According to a detailed account by Colombian publication La Silla Vacía, the nation’s first leftist president had tallied up to 82 cancellations by mid-July after less than one year in office. Nearly one-fourth of the cancellations (20 instances) occurred on a Friday.
Why so many missed meetings and changes to the agenda?
At a press conference in February, Laura Sarabia, the president’s former chief of staff who was removed from her position in early June in the wake of Colombia’s “nannygate” scandal, said that Petro’s frequent tardiness is due to him allowing meetings with various constituents to run long.
“For the president, the protocol issue to say ‘I only have 2 hours to listen to such and such community,’ does not exist,” she said. “He prefers that people feel listened to, from the community in Cauca to the businessman who came for only half an hour and ended up talking for two hours with the president on a myriad of topics. That happens in all issues.”
The months with the most cancellations in Petro’s agenda came in March and April of this year, according to La Silla Vacía. On average, nine events have been canceled per month, not counting the large number of meetings to which the president has arrived late.
With so many agenda changes, and a family member spreading since-refuted rumors, two opposition congressmen requested that the Senate force the president to undergo an health examination, which would not fall within the bounds of the law.
Petro tweeted a response: “Now they want to confuse the fact that I don’t go to an event with me having a supposed disorder. No, sir, they cannot snare the president with these gross traps. When we talk about national agreement, we talk about fair dealing. Don’t waste my time with nonsense.”
As for why he keeps missing meetings, Petro himself gave a direct answer last month when he was asked during a video interview by Colombian journalist Daniel Coronell for Cambio.
“Constant fatigue is a bad advisor. If you overdo it, you won’t think well and you will make mistakes — and in this case I don’t have the luxury of committing many errors. And the other thing is that, in meetings, I don’t have a habit of being guided by the clock but by the content of the meeting.”