This past weekend saw the passing of Piedad Cordoba, a leftwing politician who campaigned vehemently for the Peace Process as well as other minority rights. Despite the usual formalities around the passing of anyone, she was utterly despised by the Uribe tribe to the right. To be fair, I doubt she sent Christmas cards either.
Photo: Piedad Córdoba, former senator in Colombia. (Credit: Olivier Hansen)
But these figures are of upmost importance in any democracy — balance and counter balance, the two elements to be found in any pantomime. And few democracies more resemble Peter Pan or Beauty and the Beast than Colombia’s.
I remember, in my youth, the fury I felt towards the likes of Arthur Scargill or Micheal Foot (kids, ask your parents). But I was wrong. They were the voice of balance, but fortunately the United Kingdom has the luxury of a long, long democratic history and one of political tolerance. Colombia is still far from that point. The legal persecution by both left and right, not to mention the wanton assassinations of social leaders and journalists, tells us that.
We have had 20 years of right — and extreme right — governments, and after an initial few years of improved security and Santos’ peace agreement, they have solved few of Colombia’s deep seated problems. Millions cannot feed each other, corruption is rife at all levels, education is still not a “right,” and inequality remains at sub-Saharan levels
Now it is the turn of the left and President Gustavo Petro, another pantomime villain for the right.
Ironically, it is the left who are currently more disappointed by his 18 months in power. The economy is fine, he has made some strong moves on subsidies, and unemployment has improved. The economy has also slowed, but that is due to high interest rates and driven by global — not local — events.
But Petro is trying to reform the whole country and there is simply not enough time. Therefore, those who voted for change aren’t going to be satisfied. The right’s only fear is that he isn’t enough of a disaster — as that might complicate their campaign in 2024.
The country needs both sides of the spectrum. But still far, far too many, especially on the right, don’t accept that simple democratic rule. When debating, they only use the examples of socialism in Venezuela, Bolivia, or Ecuador as opposed to the many fine examples across the world.
I remain agnostic in my view of politicians in Colombia, at either national or regional level. I have met a lot of them from both sides. All very charming.
But would I trust them to walk my dog? Well, that’s another thing.