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For the first time the left is a government bench

By: León Valencia for @infobae

Translation by: María Victoria Ramírez

For the first time the left political wing has gone from being an opposition minority to being the government bench. That is the great novelty of the new Colombian Congress the coming July 20. In the days of the National Front [1], until well into the second half of the last century, the left simply did not have parliamentary representation, because the country's elites had decided so.

So much so that in 1986, 36 years ago, the conquest of three senators and four representatives to the Chamber by the newly formed Patriotic Union (Spanish: Unión Patriótica) party, created thanks to the peace agreements signed between the government of Belisario Betancur and the FARC in Uribe, department of Meta, in 1984.

Five years later, in 1991, also as a result of other peace agreements, a group of parliamentarians from the AD M-19 (Spanish: Alianza M-19) arrived in Congress to slightly increase the presence of the left in parliament.

Thus, it was, little by little, parliamentarian by parliamentarian, how the left grew, in a tragic way, too, because many political leaders of this current were assassinated once they won a seat in Congress. Especially notorious was the sacrifice of Manuel Cepeda Vargas, father of Iván Cepeda, current senator of the Historical Pact, assassinated in 1994. It was the atrocious act that closed the cycle of homicides of great personalities of the Patriotic Union.

The Democratic Pole, the Green Alliance Party, the Human Colombia a(Spanish: Polo Democrático, el Partido Alianza Verde y la Colombia Humana) and the representation of the indigenous people, arrived in 2018 with a significant bench to change the trend. There were Gustavo Petro, Jorge Enrique Robledo and Angélica Lozano, jointly with parliamentarians from the old guard and very new and fresh leaders of a left that seemed renewed and with new energy.

They held memorable debates to defend the peace agreements and stop the attempts by Duque and the Democratic Centre (Spanish: Centro Democrático) to put an end to emblematic entities such as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (Spanish: JEP Jurisdicción Espacial para la Paz) and the Truth Commission, forged in the last negotiations with the FARC to undertake the political transition of the country.

That living Congress, which seemed to be the body of a parliamentary democracy, died the day the Covid-19 pandemic arrived. The government of Iván Duque and the parliamentary majority they had formed, using ‘the sweet jam[2]’ of positions and contracts with science and patience, closed the Capitol and condemned parliament to lackluster virtual sessions.

Duque then occupied the entire political scene through television broadcasts with which he attempted to relaunch his decayed image. Nothing achieved. His discredit gave way at times; however he maintained the descendent trend with which he reaches the end of his government. But the damage he caused to the parliamentary institution, which was beginning to recover its jurisdiction and its image, was huge.

That is the first challenge of the new Congress, to return to the path of the first legislature of 2018. Now with another dimension. To discuss with dignity, to debate with elegance and urgency, with calm independence, without tricks or low-level tricks, the reforms announced by the Historical Pact. The decadent and precarious right needs a lesson in decency, a downpour of truthful, documented arguments, a clean-up operation to save them from their intellectual misery.

Roy Barreras, the new president of Congress appointed by Gustavo Petro, would have to grow in this responsibility, to be up to the challenge. It is not easy; he is under question and holds mistrust on his shoulders. But many times, the position performs the miracle, and this could be the case, because Roy is an intelligent and audacious man, as acknowledged even by his most severe opponents.

The initial test is dramatic. Bring forward a major tax reform that fairly taxes the richest and favors the poorest in a country where the elites have a visceral resistance to paying taxes and the middle classes also resist with the argument both true and convenient of the scandalous theft of public resources in sophisticated corruption plots.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen of the Pacto Histórico.

History walks on your shoulders!


[1] National Front (Spanish: Frente Nacional 1958–1974) was a period in the Colombian historiry in which the two main political parties, the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, agreed to rotate power, intercalating for a period of four presidential terms. The National Front Presidents were Alberto Lleras Camargo (Liberal), Guillermo León Valencia (Conservative), (Liberal), and Misael Pastrana Borrero (Conservative). [2] Sweet jam is a Colombian expression to name a corrupt behavior of parliamentary consisting in supporting government’s legislative.


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