Thanks a lot, Duque

By: León Valencia, for @infobae

Translation by María Victoria Ramírez


In El Regreso del Uribismo (The Return of Uribismo), a book I finished writing in February 2019, when Duque had already collapsed in the polls and the government had entered a crisis from which it would never recover, I wrote this likely scenario for the end of his mandate: Duque manages to survive through bureaucratic arrangements with the political clans and temporary advances in the polls, he stumbles into the 2022 elections, and paves the way for a victory for the left.


At the end of 2018, when his government was just beginning, students took to the streets in creative and profuse demonstrations, to ask for an increase in the budget and reforms to secondary and higher education. Duque, instead of sitting down to negotiate with the student leadership, resorted to maneuvers to divide the movement and made small concessions that would not be enough to calm the discontent of the youth. That disagreement would manifest itself again very soon in actions that involved the workers' unions.


The river of displeasure began to grow until it overflowed with rage in the social outbreak of April 2021. The Minister of Finance, Alberto Carrasquilla, in the greatest indifference to the difficult situation that the middle classes and popular sectors were experiencing as a result of the pandemic unleashed by Covid 19, proposed a tax reform that harmed the middle and lower layers of the population and expanded the privileges of the richest.


Duque, of course, was not the only factor that eased Gustavo Petro's victory. But with his incapability to fulfil people’s demands, his willingness to favour the richest by special tax treatment, his amazing failures in foreign policy and his undeniable interference in the country's reconciliation process, he created an environment that took the left to power for the first time in history.


That was the top. As said in Colombia, Llorente's vase[1], that led demonstrations of more than seven million people in six hundred municipalities in the country. Something never seen. Something that was in line with demonstrations in Chile and other places on the continent and that, therefore, should have alerted Duque to react wisely. But he did not. He went against the demonstrations and militarized the country. He equally attacked the peaceful demonstrations, which were the vast majority; and acts of vandalism, which were the minority. The result was a real disaster: eighty-nine dead and more than a thousand wounded.


This internal policy was complemented by a diplomatic clumsiness that was difficult to overcome. Even today this high-sounding phrase arouses ridicule: "Maduro's days are counted." He was brazenly intervening in the internal life of Venezuela and had teamed up with Juan Guaidó, a filipichín [2] who began to brag around the world with the story that he had Maduro by the throat and would very soon topple the Chavista regime.


The tensions unleashed by the intervention of Colombia in Venezuela’s internal affairs marked the entire Colombian foreign policy and deepened the crisis in the most extensive and important border of our country.


The peace issue was another mockery. He had two speeches. One, in Colombia, where he criticized the peace agreements made with the FARC because, in his opinion, they are rooted in a base of impunity; another, abroad, where he stated he was fully complying with the commitments made by the State.


The cover of the matter was the discovery of a theft of 500 billion pesos from the resources destined for peace perpetrated by officials of his government who are now in legal trouble for the infamous scam. He had baptized his policy with the nickname of peace with legality and memes began to circulate on social networks, crossing it out as peace with robbery.


Thus, in this tragic way, it was like the last bishop of Uribismo, contributed to the victory of the left. Gustavo Petro should tell this Sunday in his inaugural speech, Thanks a lot, President Duque!

[1] Evoking the incident that caused independence from Spain the 20th of July, 1810. [2] Filipichín: beardless boy who gets to flirt pretending to be a grown man.