Ivan Duque, who is the candidate of former president Alvaro Uribe, won a solid victory for Colombia’s presidency and will probably take Colombia back towards civil war and internal repression, with the help of the US and other conservative governments, argues Manuel Rozental, of PueblosEnCamino.org
GREG WILPERT: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Greg Wilpert, joining you from Quito, Ecuador.
Colombia elected Ivan Duque, a hard-line conservative, as its new president on Sunday. Duque got 54 percent of the vote, compared to 42 percent for Gustavo Petro, the center-left former guerrilla and former mayor of Bogota. Participation, which in Colombia has traditionally always been very low, reached its highest level in 20 years, at 53 percent. The result represents not only a blow to the hopes of Progressives in Colombia of overcoming the country’s conservative establishment, it is also a severe blow against the peace agreement with the FARC rebel group, which went into effect last year. Here’s what Gustavo Petro, who as a runner-up presidential candidate can now serve in Colombia Senate, had to say during his concession speech on Sunday.
GUSTAVO PETRO: I truly do not feel defeated. We are so accustomed to not being in power that we won’t die if it was not so this time. We are not moaning and whining because today I wanted to sleep in the presidential palace, to be a minister ambassador. That is not for us. This is a struggle of decades, where so many people have sacrificed themselves, and therefore is not for a few privileges that we are here. Of course there is sadness. A role as senator of the republic will be the fundamental axis a movement that will not go to sleep at home without permanent mobilization.
GREG WILPERT: Ivan Duque, who many expect will undermine the peace agreement as president, referred to the agreement during his victory speech on Sunday as well. Here’s what he had to say.
IVAN DUQUE: And peace implies that we should turn the leaf over that fracture where they want to divide us among friends and enemies of peace. Today we are all friends to build that peace, and it should be a peace that first of all preserves that wish, to allow the guerrilla to demobilize, disarm, and for effective reintegration.
GREG WILPERT: Joining me now from Colombia to discuss Colombia’s presidential election result is Manuel Rozental. Manuel is a longtime activist, communicator, and analyst. Also he is a founding member of Pueblos en Camino, People on the Move, a grassroots initiative of resistance to capital. Thanks for joining us again, Manuel.
MANUEL ROZENTAL: My pleasure, Greg.
GREG WILPERT: So, Petro, as we saw in this little clip, is suggesting that the Colombian left must now focus on building a progressive movement to challenge the new president. What do you think he might mean by this?
MANUEL ROZENTAL: Well, that is the big question, and that is what will likely define the future, if there is one for Colombia. Regardless of whether Petro won the election or not yesterday, and predictably he wasn’t going to against the fascist machinery, what we need in Colombia is a movement, not under one strong leader, but an independent movement of movements that organizes resistance against the fascist agenda. But mostly, as Petro said in his speech as well, a movement that will resist war, that will resist privatization of resources and territory, deliveries of the entire country to transnational corporations, and the policies that [inaudible] the entire country to a few hands and develop or generate more poverty and misery.
So in the end I think if there’s something good about this sad day, it is the fact that maybe those 8 million people got moved to vote for Gustavo Petro, or many of them will actually become a movement of resistance, realizing what we’re facing. That is what I think. I hope it is not going to be just and mostly an electoral party.
GREG WILPERT: So it would seem that opinion polls conducted the week before the election were not all that far off the mark. Most had predicted that Ivan Duque would win. How do you explain this result? Do Colombians truly want another right-wing president? Is Colombian society inherently conservative? Or are there other factors that explain this result?
MANUEL ROZENTAL: Yeah, that, I’m asking myself that question. That question, as I think are most Colombians now, shocked once again with the strong show of the far right. And just to, to even qualify that even further, Ivan Duque is an unknown. Nobody knows this fellow. He was chosen by Alvaro Uribe as a puppet, and this puppet gathered 10 million votes in an unprecedented, with an unprecedented participation in elections. What it means, though, I’m convinced of this, are several things. One is one cannot ignore the FARC hatred [factor]. Many people were fed up with the war. Many people assumed that the war was FARC, not two sides, but FARC. And that Uribe, during his government, hit hard the FARC, and as a consequence that is the only way to achieve peace. Many people in the areas that voted for Duque, and actually for Uribe, believe that.
The second component is, of course, what I mentioned before: a very strong Christian intransigent movement in the country is growing. The churches support Uribe without any question. The third are in line with mainly economic resources with a very strong military force and paramilitary forces, and the presence of drug trafficking with a direct link to Uribe and connections to him. So economic power, political power, [inaudible] control, and the subservience of people. And I think that has built. And one cannot deny the popular far right movement in Colombia that does not think, it obeys. Preachers tell people to vote for the right, and they do. And that gathers seven and a half million votes. The other three million that Uribe and Duque obtained this time, many of them, at least a million, I would say, came from the left, the other left, that decided not to vote for Petro, which is sad, but is a fact. So we’ll still have [inaudible] but yes, it is a fact. There is a very strong popular right in Colombia, controlled from above, and it has arms and legs beyond Colombia. But that is what we’re facing.
GREG WILPERT: So let’s turn to what we may expect from a Duque presidency. Ivan Duque is, like you said, generally considered to be a puppet of former President Alvaro Uribe, who governed Colombia from 2002 to 2010. Tell us a little bit about Uribe and his presidency, and to what extent do you think we can expect Duque to repeat Uribe’s policies?
MANUEL ROZENTAL: Uribe’s presidency, and these are all facts, Uribe transformed the government of Colombia into a criminal institution. Of many criminal institutions. Like the secret services that were transformed into a drug trafficking, money laundering machine, and actually active persecution of anyone who questioned the government, criticized the government in any way. Uribe’s government launched paramilitary forces throughout the country. It is directly linked to drug trafficking. It delivered the country in corrupt ways to transnational corporations. It actually weaved the organized crime, legal and illegal organized crime, transnational corporate interests, were weaved to, directly to paramilitary and drug trafficking corporations here. Uribe is linked to his family, and his closest relatives are linked directly to death squads throughout the country. And he’s the owner himself, his children, of many, a lot of land in this country. All these things were proven, and we were glad that Uribe’s time was over, and it wasn’t.
So what we can expect from Duque is more of the same, and faster. But I will add one factor. Uribe gained power by, as I mentioned before, blaming everything on FARC, or everything on Castro Chavismo, or everything on the left and revolutionary left was to destroy everything. And he gained power through that. That is going to become stronger. So Duquet will do the same. It will deepen the foreign investment, as they call it, which is actually delivering the country to transnational corporations, privatize everything, concentrate in few hands everything, restart the war and deepen the existing war. And one more issue that people should be aware of. A war with Venezuela, and a war in this continent, is in Uribe’s agenda. But it is not only in Uribe’s agenda. It’s a continental agenda that I’m sure President Trump will be very happy with.
GREG WILPERT: That’s actually something else I want to turn to, actually. A major Colombia that is, a major player in Colombia that is often not acknowledged as the United States. Specifically, the U.S. war on drugs and Plan Colombia have had an enormous impact on Colombian society. And President Juan Manuel Santos recently announced that Colombia will join NATO and the OECD, and this could also mean joint military maneuvers with the U.S. and other NATO members. How do you see the U.S. role in Colombia, and how do you expect this will evolve under President Duque?
MANUEL ROZENTAL: Yeah, it is frightening. In December of last year it was difficult to discover, but it was found out through Mexico that the largest military exercise in the [inaudible] continent took place in the border between Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, and Peru. Thirty three countries took part in these maneuvers, and the largest military fair, or armament fair, organized by the state of Israel took place there, which shows that there is an agenda, and it’s a military agenda developing. Fourteen countries under the call of President Trump joined together to block many others, and the leading countries were Colombia, Peru, Mexico, and Chile. The far right coalition that is being established in the country.
So our fear is now that Colombia is the spearhead of the U.S. policy for this continent. And the U.S. policy for this continent in economic terms is this: war actually is not a means to an end. The resources and territories that are needed are not only a means to an end. War is the end in itself. The Middle Eastern wars have activated the economy and have improved the economy in the U.S. [Inaudible] that Colombia’s role is one of the Israel of Latin America. And what comes here is a model and a new phase, neoliberalism is left behind. The new phase such as Colombia and Mexico for capital from the U.S., and pushed by, promoted by U.S. corporations and the Pentagon, is actually a, let’s call it a mafia-type capitalism which is, on the one hand, drug trafficking and drug mafias together with governments and corporations, and launching all types of wars constantly.
I am not trying to generate fear. I’m just showing the type of movements we’re seeing developing here.
GREG WILPERT: OK. Well, we’ll definitely come back to you as the situation develops. I was speaking to Manuel Rozental, activist and founder of El Pueblo en Camino. Thanks again, Manuel, for having joined us today.
MANUEL ROZENTAL: Thank you. And hopefully what we will have from here is resistance. Thanks for having me.
GREG WILPERT: OK. Great. And thank you for joining The Real News Network. Also, keep in mind we recently started our summer fundraiser, and need your help to reach our goal of raising $200000. Every dollar that you donate will be matched. Unlike practically all other news outlets, we accept no support from governments or corporations. Please do what you can today.