By Satyaki Chakraborty
On August 7, 2022, Progressive International Council member Gustavo Petro became the first left-wing president in the history of Colombia. In an address to the nation that was marked by his sense of history and vision for a new Latin America, Petro elaborated on his personal struggles and how it became a part of Columbia’s long battle for a fair society, doing away with the decades of domination by the US companies, drug mafia and oligarchs.
The Columbia President started by saying.’ An immense life that is never travelled alone. My mother Clara is here; nothing would exist in my mind at this moment without her. My father Gustavo, of the Caribbean, is here, and so are my siblings, Adriana and Juan, who put up with me. My children are also here: Nicolás Petro, Nicolás Alcocer, Andrea and Andrés, and Sofía and Antonella, my little ones whose hearts and souls are blossoming. And so is Verónica Alcocer, my companion, who has given me children and so the gift of life itself. Her love has made everything possible. She is here not only to accompany me but also to accompany the women of Colombia in their efforts to move forward, to create, to fight, to exist; to overcome violence inside and outside the family; to build the politics of love.’
Petro said the people, just as they have been on the journey of my existence, are also here. The humble hands of the worker, the peasant women, and those who sweep the streets. The hearts of labour are here and the dreams of those who suffer; so are the working women who embrace me when I falter, when I feel weak; and love for the people, for those who suffer and are excluded. All of this has brought me here to unite and build a nation.
Diving deep into history, the President said ‘Many times in our history, we Colombians have been condemned to the impossible, to the lack of opportunities, to a resounding “No.” I want to tell all Colombians who are listening to me in Plaza Bolívar, in the surrounding areas, throughout Colombia and abroad, that our second chance begins today. We have earned it. You have earned it. Your effort was and will be worth it. It is time for change. Our future is not already written. We hold the pen, and we can write it together, in peace and unity. Today, a Colombia of possibilities begins.’
‘We are here against all odds, against history that said we would never govern, against the same old people, against those who did not want to let go of power. But we did it. We made the impossible possible. With work, by traveling and listening, with ideas, with love, with effort. As of today, we begin work on making more of the impossible become possible in Colombia. If we made it here, we will make peace possible.’
‘We must end, once and for all, six decades of violence and armed conflict — in fact, I would say, two centuries of permanent war, of eternal war, of perpetual war in Colombia. It can be done. We will comply with the peace agreement, we will follow the recommendations of the Truth Commission Report, which tells us of the deaths of 800,000 Colombians, the majority of them humble people. We cannot continue living in this nation of death; we must now build a nation of life, and we will work tirelessly to bring peace and tranquillity to every corner of Colombia. This is the government of life, of peace, and it will be remembered as such. Peace is possible if we establish social dialogue in all regions of Colombia, so we can meet in the midst of our differences, so we can express ourselves and be heard, so we can find, through reason, the common paths to coexistence.’
According to Petro, it is society as a whole that must initiate a dialogue about how we might stop killing each other and how to advance. In the binding regional dialogues, we call on all unarmed people to find the paths to coexistence within their territories. No matter what conflicts there may be, our task is to express them in words, to find solutions through reason. I propose more democracy and more participation to put an end to this violence. But we also call on all armed groups to lay down their arms in the shroud of the past, to accept legal benefits in exchange for peace, in exchange for a definitive halt to the violence, and to work as owners of a prosperous but legal economy that will put an end to the underdevelopment of the regions.
For peace to be possible in Colombia, he said ‘we need dialogue, a lot of dialogue; we need to understand each other, to look for common ways forward, to produce changes. Of course, peace is possible if we change. The policy on drugs, for example, must be seen as a war for a strong preventative policy for drug consumption in developed societies.’
It is time for a new international convention that accepts that the “war on drugs” has failed — and failed resoundingly; that it has led to the murder of a million Latin Americans — the majority of them Colombian — over the past forty years, and that it causes 70,000 Americans to die of drug overdoses every year; that the war on drugs has strengthened the mafias and weakened our governments. the President underlined.
Petro said ‘The war on drugs has led states to commit crimes — our state has committed crimes — and it has blurred the horizon of democracy. Are we going to wait for another million Latin Americans to be murdered and 200,000 overdose deaths in the United States each year? Are we going to wait for another forty years and for another million Latin Americans to die of homicide and 2,800,000 North Americans to die of an overdose? Or rather, do we exchange failure for success that will allow Colombia and Latin America to live in peace?’
The time has come to change the anti-drug policy in the world, so that it guarantees life and does not generate death. They keep telling us that they want to support us in peace — they tell us again and again in all their speeches. So they must change the anti-drug policy that is in their hands — the world powers, the United Nations. They have the power to do it.
Focusing on wide inequality in Columbia, Petro said ‘May equality become possible. Just 10 percent of the Colombian population owns 70 percent of the wealth. This is absurd and amoral. We must not naturalize inequality and poverty. We must not look the other way; let us not be accomplices. Through determination, redistribution, and a program of justice, we will make Colombia more egalitarian and create more opportunities for all. Equality is possible if we are able to create wealth for all and if we are able to distribute it more fairly. That is why we propose an economy based on production, work, and knowledge. And that is why we propose a tax reform that produces justice.’
It is not true that the world is equal. It is not true that in most countries of the world, this social inequality that we have in Colombia exists. We are one of the most socially unequal societies on planet Earth. And it is an aberration that we cannot sustain if we want to be a nation, if we want to live in peace, he said
To take a part of the wealth of the people who have the most and earn the most, to open the doors of education to all children and young people, should not be seen as a punishment or a sacrifice. It is simply a solidarity payment that someone who is fortunate makes to a society that allows and guarantees their fortune. If we are able to bring a part of the wealth that is created to undernourished children through something as simple as paying regular taxes, we will be more fair, and we will be more peaceful, the President said.(IPA Service)
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