As well as the necessary search for a leader who mobilises public opinion to give massive support at the ballot box, urgent reforms are needed and possible in a country that is sinking in violence, corruption, poverty and intolerance.
Although the presidential elections in Colombia will not take place for another two years, the political competition between parties and social organisations has already begun, seeking possible candidacies and progressing with what would be programmes of government.
The far right is searching for a candidate although it does not seem to have found the right person yet.
Its programme consists of maintaining the current economic model (in place for over three decades), rebuilding relations with the United States (somewhat debilitated following the awkward bet on Trump’s candidacy) and, if they can, widening the dirty war in the internal arena, totally eliminating the Peace Agreement with the guerrilla forces that former President Juan Manuel Santos signed in the name of the state.
Moreover, Colombia would continue to be an instrument of Washington’s strategy on the continent (which will not change fundamentally under Biden). Here, then, the right would lean even more towards aggression against Venezuela and being a minor counterweight to the Argentina-Mexico nationalist axis that is broadening with Bolivia and the likely triumph of the left in Ecuador.
This far right (now in government) enjoys the backing of the country’s big bourgeoisie and the electoral and social support of a significant part of the middle and popular sectors.
However, the current scandals that link their leader, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, to all sorts of serious crimes (particularly the assassination by the army of more than six thousand innocent people presented as former guerrilla fighters) will perhaps cost them some support and contribute to the electoral triumph of the centre and the left in 2022.
It seems that Uribe’s control over justice is not absolute, so surprises must not be ruled out. Uribe could go back to jail and be convicted.
As for the so-called political “centre”, in reality it is a liberal tendency that although sharing the fundamentals of the neoliberal economic model currently in place, accepts some changes as necessary, above all to tackle the tough panorama of inequalities of all types that are increasing with the pandemic and in the face of the deep decomposition of the country.
Its decisive figure is likely to be former President Juan Manuel Santos.
This tendency is conscious of the need to end the corruption that affects all the institutions (including the military which appears to be linked to multiple forms of dirty war and corruption). The tendency claims to be willing to implement the Havana Peace Agreement (something which would contribute to the demobilisation of the guerrillas that still remain in the country, apparently willing to give up their weapons if the state complies with what was agreed).
The left (which ranges from traditional groups of Marxist tendency to more or less radical social democrats) coincides in many respects with the centre and is likely to present Gustavo Petro, who obtained eight million votes in the previous elections, as its candidate.
This coincidence of diagnosis and on the reforms necessary would make feasible the centre-left agreement that failed before and made possible the victory of the current leader, Ivan Duque, in the shadow of his mentor, Uribe Vélez, who is the one really in charge.
Without excluding the application of other equally necessary reforms, if one considers simply the central points of the Peace Agreement, one can see how their application would lead to real democratisation and to the modernisation of the Colombian social order.
Indeed, it would change the countryside, a new modern and, above all, democratic political-electoral system would be born and the country would be able to undergo a collective catharsis to overcome the violence that has always been with it, since its birth as an independent nation.
It would not only be a case of returning to millions of peasants the land expropriated by the latifundio system of large estates and by violence but also of promoting food sovereignty at the same time.
There is no justification whatsoever for the fact that today the best land is dedicated to extensive cattle raising while Colombia imports food that can be produced in the country. Agrarian reform would involve then forcing the traditional large property sector to modernise and focus above all on the internal food and raw materials markets.
The protectionist measures are essential. They are more or less the same ones that are used by the metropolitan nations to defend their own production.
In the rural reform a new policy in relation to the production of psychotropics would be decisive. Putting an end to the so-called “war on drugs” would leave many thousands of families without employment but the agrarian reform programmes would allow viable solutions to be offered.
Ending that nightmare would also reduce substantially the excessive military spending that the country has at present, it would render unnecessary the presence of foreign troops and it would leave not inconsiderable economic resources in the hands of the government to make a reality of the modernisation of the Colombian countryside.
Ending the business of drug trafficking is the best solution to eliminate it.
Putting an end to the backward forms of landholding (latifundio) would weaken the landowning class which is precisely the most violent and most linked to the forms of criminal behaviour that make peace impossible in rural areas.
The agreed political reform, in terms of modernising and above all democratising the electoral system, would put a full stop to the absolute power of those rural and provincial castes which contribute almost nothing to the national economy but are an unbearable burden for any serious national plan.
The Special Jurisdiction of Peace (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz – JEP) – perhaps the only point of the Agreement with the FARC-EP that has managed to work despite all the right’s sabotage – shows the valuable contribution of that exercise in collective catharsis which happens when the guerrillas publicly recognise the excesses committed during the more than half a century of conflict, a catharsis that would be much greater and more effective if, on the part of the military and the police, that recognition of crimes committed was not limited to just a few officers and centred on the rank-and-file.
The ideal thing, of course, would be to see in the dock not only those who carried out the crimes but also the political motivators and economic beneficiaries of the violence that has pitted soldier against guerrilla, in so many cases, poor peasant against poor peasant. The rich don’t go to war.