Comments, In Focus, Latin America

Rebuilding Colombia, purging the establishment

The Colombian Establishment is in dire need of self-purification if its most visible members are to regain the Casa de Nariño in 2026.


German Ayala Osorio*


Regardless of whether the government of President Gustavo Petro pushes through the social reforms proposed in his electoral campaign, a narrative is being consolidated that exposes the right wing as responsible for the uncontainable public-private corruption, as a result of the previous mafia capture of the state.

It will be very difficult for the right wing to reverse the psycho-social and cultural impact that the narrative Petro and his most faithful supporters have constructed to legitimise themselves and reveal the history of a country whose civilian, military, academic and ecclesiastical authorities have been operating hand in hand with a naturalised mafia ethos.

Perhaps Petrismo’s promise of change is an exaggeration, given that changing what has been wrong for more than 30 years is an institutional and, above all, a cultural impossibility.

What cannot be hidden is that there is a growing awareness among a significant part of Colombians that poverty, inequality, corruption, informal economy, insecurity in the streets and political violence are the result of a petty and corrupt right wing that, by capturing the state, has used all its institutions and bodies of power to turn the country into a farm at the service of a few.

Gustavo Petro. Photo from Usaid U.S / Flickr. Creative Commons License.

In 2022 they lost the presidency but retained public institutions thanks to the clientelist networks they have been weaving for some time, which allowed their political agents and congressmen to manage the treasury as they pleased in the face of the blindness of the regulatory bodies. These bodies have acted stealthily to ensure the survival of the traditional political clans that their own members, their abject congressmen, usually defend with the help of the mainstream Colombian press.

They still have control of the Office of the Inspector General, sectors of the Attorney General’s Office and most probably some key pieces in the three High Courts, in particular in the Supreme Court of Justice and the Council of State. They also count on the media companies that, through misrepresentations and lies, make the public believe that before Petro’s triumph, we lived in a paradise, something like the “Switzerland of Latin America”. And, of course, they have the economic power of the sponsors who for many years financed the congressional campaigns of those who legislated against collective rights and for the benefit of the private individuals who took over state companies.

Luz Adriana Camargo Garzón’s Attorney General’s Office is in the process of taking up the dusty cases involving powerful social, economic and political agents immersed in acts of corruption and crimes associated with para-militarism.

The condemnation of the multinational Chiquita Brands by the US justice system should serve as an impetus for the Attorney General’s Office to take the initiative to accelerate all the processes related to these facts that are in its own hands, as well as those that are in the transitional justice models of Justice and Peace and the Special Juridiction for Peace (JEP). The same should happen with the Odebrecht case, which involves powerful social, economic and political actors in Colombia and Brazil. Certainly, the current government will not go to the UN to set up an international commission to investigate the most emblematic cases of public-private corruption that have taken place in the country in recent years. The Establishment would be willing to remove the president from power if he were truly committed to fulfilling his campaign promises. Colombia is not Guatemala, although it urgently needs to live the experience led by the current Defence Minister, Iván Velásquez.

Perhaps for the 2026 elections it will be valuable and of great electoral impact for a political force to wave the flag of the cultural revolution based on the urgent need to clean up the operation of the state, and for the reconstruction of a different idea of what public institutions are, many of which are at the service of the most privileged.

A cultural revolution that, hand in hand with the industrialisation of the country and a different relationship with natural ecosystems, will trace the paths that will lead society to achieve the elusive modernity.

To raise the fight against corruption again as an electoral slogan would be a mistake. It is a shame that there is no political centre in the country capable of confronting the Establishment and interested in giving continuity to the social policies that this progressive government will leave behind, as well as the processes that it will leave behind in terms of strengthening the countryside and the train as an instrument of sustainable development, which is still a pending task. If this Centre appears and consolidates, it will have to do so on the basis that the Establishment must purge itself if its most visible members really want to regain the Casa de Nariño.

*German Ayala Osorio: Journalist, writer and political scientist, with a Ph D in Sustainable Regions. Author of the blog La otra tribuna.

(Translated by Rene Phelvin – Email: Photos: Pixabay

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