Opposition Senator-elect, Claudia Lopez, stated that President Juan Manuel Santos’ tenure in office is turning Colombia into a “totalitarian republic,” strongly resembling its neighbor Venezuela.
“The truth is that the concentration of power in Colombia is exactly like that in Venezuela,” began Lopez.
“[Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro controls congress. Santos controls congress. Maduro controls the [ministries]. Santos controls the [ministries]. Maduro controls the Prosecutor General’s Office. Santos controls the Prosecutor General’s Office. Maduro controls the electoral organizations. Santos controls the electoral organizations.”
“What is the difference?” the leftist Green Alliance (Alianza Verde – AV) politician asked Colombia Reports.
“One is named Maduro and is from the left. The other is named Santos and is from the right,” Lopez said.
Lopez went on to say that because of this “concentration of power,” Colombia is advancing toward a “totalitarian republic.”
The former journalist cited her March 2014, senatorial election victory as “a miracle,” accusing the Santos administration of “interfering with the elections.” While last month’s congressional elections saw “unprecedented” voter fraud, no concrete crimes have yet been linked to the government or any other political group.
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Lopez also voiced her dissatisfaction that Santos ignored international organizations and sanctioned the dismissal of Gustavo Petro, the leftist former mayor of Colombia’s capital city, Bogota.
“Additionally, [Santos] just finished robbing Bogota of its mayor…passing over the constitution and violating international treaties that Colombia is obligated to comply with.”
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Lopez said that she plans to denounce Santos’ behavior and “abuse of power” to as many international organizations as possible; and second, she will create an internal front against corruption.
Denounce Santos and “Inform the World”
“I will file an international complaint against President Santos. It will say to the world that Colombia is concentrating power, violating democracy, eliminating competitors not in the polling stations but rather with legal tricks,” affirmed the senator-elect.
“I am going to denounce him, before all, all of the international organizations: The OAS, UNASUR, CLAD, The UN, all. Even the European Parliament,” elaborated Lopez.
The journalist-turned politician said that she is currently in the process of making the contacts to effectively carry out her denouncement.
“[I hope] that at least, they know. The world needs to be informed about what is going on in Colombia…because we are concentrating our power and that is ending our democracy.”
“With the world, we inform, and with Colombians, we act,” said Lopez.
How to get Colombians to Act?
However getting Colombians to act will prove a challenge in itself. The winner of March’s congressional elections was abstention, as over 58% of eligible voters did not show up to the polls to cast their ballot.
Claudia Lopez said that her second focus, approaching her entry into Colombia’s Senate, will be an “internal front,” energizing citizens to vote and changing existing systems that threaten democracy.
“It’s a front for all of Colombia’s regions, a front for all citizens, a front for democracy … that can confront corruption,” she proclaimed.
Lopez then reached into her wallet and pulled out her “cedula,”or state identification card, which must be presented in order to vote, and said, “The key to reestablishing democracy in Colombia is held by the Colombian citizens…This is the main instrument of power that can save the life of Colombia’s democracy.”
“The most important part of this moment is to convince the citizens to vote.”
The politician said that there will be campaigns to motivate people to vote, explaining that staying in one’s house “crying,” will not yield a democracy.
Furthermore, in terms of altering the domestic status quo, the senator-elect named term-limit reform as a main target. Lopez would eliminate both the ability for the president to run for reelection, and the ability to be reelected indefinitely to bodies such as city councils and congress.
Political Alliances and the “Third Party Option”
“The Green Alliance is good…and we are now trying to construct a complete front around [presidential candidate Enrique] Peñalosa’s name,” said the politician after the party gained just three seats in the House (total of 6) and zero in the Senate (total of 5). As a result of the party’s small presence in congress, the question of potential coalitions rears its head.
Claudia Lopez said that, “We are open to discussions about growing the front for democracy. There is no closed door. All doors are open,” regarding potential political alliances. She clarified that there is at least one closed door: with Senator-elect Alvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center (Centro Democratic-CD) party.
“The only thing that [the Green Alliance] and Peñalosa will NOT do is have an alliance with the [Uribe supporters],” said Lopez definitively, “but for everything else, the doors are open.”
The politician also noted that an alliance with Santos is also off the table — “obviously” — because he is the main competitor.
Lopez asserted that the goal of the Green Alliance is not to start a leftist revolution. “That’s not going to happen. Elections have confirmed that,” she said, but rather “third option” between the choices of Santos and Uribe: an “option of the center.
“If the left leads the third option, they are killed. Period. For unjust reasons, but that’s the reality…and the majority of the country is center-right…[therefore] the party of the center moves forward.”
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She stated the fight between Santos loyalists and Uribe loyalists “is dead.” The Green Alliance must take advantage of the remnants of the division between the two parties while they can,”to get our ideas out.”
“We start with words, making sure people know there is a third option between Santos and Uribe.”
The “One-Year Deadline”
“My deadline as a Senator is one year,” Lopez told CR.
“If in one year, this congress behaves seriously, we move forward with reforms with health, education, justices…these political reforms will be the framework of peace,” she asserted before issuing her warning.
“However if the congress insists on simply being an obstructive center, that throws out peace, and that ignore the reforms that Colombians ask for, I do not have the slightest doubt that Colombians, including me, will be asking that this congress closes in one year,” she declared.
Lopez concluded saying that “The people in this country are exasperated with the political class.” She suggested to her future colleagues that “Congress needs to understand this or I am sure that the citizens are going to look for alternatives.”
- Interview with Claudia Lopez