Colombia cringes as Duque insults opposition after plunging congress into chaos

Colombia’s President Ivan Duque sunk Congress into chaos on Monday after forgetting to formally open the congressional year and referring to the opposition spokesperson as “that old woman.”

Duque had three tasks to fulfill on Colombia’s Independence Day; hold his inaugural speech, formally open the congressional new year, and listen to the opposition’s rebuttal.

Duque’s worst public performance ever?

The president screwed up two of those tasks as the he refused to go to Congress because of the COVID-19 pandemic and tried to fulfill his constitutional obligations via video platform Zoom.

Duque successfully held his inaugural speech after which his video link switched to an image of the presidential palace and everything went wrong.

As the country cringed, Senate president Lidio Garcia and Senate secretary Gregorio Eljach tried to call back the president and remind him to formally open the congressional year.

Transcript of chaos

Ivan Duque: “Our challenge is that history will remember us as a society that was able to think big, to see beyond the difficulties and understand that only together we can build a country. Thank you very, very much.”

(Screenshot and music)

Lidio Garcia: “Mister….”

Gregorio Eljach: “…president?”
Lidio Garcia: “Mister secretary.”
Gregorio Eljach: “Err, yeah, president, the thing is…”
Lidio Garcia: “You had a…”
Gregorio Eljach: “Yes, sir.”
Lidio Garcia: “Mr. secretary, continue.”
Gregorio Eljach: “So, because there is a noise here I could not hear if the president of the republic formally declared the ordinary sessions of congress as opened.”
Lidio Garcia: “I would like to ask the president of the republic, Mr. Ivan Duque, if he can declare the congressional session as opened.”
Gregorio Eliach: “Ehhh….the sound. The president doesn’t have sound in his office anymore.”
Lidio Garcia: “We would appreciate if the technicians at the palace could turn the president’s sound on again, please.”

(sound of footsteps, mumbling and a barking dog at the palace)

Lidio Garcia: “I ask the technicians to turn on the sound of the president to declare the sessions of Congress as opened, please.”

(inaudible mumbling at the palace)

Ivan Duque: “Mr. President of Congress, Mr. Secretary, I formally declare the congress opened. Thank you.”

VP tweets president insulting opposition

As if Duque hadn’t embarrassed himself enough, his video connection remained black, leaving opposition Senator Aida Avella (Patriotic Union) in the dark as to whether the president was complying with his constitutional obligation to listen to the opposition’s rebuttal or not.

After complaints by Avella and opposition Representative Katherine Miranda (Green Alliance) that the president’s video link showed he was not taking part in the session on the virtual Zoom platform, Vice-President Marta Lucia Ramirez published a video of Duque “respectfully listening” the opposition’s rebuttal.

Ramirez quickly deleted the tweet after it showed the president referring to the opposition senator as “that old woman,” infuriating the opposition and further embarrassing himself.

On days like this I am ashamed to be a congresswoman.

House Representative Katherine Miranda

Fortunately for Duque, Colombia’s leading newspaper, El Tiempo, is owned by the president’s financial patron and falsely reported that “responsibility reigned at the opening of Congress.”

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