The emergence of the trillizos

A new party created by three ambitious former Bogotá mayors may be the
most refreshing political news since 2002. If they work well together,
the so-called “trillizos” could dramatically transform Colombian
politics.

Not too long ago, the promising “quintuples” project disintegrated,
dashing all hopes for a strong alternative coalition for the 2010
presidential elections. The five independent candidates who made up the
delicate quintuples alliance – Sergio Fajardo, Antanas Mockus, Enrique Peñalosa,
Lucho Garzon, and Martha Lucia Ramirez – failed to come to an agreement
about a shared political future. Before long, Fajardo and Ramirez began
to move forward with their individual campaigns.

However,
without the support of the three Bogota mayors, Ramirez and Fajardo
struggled to convince the Colombian public of their ability to lead the
country. Ramirez of the Conservative Party has never been a realistic
contender for the Presidency and might not  even make an impact in
ongoing political debates. Fajardo, a far more promising independent
candidate, is simply confirming many voters’ worries about his
inexperience in handling pressing national issues. The former Medellin
mayor’s long-awaited security plan, presented earlier this month, was
worryingly vague. Most notably, it failed to even mention the issue of
new paramilitary and drug gangs, which directly affects his home city.

With
the virtual disappearance of the quintuples candidates, Colombia’s
attention returned to the same old polarizing political issues, namely
Uribe’s re-election. Politics was again put on hold as the nation
waited, yet again, for the President to make his decision.

For
this very reason, the recent emergence of the “Trillizos” coalition is
extremely opportune. Mockus, Garzon and Peñalosa, three innovative
mayors credited with turning around Colombia’s capital in the 1990’s
and early 2000’s, declared this week that they would join forces to
create a new political party. Rather than base a party on a shared
ideology, the trillizos are looking to form a party around a shared
commitment to transparent government.

The
party will recruit promising politicians from all regions of Colombia
known for their credibility and honesty. Its main political goals will
be to improve the historically strained relationship between the
citizenry and all branches and levels of the Colombian government and
to reduce Colombia’s crippling social inequality.

Perhaps
most importantly, the trillizos openly refuse to become yet another
‘alternative’ group with vague proposals. They aspire to present viable
solutions and not mere critiques of the political establishment. They
won’t simply call on the government to “address social issues”, but
instead will form concrete detailed plans to improve quality of life
and economic conditions in Colombia’s towns and cities.

The
trillizos seem ready for such a challenge. Already, they are showing
much more cohesion and harmony than the quintuples coalition ever did
by agreeing to an intra-party primary election to decide on a single
presidential candidate. Further, while all three are veteran
politicians from Colombia’s capital, they bring a wide range of
experiences and success stories to the coalition.

Mockus
is a mathematician and philosopher of Lithuanian descent famous for
greatly reducing homicide rates and traffic accidents, instituting
market-friendly social programs and reinvigorating Bogota’s cultural
life.

Peñalosa grew up in Bogota’s wealthier
neighborhoods, studied in the United States, and built his own
political career from scratch. As Bogota mayor, he is best known for
building and renovating parks and launching the widely-praised
Transmilenio urban transit system.

Finally,
the more left-leaning Garzon is a former union leader once affiliated
with the opposition Democratic Pole party. He finished in third place
in the 2002 presidential election. As Bogota mayor, Garzon focused his
attention on the capital’s poorest residents and, unusual for a former
union leader, was known for working harmoniously with the national
government.

What lies in store for the
trillizos’ new party? Looking toward the 2010 Presidential Elections,
none of the three have a strong chance of winning. It would take
nothing short of a political miracle for anyone, much less an
alternative candidate, to challenge the Uribista coalition.

Looking
beyond 2010, however, the possibilities are far more interesting. The
three mayors are widely respected by honest politicians throughout
Colombia and, with proper political maneuvering, could recruit a number
of promising local leaders to join the new party. Together, the
trillizos could gradually build support with proposals that directly
address the most pressing concerns of Colombia’s urban majority.

Most
importantly, however, the trillizos seem destined to finally refresh
Colombia’s stagnant political debates. They are neither pro-Uribe,
anti-Uribe or in a Fajardo-style indecisive limbo. They combine
Fajardo’s creativity with veteran political experience and concrete
proposals.

For too long, Colombian politics
has been cripplingly polarized. Let us hope that the trillizos can work
together to make Colombia’s government more credible, honest and
effective. And who knows? After all the miracles they pulled off in
Bogota, it may be too early to rule out a trillizo presidency in 2014.

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