Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Thursday that he has replaced five ministers and his chief of staff amid an ongoing agricultural crisis and a record drop in approval ratings.
Santos announced new leaders of the Interior Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Agricultural Ministry, the Mining and Energy Ministry, the Environment Housing and Land Development Ministry, and the National Planning Department.
Santos also named his new chief of staff.
This announcement came after the resignation of the President’s entire executive staff that has come under heavy criticism over the handling of an agricultural crisis and ongoing protests against his administration.
Santos’ new ministers
- Aurelio Iragorri – Interior
Aurelio Iragorri Valencia was born in the south west of Colombia in Popayan, the capital city of the Cauca Department. He is a lawyer from Javeriana University and has had a successful career in the private sector as well as in politics. Until July, 2013, Iragorri was the Presidential Advisor for Political Affairs. In the private sector, he served as the Vice President of Finance and Administration of Malterias of Colombia and Malterias United, both large malting companies. The new Interior Minister is the son of Senator Aurelio Iragorri Hormaza and the former began in government as the Deputy Minister of the Interior with a focus on Foreign Policy. Iragorri has also been the acting governor of three different departments: Magdalena, Casanare, and Valle de Cauca. Iragorri’s father is also the president of the “U” Party, the liberal conservative biggest political party in Colombia founded in 2005. President Santos is the overall leader of the party as Colombia’s President.
- Alfonso Gomez – Justice
Alfonso Gomez Mendez is from Chaparral in the Tolima Department and is in the west of Colombia. He is a politician and lawyer from Externado University in Bogota. In the Colombian government, Gomez has served as an Attorney General, as the Attorney General of Colombia, as a congressman, and as the Ambassador to Austria. Throughout his career he was a proponent of the peace process and prosecuted many drug traffickers. In 2009, the new Minister of Justice was registered to run for the presidency for the Liberal party, however he lost the bid for to be the party’s sole candidate. Gomez is a huge proponent of human rights.
- Ruben Lizarralde – Agriculture
Ruben Dario Lizarralde Montoya is from the western Colombian department of Valle de Cauco. He attended Javeriana University and has a masters in management from the University of Miami. Lizarralde has significant public and private sector experience as well. He has served as the Secretary of the Treasury of Bogota under Mayor Andres Pastrana and as the Deputy Minister of Economic Development. The new Agriculture Minister also worked for Colombia and Peru through the Inter-American Development Bank and was the vice president of the Colombia Automotive Company. Until Wednesday Lizarralede was the CEO of the rubber and palm oil company, Indupalma. The new minister has already received criticisms however for being linked to buying illegal vacant lots while working for Indupalma accoridng to Caracol Radio.
- Amylkar Acosta – Mining and Energy
Amylkar David Acosta Medina was born in Colombia’s northern coastal city Riohacha in the La Guajira Department. Currently Acosta is an economist at the University of Antioquia. Previously the new Mining and Energy Minister served as a Senator for the Liberal Party in the late 90s and was the President of the Senate between 1997 and 1998. Acosta has served as the Deputy Minister of Mining and Energy and was also the president of the Colombia Gas Company. Former President of Colombia, Ernesto Samper, said on Twitter that Acosta would be the voice of the province and the new liberal left in the cabinet.
Amylcar Acosta sera la voz de la provincia y la izquierda liberal en el nuevo gabinete.
— ErnestoSamperPizano (@ernestosamperp) September 6, 2013
Acosta has also received initial criticism from constituents however due to the government selling shares of the Colombian energy company, Isagen, at an ‘inappropriate and inconvenient’ time according to El Colombiano.
- Luz Sarmiento – Environment
Luz Helena Sarmiento was born in one of Colombia’s central departments, Santander and is a geologist from the Industrial University of Santander. Sarmiento is a conflict resolution specialist from Javeriana University and studied upper management and environmental management at Los Andes University and the University of Santander respectively. The new Environment Minister was the Director of External Relations at the oil and gas company, Ecopetrol and the Manager of Community Relations and Industrial Relations at the Cerrejon Coal Company. In the government, Sarmiento has been an advisor to Environment Ministry and currently works as the Director of the National Agency of Environmental Licenses.
Santos’ new presidential staff
- Maria Gutierrez – Chief of Staff
Maria Lorena Gutierrez is an industrial engineer and a finance specialist from Los Andes University and has a MBA from the Freeman Business School from Tulane University in New Orleans. She also has a Ph.D in Administration with a focus in Finance from Tulane. Gutierrez has a decorated career in education serving as the Dean of Faculty and the Director of the Undergraduate Business Program at Los Andes University. The new Chief of Staff is on the board of several international leadership groups including the European Foundation for Leadership Development (EFMD) and the Business Association for Latin American Studies (BALAS). In 2008 Gutierrez was designated as one of 100 influential leaders in Colombia, one of the 10 outstanding young executives, and received recognition as one of the top successful executives under 35 by Dinero Magazine. Gutierrez is said to be one of the most trusted members of Santos’ staff.
- Tatyana Orozco – National Planning Department
Tatyana Orozco is an economist from Los Andes University and studied economics and political science at the University of London. For 10 years she served as the president of the Colombia investment group, ProBaranquilla. Orozco served as the Deputy Minister of Tourism since February this year.
The announcement of the ministers and officials coincide with national agricultural strikes that have dominated the news for the past three weeks and have caused a major drop in popular support for the president and his cabinet.
This is the third time in Santos’ presidency that a new cabinet has been installed, and the new members enter leadership positions within the government at a time where Colombian citizens across the country are demanding action from the ministers and the president.
On August 22, the Ministry of Agriculture told Colombia Reports that now-ex Minister Francisco Estupiñan would not resign in light of the strikes occurring throughout the country.
Ten days after this claim, the entire cabinet resigned.
According to Santos, the challenges that face this new executive branch will be to conclude the peace process with the FARC, become closer to the regions, have high quality execution, push through health reform, and build efficient policies for agriculture and industry.
- Presidencia de la Republica (www.presidencia.gov.co)
- Santos se la juega con cinco ministros de las regiones para la paz (La Republica)
- El presidente Santos anunció los primeros cambios en su cartera (La Republica)
- Cinco ministros nuevos conforman el gabinete de Santos (Vanguardia)
- Rubén Darío Lizarralde debe aclarar compra de baldíos: congresistas del Polo y Verdes (Caracol Radio)
- Acosta y Lizarralde, dos ministros que entran con cuestionamientos (El Colombiano)
- ¿Quién es Rubén Darío Lizarralde, nuevo ministro de Agricultura? (Caracol Radio)
- ¿Quién es Aurelio Iragorri Valencia, nuevo ministro del Interior? (Caracol Radio)
- ¿Quién es Luz Helena Sarmiento, nueva ministra de Ambiente? (Caracol Radio)
- ¿Quién es María Lorena Gutiérrez, la nueva secretaria de Presidencia? (Caracol Radio)
- ¿Quién es Tatyana Orozco, nueva directora de Planeación Nacional? (Caracol Radio)