Colombia’s President Ivan Duque will celebrate his first year in office on Wednesday, even though there are no accomplishments to celebrate.
In fact, the president ought to make drastic changes if he wants his second year to be more successful both for himself and for his country.
This is going to require painful personnel changes in his cabinet and, more fundamentally, an end to his refusal to share power with political forces outside his minority coalition.
The president’s “lost year,” in my opinion, is due to two reason; Duque has failed to propose policies that can count on a congressional majority and the president is surrounded by inept oligarchs that do more damage to the country than they do good.
This has resulted in the perpetuation of social tensions and political violence, damage to the economy and the destruction of Colombia’s standing in the international community.
It is also why Duque’s approval rating is so dramatically low and why Colombians are increasingly pessimistic about the future.
A president for all Colombians
Duque was elected promoting a hard-right agenda with which he defeated the radically progressive agenda of his opponent, Senator Gustavo Petro.
What Duque has failed to acknowledge is that after winning this stand-off, he became the president of all Colombians. His victory did not give him the mandate to push through the far-right agenda of his party as he has tried to do.
Most importantly, Duque forgets that the big winner in the elections were the 50% of Colombians who lacked faith in either candidate and did not vote or voted blank, not wanting to choose between “two evils.”
This group must actively be engaged, not disenfranchised even more; they are citizens and many of them pay taxes. They, more than anyone, need a president that restores hope in democracy.
2018 election results
Source: National Registry
Duque’s persistent efforts to push through his minority party’s radical agenda has failed and will continue to fail because that’s how democracies resist despotic behavior.
Rather than following public opinion on populist issues like life imprisonment for child rapists or the banning pot in public, Duque must focus on Colombians’ concerns: employment and corruption.
The urgency of replacing idiots with talented executives
Becaue Duque refused to share power, his choice for cabinet ministers was limited to politicians close to his political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe. Considering the fact that many of Uribe’s political allies are in prison, this didn’t exactly provide the president with many options.
In fact, it put people in power who are utterly incompetent and who would be unable to keep any normal job had they not come from powerful political dynasties. In order to increase the quality of governance, Colombia is going to have to dump the evident idiots and look beyond the “uribista” circle for talented executives.
The idiots that must be replaced
Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla is not just incompetent, he would be a convicted criminal in countries where tax evasion and abusing government positions for personal profit is against the law.
Carrasquilla additionally lacks the ability to come up with a realistic budget proposal, which is key unless we want Colombia’s economic woes to get worse. Unlike competent economists, the finance minister does not understand Colombia’s high unemployment rate and is thus unlikely to be able to lower it.
It is beyond me how Guillermo Botero became defense minister in the first place if he has no experience whatsoever in national security or public security. The man is an okay businessman and mediocre technocrat at best, but has no apparent understanding of government.
Botero is dishonest and lacks any vision on how to solve the country’s daunting national security and public security issues. In fact, I would argue this man as defense minister is a threat to public safety and should be removed as quickly as possible.
Carlos Holmes Trujillo
Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo has both been a concern and the laughing stock for the international community.
Trujillo is the personification of everything that is wrong with Colombia’s political system; he is arrogant, does not do his homework, and thus doesn’t know what he is talking about when talking to foreign representatives.
Within a year, he has destroyed Colombia’s image abroad as a country that celebrates democratic values, is a reliable partner and has the potential to develop into a full-fledged and prosperous democracy.
Priorities for Duque’s second year
The most important priority for Duque is to take control of the executive branch, which at the moment is a complete chaos because ministers take orders from former President Alvaro Uribe rather than the head of state.
Giving his cabinet a good scare by removing a few idiots could help Duque establish his authority and create harmony within the administration.
Secondly, Duque must urgently seek majority support in Congress in order to have the ability to effectively execute policies. This means making compromises in regards to his country’s peace process and counternarcotics and add one of the center-right parties to his government.
Whoever the counterpart may be, they too will have to compromise and allow Duque to execute at least some of his hard-line policies, but they will open a talent pool of executives that can improve the quality of the administration.
If Colombia’s most inexperienced president in history believes he can continue the way he has, both he and Colombia are in for some very hard times.