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By 54% to 42%, moderate conservative Ivan Duque handily defeated socialist-populist Gustavo Petro in the final round of Colombia’s presidential voting June 17, with Medellin and Antioquia providing most of the margin of victory.

Both Medellin and Antioquia massively delivered 72% of their votes for Duque compared to only 22% for Petro, while Duque also won majorities in 24 of Colombia’s 32 departments.

Petro won 54% of the vote in Bogota, where he once held the Mayor’s office.

Duque’s vice-presidential running mate -- veteran Conservative Party politician Marta Lucia Ramirez -- now becomes Colombia’s first-ever female Vice President.

In an attempt to broaden his appeal to more-moderate voters, former M-19 guerrilla Petro spent the past several weeks trying to whitewash his socialist-populist past including issuance of a feeble statement calling for a repeat of elections in the socialist dictatorship of neighboring Venezuela, whose leaders and governments he has publicly defended.

During the presidential campaign, Petro also issued a veiled threat -- disguised as an “invitation” -- that suggested he would expropriate the sugar-cane processing operations of Medellin-based Carlos Ardila Lulle, owner of the mainstream RCN radio and television news network. Such a threat carries frightening consequences, as Venezuela's government has similarly expropriated and destroyed nearly the entire private sector in that country, triggering a near-total collapse of the economy and forcing millions to flee the resulting starvation and a massive surge of street violence.

RCN’s “NTN24” international broadcast network was thrown out of Venezuela for vigorous and continuing exposes of that government’s massive corruption, its collusion with Colombian narco-terrorist communist groups including FARC and ELN, its repression of free speech, free press, free markets and Venezuela’s freedom parties, its rigging of elections, and its imprisonment of opposition leaders.

The Venezuelan government had been hoping that Petro would defeat Duque, as Duque is among a group of leading South American politicians who have brought suit in an international human-rights court against Venezuela’s fraudulent elections and its massive repressions.

Following a consistent pattern of insulting Duque and his supporters -- rather than democratically congratulating Duque on an overwhelming victory -- Petro instead claimed in his post-election speech that Duque won the presidential race by “lying” about Petro’s veiled autocratic-socialist agenda.

In contrast to Petro’s venom, Duque's post-election speech continued to offer words of moderation and conciliation.

“We are not going to deprive anyone of the rights they have achieved in our country,” Duque said. “We are always going to have a constructive attitude in government, deliberative but motivated to consolidate this idea of the ‘Pact for Colombia,’ where we move forward an agenda of reforms to make this country grow, defeat poverty, expand the middle class, and plant hope again in every corner of the territory . . .

“[I]f illicit crops [coca and cocaine trafficking] continue to grow in our country, threatening national security, if [narco-terrorist] money and hidden weapons reappear, we see that there are some who allow, with their weapons, to continue obstructing the institutional course of the country or what is worse, silencing the authorities and silencing citizenship, then what we are doing is breaking the longing for peace . . .

“Our country has to be the country of environmental sustainability, [so] here we are going to protect the [highland] páramos, the rivers, the diverse ecosystems, the protection of fauna and flora, the promotion of electric vehicles, the country of reduction, reuse and recycling, the country of twenty-first century ethics that protect nature and create entrepreneurship where [the environment] is also preserved . . .

“We are going to become once and for all the nation of social justice, of equity policy, where in the whole territory we guarantee a dignified education, with [full-day] classes, with double [breakfast and lunch] feeding, with preschools, with technical education and where free university education reaches strata 1 and 2 [the poorest sectors] of our country,” he added.


In the first round of presidential elections May 27, moderate conservative Ivan Duque of the Centro Democratico party won the plurality of votes (39%) among five candidates.

Duque will face socialist-populist candidate Gustavo Petro of the “Colombia Humana” party (25% of first-round votes) in the second-round runoff election on June 17.

Duque won in 23 of Colombia’s departments (states), while Petro won in eight -- including the biggest strongholds of cocaine production (Chocó, Vaupés, Cauca, Putumayo and Nariño), all areas where left-wing extremists including ex-FARC, ELN and other narco-terrorist groups control large territories -- and have sympathizers among coca growers and also the socialist dictatorship in neighboring Venezuela, a government that Petro has defended.

Former Medellin mayor, Antioquia governor and public-education proponent Sergio Fajardo – a moderate with big national support among younger voters, students, and sentimental support among many Medellin and Antioquia voters -- took third place in the balloting, with 23.7% of the vote.

Fajardo beat all contenders in Bogota, the national capital, while Duque won Medellin handily (followed by Fajardo) and Petro got a paltry 7% of the Medellin vote.

Ironically, Bogota was suppposed to have been Petro's stronghold. Petro -- a former member of left-wing guerilla group M-19 that once murdered all of Colombia's Supreme Court in an attack financed by the late narco kingpin Pablo Escobar -- previously was a Bogota mayor (2012 to 2015), but he left a bitter legacy of administrative chaos, political venom and demagoguery that turned-off many Bogota voters.

Given Antioquia’s overwhelming support for political moderate Duque in the first-round balloting, a significant portion of the Fajardo vote is now likely to swing to Duque in the second round, likely ensuring Duque’s final victory, according to analysts.

In total, Duque won 7.567 million votes in the first round, while Petro got 4.8 million and Fajardo gathered 4.59 million. Fourth-place finisher German Vargas Lleras got 7.3% of the votes (1.4 million). Analysts predict that nearly all of those mainly conservative Vargas voters will switch to Duque in the second round.

Duque, a former economist for the Inter-American Development Bank, is a Bogota native and a former Senator for the Centro Democratico party, formed by former President (now Senator) Alvaro Uribe – Colombia’s most popular politician.

In a speech following the first-round election results, Duque praised Fajardo for his life-long dedication to public education and ethical government, and termed the Vargas campaign as “serious.”

As for Petro, Duque stated: “I invite you today to have a campaign where we can debate clearly . . . [W]e are ready to confront ideas and proposals, we are ready to give Colombia a high-level debate, where we can air our differences, so that Colombians can define the course of the country, because I am sure that hope is above class hatred.”

Following a pattern from the primary election earlier this year, which Duque won handily, Petro’s post-election speech once again insulted Duque and his followers.

“The [party] machines went for Ivan Duque, but that’s not the way politics [should be] in Colombia. Either the country returns to violence or continues towards an era of peace. It is not an agreement with the FARC that is being resolved [by this election], it is much more than that,” Petro said.

Duque, who has criticized terms of the “peace” deal between FARC and outgoing President Juan Manual Santos, responded:

“In Colombia, there are no enemies of peace other than those who have used violence to silence the Colombian people. Therefore, we speak clearly to Colombia: we do not want to tear up the [peace] agreements, what we want is to make clear that the Colombia of peace, is the Colombia where peace meets justice, where there is truth, where there is reparation, there is compliance with penalties, and the wishes of the victims are met and repaired.

“For that reason, today I also say clearly that we have to be kind and generous with that guerrilla base that has made the transition to demobilization, disarmament and reintegration. But we have to ensure that they do not reoffend, that they repair their victims, they tell the whole truth, assuming responsibilities and they fulfill their sentences. Because if we do not have that, [then] peace will never be lasting.”


In an unprecedentedly massive primary turnout, Colombia’s voters on March 11 chose moderate presidential candidate Ivan Duque of the center-right Centro Democratico party to face-off against socialist-populist Gustavo Petro in this spring’s presidential elections.

As the polls closed, the soft-speaking, diplomatic Duque publicly announced that he has chosen moderate Conservative Party candidate Marta Lucia Ramirez – the runner-up in the center-right primary contest yesterday -- as his vice-presidential candidate.

In his post-election speech, Duque promised that if elected, he would reach across the broad political spectrum of Colombian politics to guide his administration’s policies. However, Duque added that he would fight any attempts by communists and populists to impose a Venezuelan-style dictatorship in Colombia.

"Our proposal is to include all Colombians, without exclusions," Duque said.  "The time has come to turn the page on impunity, clientelism, tax asphyxiation, distrust of institutions. We do not want to succumb to the temptations of populist authoritarianism in Venezuela, which has ruined Venezuela and has delivered the crudest kind of socialist reaction, whose reality is bread for today, hunger for tomorrow."

In contrast, Petro’s venomous, conspiracy-filled post-election speech insulted Duque, Ramirez and their mostly moderate allies, terming them “the extreme right.”

Many Colombians fed-up with the murderous violence of nearly 60 years of communist and narco-terrorism – over the last 20 years tacitly or overtly supported by members of Venezuela’s socialist dictatorship -- have protested at Petro’s populist-socialist campaign rallies, some of which have featured hundreds of bussed-in supporters aiming to create the illusion of majority support for Petro.

In his post-election speech, Petro denounced these protests against his socialist-populist campaign as a “conspiracy” which fails to provide “guarantees” for his candidacy.

In contrast to Petro’s venom, the ever-polite, calm-but-firm Ramirez -- a veteran Colombian politician – modestly and warmly welcomed Duque’s primary victory. Ramirez would become Colombia’s first female vice-president if she is elected this spring.

The Duque/Ramirez ticket -- uniting Conservatives and Centro Democratico – is now seen by many political analysts as likely to win either in the first or second round of Colombia’s presidential elections this spring, facing Petro and four other less-popular presidential candidates.

Duque and Ramirez collectively won twice as many votes as Petro in the Sunday primaries -- a strong indication of Colombian voter intentions.

Voter sentiment here in favor of moderate-conservative candidates is partly a reaction to the horrors of the economic collapse of the socialist dictatorship in neighboring Venezuela, as well as voter anger over what many see as current President Juan Manuel Santos’ betrayal of former President Alvaro Uribe’s anti-terrorism policies and Uribe's relative economic-policy successes.

Meanwhile, socialist-populist candidate Petro – a former Bogota mayor that left a legacy of administrative chaos and divisive, political venom -- has been an apologist for the totalitarian Venezuelan government, issuing statements that have attempted to discredit independent news reports on the devasting impact of the Chavista regime on the majority of Venezuelans.

Also in Sunday’s voting, former president Alvaro Uribe won reelection in the national Senate races -- getting far more votes than any other Senate candidate – while Uribe’s center-right Centro Democratico party gained 13 more seats in the House but dropped one seat in the Senate.

However, in Colombian congressional politics, party ideology typically plays a lesser role in policymaking, as Senators and Congress members of most parties typically form partial alliances with whomever becomes the next President.

Hence a Duque/Ramirez administration – which campaigned on a platform critical of the generous “peace” deal negotiated with the communist FARC by outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos -- likely will be less generous in clarifying or confirming some still-unclear deal terms -- either with the current FARC political leaders or the politically similar ELN terrorist group.

Many members of the new Congress -- from various parties – are now seen by analysts as likely to work cooperatively with a Duque/Ramirez administration, as is typical of Colombian politics.

Following the President Santos “peace” deal, which guarantees the FARC 10 seats in the House and Senate -- even without them having to win any popular vote -- the FARC subsequently formed a political party, using the same FARC initials. In yesterday’s elections, the FARC gathered a paltry 85,000 popular votes -- out of more than 15 million votes cast.

It’s yet another sign of Colombian voters’ overwhelming disgust with the communist FARC -- and also a back-handed slap-in-the-face to President Santos, who went ahead with the “peace” deal despite a public plebiscite that voted to reject the deal.


The people of Medellin, the surrounding Antioquia department and all of Colombia have been the victims of a 60-years-long civil war -- provoked mainly by communist guerillas -- that has resulted in more than 220,000 documented assassinations, thousands of kidnappings, forcible displacement of more than 6 million, massive narco-trafficking, and a consequent socio-economic catastrophe that to this day continues to stifle lives and opportunities for millions.


At a September 23 press conference in Havana, Cuba, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) leader Timoleon Jimenez (alias “Timochenko”) shook hands for the first time and issued a joint statement outlining a deal that would lead to a final “peace agreement” in the next six months.


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SILLETEROS PARADE 2016 by JOHN AND DONNA STORMZAND (click to enlarge)

MEDELLÍN PHOTOS by Gabriel Buitrago (click to enlarge)

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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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