Outgoing President Duque: Decency, Moderation, Democracy Crucial to Continue Colombia’s Progress
Politically centrist Colombian President Ivan Duque delivered a kind and honest farewell speech to the incoming Colombian Congress on July 20, as a nervous nation prepares for an erratic, demagogic incoming President Gustavo Petro on August 7.
Duque, who beat Petro in a landslide election four years ago, offered only kind words to Petro: “To the next administration, and to President-elect Gustavo Petro, we wish him success in his administration. Our priority is and always will be Colombia. Next August 7, when I recover my status as a citizen, my voice will always be attentive to build solutions for our nation.”
What a contrast to the demagogic messages of hatred and lying that Petro employed during the 2022 presidential campaign, which ultimately led Petro’s social-media campaign chief Sebastian Guanumen to apologize publicly for falsely spreading millions of malicious “narcotrafico” accusations against third-place, centrist Presidential candidate Federico Gutierrez.
In what appears to be a continued pattern of lying and manipulation, Petro has since moderated his tone and has successfully converted most of the incoming Congress parties to support new, less-radical versions of his prior, fantastical legislative proposals, which included promises to give 3 million government jobs to all unemployed people and waste billions more of scarce government dollars in a delirious scheme that would have the government buy Colombia’s coal and then let it sit unused, supposedly to prevent climate change.
In contrast, here are highlights of Duque’s July 20 farewell speech to Congress, unfortunately met by undemocratic jeers from pro-Petro, left-wing extremist members of the incoming Congress:
“A pandemic of magnitudes never imagined hit the entire world and was present for 30 months of the 48 months of our administration, being the greatest challenge that any Colombian President has ever faced,” Duque pointed-out.
“The covid-19 pandemic caused unprecedented poverty, desolation, job losses, border and business closures, and economic stagnation, triggering a global recession.
“We had to suspend classes in schools and universities, limit interactions, restrict work activities and ask Colombians to stay at home for the first time in our history, through mandatory preventive isolation.
“To this was added the greatest migratory crisis that America has had, with millions of our Venezuelan brothers wandering throughout the world, and most of them through our country, seeking refuge from dictatorial oppression.
“Also, a category-5 hurricane hit our island territories for the first time, then waves of violence [spurred by hateful messages from Petro] that tried to block the country, affecting the rights of millions of people voicing valid social claims for historical debts never settled, and with a dark panorama of exponential growth of illicit drug crops, among others.
“But nothing stopped us on the path of transforming the country. Today Colombia has put equity first, achieving historical milestones in social spending, advances in education, including free public university education for the poorer populations of strata 1, 2 and 3, and with the greatest health coverage in our history.
“Today our country consolidates policies to defeat hunger and malnutrition, grows in renewable energy generation, is an example of migration policy, leads climate action in the region, advances in its infrastructure and creates opportunities with peace with legality.”
Also during the speech, Duque pointed to historic advances in construction of crucial public highways, with Antioquia a notable beneficiary thanks to development of the Pacifico 1 and Pacifico 2 highways linking Medellin southwestward to the Pacific port of Buenaventura, as well as the new Mar 1 and Mar 2 highways linking Medellin to new Atlantic ports.
In addition, Duque pointed to billions of dollars of government subsidies helping millions of workers temporarily displaced by the Covid-19 pandemic to survive that crisis. What’s more, as of today, Colombia has recovered nearly 100% of the jobs lost during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Colombia’s outstanding response to the Covid-19 pandemic – praised by leading health organizations world-wide – resulted in nearly all of the most vulnerable populations getting free vaccinations, without the deceptions, vacillations and demagoguery that unfortunately typified the Covid-19 response during the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, in a July 19 speech to a foreign-investor conference here, President Duque added that “if we preserve foreign direct investment with certainty, with confidence, with clear regulations, and above all, giving peace of mind that we are not in some kind of lurch in regulatory policy, then Colombia will continue to consolidate itself as the most attractive place in Latin America and the Caribbean for foreign direct investment.”
“Investment is very difficult to attract and very easy to scare away, as we are competing with all the countries of the world to see if we can attract more pesos from here and from there, and that cannot be achieved without incentives, without clear rules, and without certainty,” he stressed.
Wise words that incoming President Petro might keep in mind if he really has any interest in seeing Colombia continue its long march out of historic poverty and a further broadening of a progressive, well-educated, hopeful, creative and energetic middle class.