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Editorial 12

Written by April 23 2020 0

Colombia’s main trade associations for departmental governors and mayorships just endorsed what most Colombians view as President Ivan Duque’s rational, science-driven and politically reasonable handling of the Coronavirus crisis.

The National Federation of Departments (FND) and the Colombian Federation of Municipalities (FCM) on April 22 publicly endorsed President Duque’s mandatory quarantine extension through May 11 – along with a gradual, controlled restart of construction and manufacturing industries under strict health protocols.

In a joint letter, the groups praised what they termed as “successful handling that the President has given to the crisis generated by the Covid-19, protecting life and health, and preventing a pandemic of unemployment, hunger, poverty and recession from being generated,” according to FND and FCM.

Even more telling: the just-released EcoAnalytic/Guarumo poll of eligible Colombian voters (see Medellin Herald, 21 April 2020) found that 74.5% of voters endorse Duque’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis and 81.5% endorsed his mandatory quarantine policy -- while 63% of voters reject the continuing anti-Duque demagoguery of Senator Gustavo Petro, who lost to Duque in a landslide in the 2018 presidential election.

However: This EcoAnalytic/Guarumo poll also revealed that only 33.5% favor continuation of the Coronavirus quarantine beyond April 27, while 45.8% favor terminating the quarantine.

Reason: Employment is now the number-one worry, at 32.4% of Colombians polled, with the possibility of Coronavirus infection only the second-greatest worry, at 23.4%, the poll shows.

Despite growing panic over jobs and the economy, Bogota Mayor Claudia López -- who campaigned for demagogue Petro in the 2018 election -- is launching Quixotic attacks on Duque, signaling the start of her expected 2022 campaign for the Colombian presidency.

President Duque by contrast isn’t running for anything, as Colombia’s constitution only allows a single term.

The first López attack – likely aiming to shift blame for any personal responsibility for Bogota having by far the worst Coronavirus prevalence in all Colombia – came in a theatrical bloviation, blaming the Bogota airport as the principal culprit.

“Over my dead body,” López yelled to reporters over the non-existent, Quixotic idea of reopening Bogota’s airport.

Ironically, President Duque has blocked all passenger air traffic at all Colombian airports and has publicly stated he has no intention of restarting international flights.

Beyond tilting at windmills over the airport non-issue, now Mayor López is criticizing President Duque’s decision to allow strictly controlled reopenings of construction and manufacturing sectors – combined with strict limits on public passenger transport (maximum 35% of capacity, mandatory masks, mandatory distancing) along with Duque’s initiatives and mandates to expand relatively safe, Coronavirus-free bicycle transport and telecommuting alternatives.

However, even a well-controlled reopening of public transport means more passengers on Bogota’s public transport system. Hence, according to López, this inevitably means more Coronavirus cross-infections.

However, all recent economic-expert reports agree that Colombia must gradually restart its economy – under strict health controls -- or else watch its entire economy collapse, hurtling millions more into poverty, accompanied by inevitable food riots, massive street violence and a likely surge in deaths from other poverty-linked diseases.

Which begs the question: Is demanding a total shutdown of the Colombian economy -- while waiting another 12 to 18 months for a Coronavirus vaccine -- the smart way for López to start a 2022 presidential campaign?

Written by April 20 2020 0

Until the Coronavirus crisis appeared, Colombia President Ivan Duque generally had difficulty connecting with voters and had slipped in popularity polls -- initially because of a prior failure to build a broader, effective coalition in the multi-party Colombian Congress.

But that’s all changed since Duque successfully broadened his Congress base late last year – and even more so now, because of what most people view as a timely, balanced, responsible and respectful response to the Coronavirus crisis.

According to the just-issued EcoAnalytica/Guarumo poll of eligible voters in Colombia (see: https://s3.amazonaws.com/Guarumo/ecoanalitica/2020_04_Percepcion_Pais.pdf), Duque’s favorability ranking hit 63.2% this month, while Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero also now enjoys a similarly favorable 65.3% ranking.

Former M-19 guerilla, now-Senator Gustavo Petro – who lost in a landslide to President Duque in the 2018 presidential election – now has the worst ranking among all national politicians at 63.3% unfavorability. Only 27.8% now give the bombastic, incendiary Petro a “favorable” ranking -- worse than his nemesis, former President, now-Senator Alvaro Uribe (40% favorable, 52% unfavorable).

While Duque has won overwhelming praise from the voting population over his handling of the Coranavirus crisis, the poll shows that Colombian voters are nevertheless increasingly worried about what’s going to happen to their jobs.

In total, 74.5% have endorsed Duque’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis -- and 81.5% endorsed the mandatory quarantine.

However: Only 33.5% of those polled now favor continuation of the Coronavirus quarantine beyond April 27, with 45.8% favoring termination of the quarantine after April 27.

Rationale: employment is now the number-one worry, at 32.4% of those polled, with the possibility of Coronavirus infection only the second-greatest worry, at 23.4%, the poll shows.

“Health” concerns were cited by another 10.7%, followed by “the economy” at 6.2%” and “corruption,” also at 6.2% in the descending list of worries.

“Education” was the sixth-most worry, at 4.5%, followed by “security” at 3.4%. “Peace” was next at 2.3%, followed by “the environment,” in eighth-place (1.6%), while “justice” came-in ninth place (1.4%), the polling shows.

Written by February 11 2020 0

A report claiming ties between former President Alvaro Uribe and imprisoned Mexican drug kingpin “El Chapo” Guzman has now prompted even President Uribe’s longest-running, harshest media critic to trash the report as unsubstantiated.

The apparent fake-news report – first broadcast by fired former Colombian Attorney General’s Office investigator and convicted criminal Richard Maok, and subsequently repeated in UK-based newspaper Daily Mail --also prompted President Uribe’s lawyers to issue an unusual February 10 news release contradicting the report.

The biggest surprise, however, came from fierce Uribe critic, former Semana magazine columnist and now Univision editorial director Daniel Coronell, who trashed the apparent fake-news story, pulling it from Univision broadcasts “because I consider that this report hasn’t been verified by independent [rather than the usual anti-Uribe, left-wing-biased] journalists,” Coronell stated.

In addition, President Uribe’s Bogota-based attorneys Jaime Granados and Jaime Lombana issued the following press release (obtained by Medellin Herald) denouncing the Maok report as a fantastical fabrication:

“Responding to new calumnies proffered against President Alvaro Uribe Velez, we state the following:

“Richard Maok is a fugitive from Colombian justice, condemned [by the Colombian Supreme Court] for grave crimes against the administration of national justice.

“Aided by political sectors adverse to President Uribe [including left-wing Senator and former M-19 guerrilla Gustavo Petro], Maok fled to Canada where he enjoys immunity from his crimes.

“Since years ago, this shadowy person has proffered a series of infamies against various public persons including Luis Camilo Osorio, former Attorney General [of Colombia]. These ‘denunciations’ [by Maok], lacking any seriousness, have been debunked.

“Now, [Maok] has chosen President Uribe as victim of his absurd calumnies, trying to link [Uribe] to the Sinaloa cartel. Lamentably, international news media have echoed these fantastical tales, staining the good name of President Uribe.

“President Uribe has been recognized globally and regionally as one of the most important leaders in the struggle against narcotrafficking. Statistics [during Uribe’s two terms as President] are unprecedented: Reduction [of coca plantation areas] from 180,000 hectares during Plan Colombia to 62,000; more than 1,150 [cocaine traffickers] extradited [to the United States]; seizures of cocaine rising from 95 tonnes in 2002 to more than 1,330 tonnes at the end of his term – achievements that were key in the transformation of Colombia and our democracy. Because of that he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest decoration given by the U.S. government to any civilian,” the bulletin from Uribe’s lawyers concludes.

Written by January 22 2020 0

Despite isolated acts of vandalism in Medellin by small groups of extreme left-wingers who attacked a few municipal bus stations, police stations, bank offices and a hotel during a January 21 protest march here, Medellin mainly demonstrated once again that peaceful protest is respected by nearly all its citizens.

Contrast that to Bogota where left-wing extremists once again viciously attacked and injured police, as shown in this video taken by witnesses: https://www.facebook.com/GuardianesdeAntioquiaMedellin1/videos/863143347459656/UzpfSTEwMDA0MDQzNDEzMTYzOTpWSzoyNDEwODMzODIyMzU0ODEy/

In all, six policemen were injured by “encapuchados” (hooded left-wing extremists) in Bogota – down in number from the dozens of police injured and hospitalized during protest marches last November, where three other persons died as a result of police shooting back at “encapuchados” (hooded extremists) who were throwing bombs and rocks, gang-beating anti-riot police and attempting to burn and destroy private businesses and public facilities.

Ironically, newly elected Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez – who had campaigned on a populist promise to block the use of the “ESMAD” anti-riot police – embarrassingly conceded that she likewise had to deploy these troops to stop senseless violence and road-blockings by extremist protesters.

New Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero – who similarly had criticized ESMAD in his election campaign – likewise deployed anti-riot police when violent actors began attacking buildings and bus stations, as well as threatening peaceful citizens in Medellin.

Meanwhile, Colombia President Ivan Duque on January 21 once again publicly endorsed the constitutional right of Colombian citizens to organize and carry-out peaceful protest marches. He also cited the new and continuing dialogs between his government and proactive citizen delegates who are pushing further reforms to public education, the national health system, cultural initiatives, pensions and work rules -- all by democratic means rather than by violence.

However, the politically radical “Comite Nacional de Paro” (the national protest-march organizers) rejected President Duque’s invitation to participate in the new talks, instead pushing protest actions and anti-democratic, non-negotiable demands, which inevitably led to more violence and extremist hatred.

This group published a list of 104 demands including a 100% nationalization of the partly-privatized Ecopetrol oil company (which would require billions of dollars of new government expenses in already heavily debt-ridden Colombia); conversion of relatively efficient private-sector services such as telecom and internet to state ownership; a new law that would ban oil production via “fracking” (such a ban ironically would guarantee an accelerated demise of Ecopetrol and all its union jobs as conventional oil is rapidly disappearing in Colombia); a dismantling of anti-riot police (ensuring even more violence by extremists); and a politically biased dismantling of criminal “paramilitary” groups (but not any dismantling of the extreme left wing narco-terrorist ELN group, which instead would be favored by unilateral “peace” talks -- while ignoring continual ELN violence).

The protest group also demands that Colombia ban spraying of herbicides that kill the coca plant -- the backbone for cocaine narco-trafficking by criminal extremist groups including ELN.

Ironically, Colombia has seen a huge increase in coca and cocaine production – triggering the inevitable rise in violence by narco-gangster groups including ex-FARC and ELN -- as a result of a decision by the former President Santos administration to concede to demands by these criminal groups to ban the use of aerial spraying.

However, President Duque is pushing for a gradual return of such spraying -- hence infuriating the extreme left and other criminal groups here.

Written by January 10 2020 0

Certain politically biased non-government organizations (NGOs), several left-wing politicos, some naïve blogs and fake-news outfits in Colombia repeatedly and overwhelmingly blame former President Alvaro Uribe, his political successors and the Colombian army for murders of various social activists following the 2016 “peace” agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC narco-communist terrorist group.

But in nearly all cases, these murders are in fact caused by various narco-gangster groups and criminal miners -- including hundreds of “dissident” members of FARC that rejected the “peace” deal.

As noted in a new report by the nonpartisan, independent InsightCrime bulletin, “while Cauca [rather than Antioquia or Medellin] has seen the worst of the violence against local community leaders in 2019, the motives for these killings reflect the wider reasons for such targeted violence across Colombia.

“According to the organization Somos Defensores, one of the main reasons social leaders are targeted is due to their participation in the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC).

“Social leaders can also run afoul of criminal groups when trying to stem the tide of illegal economies within their communities. Many victims were involved in activities related to coca crop substitution, the creation of legal jobs, or land redistribution, all efforts which can curtail drug production and help rural residents find sustainable alternatives,” the bulletin noted.

Similarly, according to the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz – INDEPAZ), “other risk factors contributing to violence against social leaders include denunciations of armed actors, accusations of mismanagement of public funds by state entities, and claims to the right to use natural resources,” InsightCrime noted.

“The problems facing social leaders in Cauca are exacerbated by the department’s crucial location as a drug trafficking corridor. According to the latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), around 17,000 hectares of coca were produced in this department alone in 2018.

“Cauca has therefore become hotly contested by a range of criminal groups, seeking an advantage there, including the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN), the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación – EPL) and at least five dissident fronts of the FARC,” the report noted.

President Duque Steps-Up Enforcement

Meanwhile, on a related front, Colombia President Ivan Duque announced January 9 a further crackdown on these violent actors that are targeting social leaders.

For full-year 2019, “we had a reduction in the killings of social leaders of close to 25%,” Duque noted, citing the latest Colombia Attorney General’s report. But even that reduction isn’t nearly sufficient, he added.

Since taking-over in July 2018 (following the landslide election of President Duque), the Attorney General’s office has stepped-up attacks on criminal organizations and will expand these efforts in 2020, the president added.

“Thanks to the clarifications made by the Attorney General’s office regarding the murders of social leaders, ex-combatants and human rights defenders, it has been determined that those behind these crimes are [in fact] drug traffickers, illegal miners and organized armed groups,”  Duque noted.

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.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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