The leftist Gustavo Petro assumed the presidency of Colombia on the 7th with objective samples of the program he intends to implement. On the first day of government, he announced a tax reform project that foresees taxing large fortunes. The economic plans also focus on proposals in the area of security.
Petro imagines implementing a concept of “total peace” to combat violence in the country, based on a radical change of focus in confronting Colombia’s armed groups. Behind the scenes, senior government officials and allies in Congress explained to the Sheet the outline of the plan.
Today, the last leftist guerrilla born in the 1960s, the ELN (National Liberation Army) is active in the country; dissidents from the peace accords with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and paramilitaries signed in 2016 and 2005, respectively; and criminal factions known as Bacrim, which are solely dedicated to drug trafficking.
In addition to the resumption of negotiations, “total peace” would implement a broader reparatory justice system, which would offer alternative penalties to those who collaborated with information about these groups.
At the same time, there is a strategy to combat corruption in the Armed Forces, under the responsibility of the Minister of Defense, Iván Velázquez. The jurist led the CICIG (International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala) between 2013 and 2019, with investigations that ended in cases against former military personnel and then-President Otto Pérez Molina, now in prison.
In military circles, there is tension over what the new government proposes, as there are already accusations and lawsuits against some heads and former heads of the Forces in Military Justice – the president wants the cases to be transferred to ordinary justice or special courts. created for that purpose.
“Corruption is dismantled with democracy,” Petro said in his inaugural address. According to the NGO Transparency for Colombia, between 2016 and 2020 the government body that most accumulates corruption cases is the Armed Forces. These are cases such as that of ex-general Eduardo Zapateiro, who even made public threats against Petro in the campaign and responds to the accusation of embezzling funds from the Army to bribe officers who collaborated with the Gulf Clan (one of the largest criminal factions in the country). .
Velázquez has been meeting with groups of generals to explain that “total peace” would include them, but that they would have to give up military justice and agree to hand over information in exchange for benefits.
At the same time, allied congressmen, such as Iván Cepeda, say that the idea of a “social forgiveness” needs to be matured. he said to Sheet: “This concept still needs to be worked out, with a lot of conversation and consensus, but there’s no reason to continue filling prisons and turning them into crime headquarters.”
Coming to terms with the Army and eliminating corruption in the Armed Forces is central to the economic change that Petro is aiming for. The emphasis on land reform without expropriation, but with higher taxation of unproductive land, and investments in production is the main strategy to reduce violence in the rural sector.
But it is precisely in this area that the Army is needed, because it is on the front line — fighting armed groups, taking collateral civilian casualties, or illicitly associated with drug trafficking.
Special Justice as it has been applied to the FARC since the 2016 agreement is a benchmark for when negotiations with the ELN (and eventually other groups) move forward. The so-called JEP not only gives reparation sentences to criminals who agree to speak after handing over their weapons, but also promotes symbolic reparations sessions, with victims meeting the criminals.
One of the most moving examples came when ex-paramilitaries clashed with family members of victims of a case of “false positives”—civilians killed on the grounds that they were guerrillas in order for the groups to achieve goals. In the sessions the criminals openly apologize, and the relatives of those affected ask details of how their affections died.
Petro government officials believe that experience, with adaptations, can help create a climate of consensus that will help reduce violence. “We speak of ‘great peace’ or ‘total peace’ because it necessarily involves the internal search for recognition of the very shadows of each actor in society. We are not saints, we are what we are”, said the person in charge of the Peace Commission, Daniel Rueda .
In possession Petro gave indications of what “total peace” should be like. “We want to call on all the armed people to leave their weapons in the mists of the past. To accept legal benefits in exchange for peace and the definitive non-repetition of violence; to work as owners of a prosperous, but legal economy that ends the delay in the inside,” he said. “For peace to be possible, we need to dialogue a lot, seek common paths and produce changes.”
Behind the scenes, the reform of the police, which today is military, is still advancing. There will soon be a proposal to restructure this force and eliminate the Esmad (Esquadrão Móvel Antidistúrbios), the feared anti-protest battalion that, in 2019 and 2021, brutally repressed acts against the government.