Bogota (AFP) – The Colombian Congress began a new session this Wednesday with an unprecedented majority of center-left forces that will allow the president-elect, Gustavo Petro, to carry out his ambitious reform program.
The legislators who were elected in March for a four-year period (2022-2026) took their seats in a ceremony headed by President Iván Duque, who will leave office on August 7 with a disapproval of 65%, according to the most recent measurement of the Invamer demoscopic signature.
In his last speech before Congress, Duque defended his government work, especially the handling of the economic and health crisis that the pandemic unleashed, despite popular rejection.
“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 faced,” said the outgoing president, who was interrupted several times by the opponents who shouted “liar, liar”.
His successor, former senator and economist Gustavo Petro, will have majorities in the Senate, with 108 seats, and the House of Representatives, with 187. Almost 30% of congressmen are women, the highest figure ever reached in this country, which historically it was ruled by men from conservative elites.
Elected on June 19 as the first left-wing president of Colombia, Petro put together a solid bench at the head of the Historical Pact, the alliance of forces that brought him to power. He will do it together with the socio-environmental leader Francia Márquez, his vice-presidential formula.
The president-elect adds 63 supports in the Senate and 109 in the House. With these numbers he will be able to fulfill his government program, which foresees profound reforms of a social democratic nature.
Petro promised to strengthen the state, raise taxes on the richest, suspend oil exploration to make way for clean energy sources, negotiate with armed groups and implement the 2016 peace agreement with the extinct FARC guerrilla.
The elected president also announced that he will resume diplomatic relations with Venezuela, broken since 2019, and will transform the Police after the repression in the massive protests of 2019, 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Last year alone, 44 civilians and two soldiers died during the mobilizations against the Duque government, as documented by the UN.
From power to opposition
Petro will face opposition from the Democratic Center, the right-wing party that will be in power until August 7. Its leader, former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez (2002-2010), announced on Tuesday that he will counterweight the future left-wing executive.
Among the novelties of the Congress that was installed this Wednesday, a holiday in Colombia for Independence Day, are the 16 peace seats that will be occupied mostly by the victims of the armed conflict of almost six decades with some of the ex-combatants of the former FARC guerrillas.
The pact that led to the disarmament of what was once the most powerful guerrilla in the Americas reserved seats for two legislative periods, until 2030, as well as ten seats for Comunes, the party that emerged from the signing of the Peace Accords in 2016.
At the end of this legislative period, the left-wing formation chaired by Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timochenko, will lose the seats that the Agreement assured him and will have to stand for elections if he wants to maintain his representation in Congress.
During his speech, Duque said that he honored the peace commitments, despite his failed attempt to reform the agreement negotiated in Cuba, considering it lenient with the guerrillas involved in heinous crimes.
“We have done it with institutional and financial support so that, based on its findings, all the victims are included and a national debate is installed in society that allows us to reach a truth without bias, reaffirming that violence has never been and will never be an alternative life in Colombia,” he said.
Duque concluded his speech by wishing success to Petro, the head of the opposition during his Government.
“Our priority is and will always be Colombia. Next August 7, when I recover my status as a mere citizen, my voice will always be attentive to build and build solutions for our nation,” he said.