Coinciding with Colombia’s Independence Day, this July 20th, the President of Colombia initiated the start of the second year in the Legislature. Gustavo Petro took attendance of what he considers the country’s main challenges: land, the “Paz Total” (Total Peace) project, the implementation of the Havana Agreements with the former FARC, and a third phase of national pacification.
The head of state also addressed the climate emergency and the need to electrify transportation and modify mining activity in Colombia. He also discussed the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform.
“The problem in Colombia is land”
The president stated that the agrarian reform project has shown that “the problem in Colombia is land.” The lack of democratization of access to land tenure has historically caused the “weakness of capitalism.” To the extent that “capitalism has not developed due to the lack of agrarian reform,” Gustavo Petro asserted.
The high concentration of land is “irrational,” and therefore, “all fertile land in the country should be utilized to make it productive.” The president highlighted the approval of the bill that recognizes peasants as subjects of rights. He also mentioned the constitutional reform that foresees the creation of agrarian and rural jurisdiction.
“It is time to yield”
The president’s tone was also more conciliatory than in previous speeches . In a 1-hour and 46-minute speech, he even said, “it is time to yield,” while calling for a grand national agreement. He acknowledged the work of the Congress for this purpose.
However, the president continued to stress the need to act on the global climate crisis. In this context, he again spoke of his proposal to make Colombia “a world power of life.” To achieve this, he advocated for combining environmental justice and social justice.
Status of dialogue with ELN
Regarding the ongoing negotiations with the ELN guerrilla group, the Colombian president praised the bilateral ceasefire agreed upon by the State and the insurgency, which will come into effect on August 3rd. For the president, the negotiations “have resulted in a substantial decrease” in the number of casualties in the Army, 60%, and the police, 55%, compared to the previous year.
Transformation of violence
In connection with the violence of the war, the president stated that there is a transformation in the nature of this violence. “The upcoming violence is of another kind (…) it is violence driven by greed and wealth, for subtractions. It is a war for illicit economies,” said the head of state, warning that “the actors are different, even if they have echoes from the past.”
In the president’s speech, there was also room to address the issue of drug cultivation and export. He stated that the growth of coca cultivation and its export to the US has been halted. However, he mentioned “another disaster appears on the horizon (…) in coca-growing regions, there is hunger.”
Gustavo Petro referred to the fact that “the geography of the drug market has changed because drug consumption in the US has changed its structure (…) from cocaine to fentanyl.” He said that Colombia “seems to lack competitive capacity with fentanyl, and thus, a window of opportunity opens for us to make peace, the third phase of peace,” concluded the president, proposing it as an opportunity for national pacification.