The meeting between President Gustavo Petro and the leader of the conservative Centro Democrático party and former president Álvaro Uribe, at the Nariño Palace, ended without agreements. The meeting, which lasted 3.5 hours and started at 5 p.m. as scheduled, had the Health Reform currently under debate in Congress as its central topic of discussion. Petro and Uribe represent diametrically opposed sectors of Colombian society and politics, hence the significant anticipation for the meeting.
Uribe was accompanied by several important members of his party, such as senators Carlos Meisel, Alirio Barrera, and Paloma Valencia, as well as House Representative Andrés Forero, one of the most outspoken politicians against the government’s proposal to reform the health sector. On the other side, among others, President of the House, Andrés Calle Aguas, House Representative Alfredo Mondragon, defender of the government’s reform project in the House of Representatives, and Interior Minister Luis Fernando Velasco supported the Colombian president.
Although much was expected from this meeting, representatives of the Centro Democrático party had already warned that they did not come to negotiate the reform’s articles as they are in total disagreement with the proposal. “We didn’t come here to make agreements; we came to explain why the proposed reform is inconvenient for Colombians. I see no middle ground,” Senator Paloma Valencia affirmed.
Failed attempt to build a National Agreement
Despite generating great anticipation in recent days, the meeting concluded without any consensus, much less an agreement on the future of the Health Reform. “When one wants to build a national agreement, one must be open to speaking with all sectors, so we find it interesting that an opposition party like Centro Democrático wants to sit down with the government today to discuss their differences in health reform,” the Interior Minister pointed out.
“The government is open to continuing to have coffee with us, and we with the government, but each with their theses and positions. We insist that the reform is not necessary, and what the government wants to implement does not require putting the entire system at risk; that’s what we continue to maintain,” indicated Carlos Meisel, representing Álvaro Uribe’s party.
Government expresses willingness to continue talking
“It is clear that some sectors of the country, whom we respect, maintain differences. So, we want to sit down to review what those differences are because we feel that many of them have already been considered in what has been debated,” Minister Velasco stated, expressing Petro’s government’s willingness to continue dialoguing with reform opponents.
Meanwhile, the government official Alfredo Mondragon stated, “It’s a moment to say that hopefully these debates are allowed to take place in Congress because many times what prevents them is that the debate doesn’t progress, and they end up leaving the plenary. So, we hope this is the prelude to good debates in Congress about what is best for the country regarding healthcare.”
The future of the Health Reform
Meanwhile, Health Minister Guillermo Jaramillo called on the political parties in Congress to declare whether they are opposition or not in the chambers. “This president is very generous because he allows those enjoying the government to be in opposition,” he announced.
Jaramillo asserted that there had never been “a more debated project than this one.” He also announced that “most likely, we will meet again because there are still debates pending, and all points will be analyzed, and perhaps consensus will be reached.”
For now, the future of the reform remains as ambiguous and complex as it was before yesterday’s meeting at the presidential palace. For the time being, today, Thursday, November 23, the House of Representatives will resume debating the project.