César Gaviria, former President of Colombia and leader of the Liberal Party, will ask his party to leave Gustavo Petro’s government coalition. Gaviria sent a letter to the Colombian president communicating his intentions. However, the former president also emphasizes that this decision must be made by the party in a meeting that will take several weeks to occur.
Gaviria has always been highly critical of the Liberal Party’s support for the government. His role during last year’s electoral campaign, which ended in Gustavo Petro’s presidency after his electoral victory in June, was also highly contested within his own organization. The former Colombian president (1990-1994) leads the most conservative faction of his party, which led to friction with a portion of its members, who decided to form the platform “Liberal Bases with Petro,” providing unwavering support for the leftist candidate’s presidency.
Independence from the government
Given these circumstances, César Gaviria writes in the letter he sent to the president that “for the Liberal Party, it is unfeasible to continue being part of the coalition for change government.” In this regard, the party’s leader will request in the next party convention that they abandon the government coalition, adopting a position of independence in Congress.
In a stern letter to the Colombian president, Gaviria laments that his organization has no representation in the government, highlighting what he considers the Liberal Party’s good electoral results in the past regional elections a month ago. “It is time to make it clear that we are moving towards a position of independence. Only after the convention and with the direction it chooses can the party examine how it wants to collaborate with President Petro’s government,” the Liberal leader stated.
Gaviria and his uneasy relationship with Petro
The Liberal Party is one of the country’s two major and historic political parties. For 150 years, until President Uribe’s arrival in 2002, it vied for the leadership of the State with the Conservative Party. It’s a party with diverse political sensibilities: from the more neoliberal currents led by Gaviria to left-leaning positions clearly aligned with President Petro.
Internal strife within the party has been constant even before Petro took office. The Liberal Party did not present a candidate in last year’s presidential elections, and its role as an ally of the president has been repeatedly questioned by the party’s leader, who is ideologically distant from the current Colombian president.
“In my personal case, a conversation with the Health Minister has not been considered useful. I won’t refer to the Interior Minister because his positions and distance he’s taken from me have hindered any dialogue that has political significance. This is even evident when they’ve chosen governors considered close, and despite the difficulty in arguing that there’s a plan for the Liberal Party, one that could benefit the aforementioned great national agreement the minister has been talking about for several weeks,” César Gaviria stated in his letter to the president.
Functioning of the Colombian Congress
The rules of the Colombian Congress establish that different parties with parliamentary representation structure themselves as members of the government coalition, in independence, or in opposition to the executive.
In this regard, after the constitution of the chambers last year, besides the parties of President Petro’s coalition, the Historical Pact, other parties joined the government as allies. These were the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the Green Alliance, and the Party of the U. Organizations like Radical Change, New Liberalism, MIRA, and the Indigenous Authorities Movement of Colombia aligned themselves independently. Finally, in opposition, were positioned the Democratic Center, Green Oxygen Party, National Salvation Movement, and the League of Anti-Corruption Governors, led by Petro’s presidential opponent, ultimately defeated, Rodolfo Hernandez.
Petro loses parliamentary support
In the 15 months of Petro’s government, various parties have withdrawn their parliamentary support from the government, declaring independence, much like what Gaviria is now proposing for his organization. The trigger for these departures was the government crisis in April, when the head of state removed ministers from other parties initially allied because they were not perceived, in his view, to show commitment to the president’s reformist guidelines. At that time, the Conservative Party and the Party of the U left the government coalition and shifted to parliamentary independence.
Today, the support of the Green Alliance, the organization of the mayor of Bogota, and the Liberal Party is more in doubt than ever. If these parties were to exit, the government would be supported only by the Historical Pact, which has also shown internal tensions, being a coalition of 13 different parties.
With this scenario, serious difficulties arise for the social reforms that the government is pushing through Congress, as the executive has fewer supporters than ever in both legislative chambers. The differences and tensions in the parliamentary discussions of these reforms, especially in Health, where many private interests are at stake, have been highlighting the government and the Historical Pact’s isolation.