A week in the life of Ivan Duque, President of Colombia (part 3)

The jovial President Ivan Duque

Poor old President Duque, did he ask for this job? Whatever the case, he agreed to be the sacrificial lamb for the Uribista camp from 2018-2022, so he bears some responsibility. As I have written in parts 1 and 2, President Duque probably doesn’t go out seeking the problems he encounters, but he certainly doesn’t help himself either. Also, as a side note, I never meant for this series to continue past part 1, but I can no longer help myself.  

And so, here you have it, again: A week in the life of President Ivan Duque (part 3), in no particular order

Ñeñe Hernandez…where to start? Perhaps it’s best that we look at the present day and wind backwards. I suppose it should all begin with the question, how did someone known for trafficking drugs and now known, due to various recordings of telephone conversations, as the bag man for vote-buying in favour of Ivan Duque during the presidential election, end up at President Duque’s swearing in ceremony? There are photos too and so much more that Duque’s political patron former President Alvaro Uribe is involved, what a surprise. Oh, did I mention that el Ñeñe was killed in an alleged robbery in Brazil last year? No, well it happened. #ñeñegate

This event of vote-buying has thrown into significant doubt the legitimacy of President Duque’s victory in the election and has cast further accusations the way of former President Alvaro Uribe regarding his involvement in the scandal. 

It seems like an incredibly rare occurrence, but there was some good news for President Duque as he was found to be clear of the Corona Virus having attended a meeting overseas where carriers of the virus present. But even this close shave couldn’t reduce his disapproval ratings which remained steady at 71%

As if President Duque hadn’t already had enough of his role as an object of ridicule at home, he was served up on a platter to President Trump who all but ordered him to recommence aerial fumigation of coca crops to reduce the production of cocaine. Reports are published showing that coca cultivation in Colombia is at an all-time high.

And then, on 6 March, it was revealed that Colombia had its first case of the Corona Virus. Interestingly enough the Colombian student had returned home from Italy (who knew they had the virus!?) on 26 February, had been in close contact with 16 people and on 3 March was admitted to hospital. On 6 March the virus was confirmed. What happened in the days in-between arrival, hospital and diagnosis? There are a couple of probable options and President Duque’s government comes out on the losing side for each:

  1. The Ministry of Health, despite claiming to have had a protocol in place for eight weeks, had nothing ready at all, or, 
  2. The case of Corona virus was already known and the government decided to release it to “bury” the new of further scandals stemming from recordings of Ñeñe Hernandez (see above). 

In a case of “hold my beer,” while I pass it from my left hand to my right, Alicia Arango, the newly appointed Minister for the Interior not only likened the deaths of social leaders to those who were killed for their telephones (because it’s about numbers) but also managed to make an unforgivable gaff regarding the killing of a social leader’s bodyguard. It’s hard to decide whether the Uribista cabinet minister outdid Gen. Montoya (part 2) or Gen. Zapateiro (part 1). 

President Duque’s diplomatic corps continues to excel in its role, here we move on from Colombia’s ambassador to Uruguay Fernando Sanclemente (you’ll recall that three long-term laboratories for use to produce cocaine were discovered on his family farm), and introduce you all to, Claudia Bustamante, Colombia’s consul in Orlando. Bustamante allegedly doesn’t possess even the minimum requirements to fulfil the role, not least a decent level of English. 

In trying to gain the upper hand in a spat with the UN, President Duque accused the entity of interfering in Colombia’s national sovereignty when it was suggested as a recommendation that the country’s police force should be transferred from the Ministry of Defense to the Interior Ministry, which would of course, make sense. It becomes clear that President Duque and his government tried to erase the findings of the UN. The report does not make for easy reading. 

Related to this, the ICRC concluded in a recent report that there’s an upsurge in victims in the armed conflict despite the peace process. 

Throwing more kindling onto the fire as if taunting the demonstrators who set to take to the streets later this month in protest of everything, President Duque’s government approved fracking for “scientific” purposes. All bets are off on the probability of this “investigative” fracking evolving into a fully-fledged government energy policy before the presidential term is over. 

Further headaches for President Duque include an upcoming investigation into former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa’s squandering of 1,400,000,000 pesos to ensure that his pet project of an elevated metro for Bogotá take precedence over previous mayor Gustavo Petro’s more complete studies for an underground metro

And then, former, former, former mayor of Bogotá, the disgraced Samuel Moreno, under some bizarre premise that perhaps he represents some collateral damage in an alternative universe from the country’s armed conflict by taking bundles of cash to back corrupt infrastructure projects in Bogota, has submitted his application to have his case reviewed by the JEP. One suspects that perhaps this is some nefarious plan to weaken and diminish the authority of the JEP (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz), or to clog the courts with a backlog of cases so great that it ultimately and inevitably becomes redundant. 

I’m not sure I can pen another of these updates. Please continue to tune in to the Colombia Calling podcast and perhaps support the podcast on our Patreon page.

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