I can’t, I just don’t have the energy, but, I’ll push on through and write this fourth instalment of: “A week in the life of Ivan Duque, President of Colombia.” And then I’ll get back to my quarantine with my wife, two sons under five years of age and ten year old dog.
Corona virus in Colombia
You wouldn’t wish the Corona Virus on anyone let alone the government of a middle-management lackey in “control” of Colombia, but President Duque’s (mis)handling of the situation has been illuminating…illuminating in that the flickering strobe light of his incompetence and that of his government has gone into an overdrive of as yet unforeseen levels. (see part 1, part 2 and part 3)
Would I go as far as to say that before President Duque and his cabinet, in particular any time prior to an address by the Minister for the Interior Alicia Arango (see part 3), should come with a warning about how flashing lights or contrasting light and dark patterns can cause markets to drop, reveal levels of ineptitude (#DuqueInepto was trending), bring on photosensitive epilepsy and of course, obscure necessary realities from the long-suffering Colombian public? Yes, maybe.
Colombia’s President has corona virus?
President Duque finds himself undergoing a second test to verify whether or not he may have contracted the Corona Virus from the Mayor of Popayan. Mayor Juan Carlos López Castrillón was present at a meeting a week ago, called – in the President’s infinite wisdom – by the government, to bring all of Colombia’s departmental governors and the mayors of each departmental capital together to discuss measures by which to combat the virus, and would have come into contact or breathing distance of most of Colombia’s principal regional politicians.
Hold my beer, again, Alicia Arango!
Speaking of the virus, the frankly odious Alicia Arango, pushed the government to announce that any preventative measures taken by departmental and local governments in order to contain and protect their constituents from the illness, were in fact not permissible. Any order regarding a curfew, lockdown and travel restrictions supposedly needed to be approved and announced by the President. Arango also suggested, in a televised address, that cities and towns which were not suffering from virus cases shouldn’t be closed, therefore succeeding in uniting a polarized nation in a twitter storm of rispostes in her contra.
Of course, her non-sensical utterances were brought about in response to actions by politicians across the country breaking rank with central government and taking WHO advice regarding social distancing, putting quarantines in place and curfews, well ahead of any decision made by the government. In an attempt to seize the initiative, days later, former president Alvaro Uribe – political patron to President Duque – made the declarations that a universal quarantine was to be expected. It was a case of too little too late for the tardy former president in his attempt to win over public opinion as the population of Bogotá already widely supported Mayor Claudia Lopez’ decision to call for and carry out a “simulation” quarantine from 20-24 March in the capital.
The Economic crisis in Colombia
Meanwhile, due to the global crisis, the price of a barrel of oil dropped to around $25 (the government based all of its budgets and projections on an average price of $60 for 2020, and Colombia is totally dependent on the sale of products of extractive industries). And, the US dollar strengthened against the peso, taking the cost of a dollar to a record high, oscillating above the COP 4000 mark.
The positives for President Duque’s government
- After being made to look the fool by regional politicians, President Duque has ordered a mandatory nineteen-day nationwide quarantine from Wednesday 25 March and has managed to unite left and right, a rare occurrence for this government. On 23 March all international flights in and out of Colombia will be grounded and cancelled.
- Duque, Uribe and co were in danger of being tarred with very real allegations of corruption and vote-buying through their connections to the now deceased Ñeñe Hernandez. Hernandez, known for his activites involving drug trafficking and corruption represented the most direct link, a tangible connection, between the political world to that of narco-trafficking in Colombia. With the discovery of telephone recordings indicating that there was a concerted and effective campaign to make certain that Duque won the presidency and that money from German Vargas Lleras’ unsuccessful presidential run was siphoned off to ensure that the candidate for the Centro Democratico came out victorious, the government seemed dangerously close to a total collapse. Stronger governments have tumbled for much lesser crimes.
The corona virus pandemic has, justifiably and unfortunately, buried this news and there will no doubt be machinations during this time to ensure that this story is completely erased from the news agenda. It also appears that the journalists who broke the news have received credible threats against their well-being and may end up following the fate of the news. Let’s hope and pray this isn’t the case.
Hear more about this scandal and the reality of the pandemic in Colombia on Ep317 of the Colombia Calling podcast with your host Richard McColl and this week’s special guest, director of Colombia Reports, Adriaan Alsema.
Stay safe, please everyone
In the meantime, please, everyone heed the warnings, stay inside, self-isolate, social distance, wash and scrub your hands. Stay safe, stay healthy, look after your family, your neighbours, the most needy and let’s get through this together, as a community.