I had hoped that the second instalment of this series was not going to be so hot on the heels of the first (see Part 1, Feb 13) but, alas, President Ivan Duque cannot catch a break at all and at each turn appears smote as if with a deadly sabre of calamity. Our snake-bitten, star-crossed, jonah for a president has been dogged by poor luck since his inauguration and we’ve still another two years remaining of his tenure. Much of what has left our inverted Midas (everything he touches turns to sh1t) on course to becoming the most celebrated wretch to have taken up residence in the Palacio de Nariño – and the bar is low – may have been inherited due to a period of political and cultural paralysis spanning 200 years in Colombia, but, neither is he exempt from having made some of the most glaring blunders either.
A week in the life of President Ivan Duque (part 2), in no particular order
Perhaps the best quote of the week was from the Adriaan Alsema, director of news site Colombia Reports who wrote:
“Grab your popcorn, the tropical version of House of Cards is just beginning,”
…all in response to confirmation that there will be investigations into vote-buying in the 2018 presidential election.
The Colombian Supreme Court and the Electoral Commission will be looking into these claims made by fugitive former Senator Aida Merlano (see part 1) from her refuge of a holding cell in Venezuela. There were most certainly cases of vote-buying in the last elections, this is hardly unusual in Colombia, but, this has given runner-up and erstwhile noxious beast Gustavo Petro even more fuel than normal for his vitriol on social media and elsewhere. All the while we can envision Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro looking on with almost certain relish. Read the story here.
The ELN guerrilla group brought their three-day Paro Armado to an end, having terrorised regions such as Norte de Santander, Arauca and Cesar, whilst President Ivan Duque, his ministers and inner circle hunkered down for a spiritual retreat at el Hato Grande (the Colombian version of Camp David in the US or Chequers in the UK) to reflect on their considerable successes in the first 18 months of government and their goals for 2020.
Uber returned to Colombia a mere three weeks after having announced its departure due to the government’s agreement with the yellow taxi unions led by the erudite wordsmith Hugo Ospina. Not known for his floral language nor for gaining sympathy from the middle class, Ospina referred to Uber drivers as, “worse than the ELN.” It’s fair to say that former president, now senator Alvaro Uribe’s negotiations with the taxi unions to ensure that they not join the protests from November 21 last year and onwards has now been rendered useless. Uber’s lawyers outplayed and outmanoeuvred the government of President Ivan Duque and now our imperiled premier will likely oversee a period of greater unrest as most taxi unions have agreed to strike on 16 March.
Talking of demonstrations and strikes: FECODE, the teachers’ union embarked on a two-day strike on Thursday 21 February and then on Friday 22 to protest the precarious nature of their job and death threats against their numbers and the assassinations of social leaders in Colombia. On 25 March, the Gran Paro Nacional will re-commence, although the date for supposedly ending the Gran Conversación Nacional, which was meant to bring the protests to an end, set up by President Ivan Duque last year, is on 15 March.
Senator Uribe (former president and President Duque’s political patron) is named in a report as having been one of the main beneficiaries of a massive land grab in 2007 in the region of the Montes de Maria, an area which, for decades, has been strafed by violence from all sides, guerrilla, state and paramilitary forces.
As if not to be outdone by Gen. Zapateiro who, last week publicly lamented the death of Pablo Escobar’s favoured contract killer, alias Popeye, Gen. Mario Montoya dropped a few verbal scatter bombs of faux pas of his own at his hearing before the judges of the JEP (Special Jurisdiction for Peace). In saying that the False Positives (in brief: where members of the armed forces lured indigents and handicapped people to conflict zones, executed them and dressed them as guerrillas to increase their kill ratios and receive financial reward) were committed by rank and file soldiers of low social strata, who were unfamiliar with how to use a toilet or eat with cutlery, likely gained him little leeway before the courts and certainly condemned him to several life-sentences in the court of public opinion.
Colombia’s ambassador to Uruguay, Fernando Sanclemente, whilst proclaiming his family to be, “gente de bien,” (a bit stronger than upstanding and patriotic citizens) appears to be getting in a pickle over the three cocaine laboratories found on his property outside of Bogotá. It is revealed that none of the three labs are in fact “express” labs and have been in place for some time. On rolls the saga.
Did I miss anything?