January always picks up the remnants of last year’s news, a sort of Ebenezer Scrooge journalism where the ghosts of Christmas past still come to haunt. However, with so much of the world’s attention focused on two big stories, the impeachment trial of U.S President Donald Trump – and fast track acquittal – to the dangerous spread of the Wuhan virus, Colombia has been somewhat absent from international headlines, with few exceptions, including Shakira’s rousing half-time performance at the Super Bowl 54.
Even the Paro Nacional has capitulated to such a degree that the strike’s organizing committee, which appeared pretty solidified between trade union representatives and student groups, has come to loggerheads over the objectives of marches that always end with a bunch of hoodlums trying to rip out road signs and taking bats to TransMilenio bus stations. With a majority of Colombians opposed to the Paro Nacional, 60% according to a recent poll, it seems to be a movement that has been hijacked by vandals, much to the detriment of workers. February offers a respite from planned mobilizations and transportation chaos these create for millions of commuters.
While February is the first full working month of the year (and no long weekends included), it also marks the high point of summer, which in Bogotá hasn’t been felt with its usual intensity as previous years. The good news for capitalinos is the conservation of green corridors, from the Cerros Orientales range to 677 hectares of wetlands, among them the nature reserve van der Hammen.
As a focal point of Mayor Claudia López’s environmental agenda to safeguard vulnerable habitats from the rapidly expanding metropolis to the north, she has pledged to preserve the city’s “urban and rural ecological structure,” not as an option, but “vital necessity.” Necessary action is what we need at this early stage of her administration to improve air quality, especially after the recent past has shown us how precarious the situation is.
Just a year ago, former mayor Enrique Peñalosa issued an air quality alert and ensuing license-plate restriction known as Pico y Placa Ambiental, when the index peaked into the hazardous “yellow” zone. A decrease in wind speed from the East is being blamed for blanketing Bogotá in smog.
The political climate so far has been benign for the incoming administration, but this could change as fast as Bogotá weather, a city known to have “four seasons in one day.” As López consolidates her mandate, she will have to forge a close working relationship with the government of Duque. A move that could raise the ire of the pro-Paro syndicates and student groups, who despite the largest allocation of public funds for higher education by Duque’s government, show no sign of abandoning the mobilizations and have taken up the cause of the killings of social leaders.
President Duque and López share plenty of common ground in the aftermath of the January 21 strike, calling, in separate statements, for swift prosecution of vandals. López even went so far, during a private meeting with President Duque on Saturday, February 1, to thank him for his “support of Bogotá.” The two leaders talked about enhanced security measures for the city, new transportation infrastructure and the development of the Carrera Séptima as an environmental corridor.
From the scraps and morsels from journalists reporting on anything other than the coronavirus and post-Brexit aftershock, President Duque and Mayor López may find that 2020 is their year to shine, and with Shakira having captivated 15 minutes of a 98-million strong audience, President Duque posted on Twitter: “Great emotion is generated for the whole nation to see Colombian talent shine during the greatest sporting event in the U.S. Great Ambassadors: @Shakira, @JBALVIN and Cali’s Swing Latino.” Mayor López’s response was much shorter, but once again, touched familiar turf: Grande Shakira!