Colombia’s Vargas Lleras calls for coalition to avoid Petro “catastrophe”

Leader of Cambio Radical, German Vargas Lleras. Photo: Twitter

Three former Colombian Presidents – César Gaviria (1990-1994); Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002); and Álvaro Uribe Vélez (2002-2010) – are closing ranks to block key reforms of the Petro administration less than a month before Congress resumes on July 20.

The influential heads of the Liberal, Conservative and Centro Democrático parties, have heeded a call from Juan Manuel Santos’ former Vice-President Germán Vargas Lleras to join a coalition that would give majority in Congress to the opposition.

Vargas Lleras aims to unite 62 of 106 Senators to vote against the health, labor and pension reforms of the leftist government. “Should this happen, the country can have the tranquility that over the next three-years (of the Petro government), we will avoid catastrophe,” stated Vargas Lleras on Twitter.

The leader of Cambio Radical party proposed a coalition during a meeting with the business community of Barranquilla, and accompanied by Alejandro Char, the front-running candidate for mayor of this coastal capital.

Gaviria was the first ex-Colombian President to confirm that he spoke with the 61-year-old politician and welcomed the opportunity “to do something.” The head of the Liberal Party highlighted the importance of “voting laws that are sensible…period” and in a statement on social media, made clear that “no democratic current” will be left out of Vargas’ coalition. “Petro’s reforms will not pass in Congress…very soon we will recover Colombia!” he said.

Colombian Presidents Álvaro Uribe, Andrés Pastrana and César Gaviria. Photo: Twitter

Even though Vargas Lleras originally extended the invitation to the former Presidents – and respective lawmakers – former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt of the Green Oxygen Party also gave her thumbs up to participate in the alliance. “We support the initiative of Germán Vargas. It is time for a generous union, devoid of personalities, thinking responsibly about saving our democratic institutions,” she said.  Betancourt and Vargas have become leading opposition voices to the policies and proposed reforms of President Petro. “This is not a question of left or right, but of courage to take on the challenges and overcome the governance crisis of the current government,” she added.

Born in 1962 in Bogotá, Vargas Lleras hails from a family with a long history of political involvement. He is the grandson of former Colombian President Carlos Lleras Restrepo, and the son of diplomat Guillermo Vargas Espinosa.

Vargas Lleras began his political career at an early age, driven by a strong desire to contribute to the development and progress of his country. He completed his undergraduate studies at the Universidad de los Andes, where he obtained a degree in law. He furthered his education by earning a Master’s degree in Economic Law from the same university. In 1994, Vargas Lleras was elected to the House of Representatives, marking the beginning of his parliamentary career. During his time in Congress, he championed numerous initiatives aimed at promoting social welfare, improving infrastructure, and combating corruption.

Appointed Minister of the Interior and Justice under President Álvaro Uribe, during Vargas’ tenure, he focused on strengthening security measures, combating drug trafficking, and advancing the government’s agenda for peace and stability. His leadership and commitment have earned him widespread recognition both domestically and internationally.

In 2010, Vargas Lleras ran for the presidency but narrowly missed the opportunity to secure the top seat in the country. Undeterred by the setback, he returned to the political arena and, in 2014, announced his candidacy for the presidency once again, this time as party leader of Cambio Radical. Ahead of the 2022 Presidential election, Vargas announced that he would not run for president, and decision that has consolidated his role as Gustavo Petro’s most outspoken critic. Beyond the political sphere, Vargas Lleras is an accomplished author and columnist.

After one year of the Petro government, the liberal politician is rapidly expanding his political base and could be the one candidate who could stump a Petro reelection in 2026.