Petro calls for “national accord” at Battle of Boyacá ceremony

President Gustavo Petro crosses the bridge where in 1819, Liberator Simón Bolívar defeated the Spanish Army. Photo: Presidencia

As Colombia marked the 204th anniversary of the historic Battle of Boyacá, the decisive military victory that paved the way for the nation’s independence, President Gustavo Petro issued a call for a “national accord,” urging collective consensus on his political agenda.

Set against the backdrop of the Boyacá department’s iconic bridge, where Liberator Simón Bolívar’s triumph over the Spanish Army occurred on August 7, 1819, the occasion also coincided with President Petro’s first year in office.

With an audience of the military’s top command and visiting dignitaries, Petro reached for “elusive peace” through dialogue and “agreements that allow us to protect people’s lives instead of deepening the violence and hostilities of the armed conflict that has destroyed the social fabric, the youth, and the lives of the poorest.”

Petro’s statement on a day that also represents the founding of Colombia’s Armed Forces was delivered less than a week after the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla agreed to a bilateral ceasefire with the Colombian government. “This is our Total Peace: putting life above hatred, above the profits of a few, above the inertia of history that only benefits those who want us to kill each other to further their greedy businesses, their mafias,” he said.

Admitting to his audience of government officials and dignitaries that he doesn’t “generally read speeches,” President Petro emphasized that “total peace” is not a “negotiation” with the country’s illegal armed groups. “The unprecedented bilateral ceasefire with the ELN is supported by the United Nations, which has extended the mandate of its verification mission in Colombia. This signifies the world’s support for Colombia’s peace,” highlighted Petro. “Conversations are also taking place with criminal gangs in Buenaventura and Medellín, thanks to the Catholic Church of Colombia,” he said.

Petro then refuted claims that his government does not stand by the nation’s security forces. “That is simply a lie,” he said. “We haven’t tied the hands of our police and soldiers; we’ve just directed them towards different objectives.” Included in the administration’s “different objectives” is the seizure of 1,100 tons of cocaine during his first year in office, and 573 tons of cocaine this year. “We have fought vigorously against organized crime by arresting 9,030 individuals, and we have engaged in 290 clashes against illegal armed groups,” he added.

Reciting his accomplishments as Colombia’s first leftist leader, President Petro regretted the femicide of Luz Mery Tristán, the country’s first woman speed skater to clinch gold at the 1990 world championships.

Petro’s national accord on reforms to labor, health, and pensions face major obstacles in Congress after his eldest son, Nicolás Petro, was arrested on charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment in a widening probe by the Attorney General’s Office into illegal campaign contributions.

Petro Burgos, a politician from the coastal department of Atlántico, allegedly violated campaign finance thresholds by receiving large cash donations from a convicted drug trafficker, Samuel Santander Lopesierra, and a powerful contractor Alfonso Hilsaca, alias “El Turco,” who financed paramilitary groups along the Colombian coast.

Also implicated in the narco-finance scandal of the Petro Presidente 2022 campaign is First Lady, Verónica Alcocer; former Ambassador to Venezuela Armando Benedetti; former Chief of Staff Laura Sarabia; former Minister of the Interior Alfonso Prada, among other close aides and political allies of President Petro.

Nicolas Petro, and his ex-wife Daysuris del Carmen Vásquez, were arrested on July 29 during a police operation in Barranquilla. According to local sources, Nicolás has refused on two occasions to meet with his father while confined to the Attorney General’s “bunker” in Bogotá