Petro’s security shakeup heralds “army of peace”

Daniel Eduardo Rojas Sánchez

Colombian President Gustavo Petro met with the top brass of his country’s security forces during the first official ceremony as commander-in-chief, event in which he appointed a new military high command, and director of the National Police, General Henry Sanabria. The ceremony also marked the first time Colombia’s armed forces have sworn allegiance to a former guerrilla member and first leftist president. Petro called on troops and police officers to be part of profound transformations “demanded by Colombians” and that heralds “an army of peace.”

Petro’s appointments came during the same weekend in which he also announced the lifting of arrest orders against the commanders of the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla. “We are facing more complex problems than those of the old security doctrine based on the false belief that there is an internal enemy in Colombia,” he said. “There is no internal enemy in Colombian society.”

The 10 former ELN negotiators were granted temporary exile in Cuba as part of the protocols established for the start of peace negotiations under the government of President Juan Manuel Santos. Former President Iván Duque ended the peace talks in Havana, Cuba, after the ELN detonated a car bomb inside the country’s largest police academy in 2019.

The car bombing three years ago inside the General Santander Academy in Bogotá that killed 21 cadets and left dozens injured occurred inside the same grounds where President Petro also appointed Brigadier General Carlos Triana as Bogotá’s new Metropolitan Police Chief.

Despite recent announcements that the Colombian Government will fully restore diplomatic relations with Venezuela, and a country that has also protected FARC dissidents and members of the ELN, on Tuesday, President Petro denied a request by Diosdado Cabello to hand-over exiled political dissidents. Cabello called on Petro to extradite “murderers” and “thieves”. President Petro responded to the radical Chavista, that “Colombia guarantees the right of refuge and asylum.” President Petro’s rebuke of Cabello marks the first political rift between the new progressive administration and high-ranking members of Nicolás Maduro’s inner circle.