In last month’s editorial, I mentioned how we were suffering from “peace fatigue.” I would go on to say now: we’re in a deep slumber.
To stir some life into the process, President Juan Manuel Santos shuffled his cabinet last month inviting some familiar faces from all sides of the political spectrum to form part of his end game administration.
All of this on the heels of a blistering speech at the United Nations General Assembly where he asked the global community for a total rethink on the war on drugs as it has failed for more than a decade to meet basic development objectives.
He appointed high-flying ministers Clara López Obregon (ex-Polo Democrático) for Labor and Rafael Pardo (ex-presidential candidate and Bogotá mayoral contender) as Presidential Minister, soon to be ensconced in this revamped “circle of trust.” Santos is convinced he has picked a winning team to sell the post-conflict agenda to Colombians and the world.
Other appointments include former Barranquilla mayor Elsa Noguera for Housing, Jorge Londoño in Justice, Jorge Eduardo Rojas with Transport, María Claudia Lacouture in International Commerce and Tourism, Germán Arce for Mining and Luis Alberto Murillo in Environment.
The appointments also send a clear message that the head of state needs a fresh slate for the remaining two years of his second administration — one which faces big challenges, such as revitalizing the peace process, listening to the business community as it clamors for clarity on comprehensive tax and pension reform, as well as the need for greater investment in planned infrastructure.
Two ministers who remain with their portfolios are Mauricio Cárdenas in Finance and María Angela Holguín as Chancellor.
A reliable source told me that the expected signing of the peace accord between the Colombian delegation in Havana and representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) could happen mid summer, allowing ex-combatants the required six months to congregate in verification zones and hand over their weapons before the legal framework to register themselves as a political party for the 2017 presidential race comes to term.
The FARC have always been inherently political and see themselves as “game changers” in politics. Hence, for more than four years, the government has sat down in Havana to “negotiate” with the oldest guerrilla insurgency in the world.
The same cannot be said about the second insurgency in the country, the Ejercito de Liberación Nacional (ELN). The ELN has stated that it will enter into “conversations” with the government and one of its key conditions is the participation of 44 million Colombians in the dialogues.
This demand may have already conditioned the process to drag on longer than Santos’ remaining time in office.
Yet despite ministerial shuffling and skepticism over the fruition of parallel peace talks, Colombia is cementing a moment in its history. To understand this, one need only look as far as our borders.
Brazil has been crippled by corruption charges and Dilma Rousseff’s political legacy stumped by an impeachment vote just months before her country hosts the Olympics.
Venezuela is in shambles with rolling power and water outages, and rampant food shortages which have resulted in widespread looting. Maduro is on the ropes and faces a “total recall” referendum as 1.5 million Venezuelans bravely sign petitions to oust him from power. So far, his solution with dealing with the deep internal crisis is to offer civil servants a two-day workweek and to move the clocks forward half an hour.
Across the Darien Gap, Panama is exposed. The monumental Panama Papers leak has muddied the waters of its financial reputation confirming it to be a nation of tax evasion.
Also in his mid-term as President, Panama’s Juan Carlos Varela has pledged to begin a total overhaul of his country’s legal system to improve transparency in light of the shadowy havens and “offshore” industries.
On May 9, the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released what is likely the largest-ever document dump, involving 200,000 companies, trusts, foundations and funds which were incorporated in tax havens from this tarnished isthmus to Hong Kong and Nevada.
Ecuador’s troubles weren’t man-made. A devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake leveled towns and infrastructure along its Pacific coastline last month resulting in at least 650 deaths. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those brave and resilient people to our south.
Earthquakes can strike at any time and at any place. Tragically it was Ecuador which bore the brunt of nature’s most recent realignment and it will take many years for this small nation to rebuild itself, despite all the support from disaster relief agencies and foreign donations.
Last year — almost to the date — the world watched in horror as another earthquake, also of a 7.8-magnitude, struck Nepal, killing 9,000. On the first anniversary of this devastating event, the Himalayan nation has barely begun its recovery.
So as much as we complain about the vicissitudes of the peso, the arrogance of the guerrillas as they vie for political space, the arbitrariness of taxes, and the state of our roads, we are living an historic moment of transition, one which will hopefully bring peace and more prosperity for all.