I am better at meeting deadlines than keeping New Year resolutions. But then again, I have time on my hands: twelve months to attempt to set a few wrongs, right.
It’s January, and the hardest editorial of all, is this one. After the holiday fallout, the end of year feasting, and some moments of reflection while waiting to get on planes, we are back in the office and ready to write about Colombia. One of the resolutions I am going to keep, is trying to spend more time in the countryside. To leave the big city behind and explore villages with strange sounding names such as Curití, Zapatoca, Monguí (to name a few) and where life takes on a different pace, one measured by the sound of cascading waterfalls, the chirping of tropical birds, the vapor clouds of an almost extinct train.
As I plan to take the road “less traveled,” The City Paper will too, reaching a 7-year milestone in April. While this makes us proud, we have months ahead of hard work and a year which for this country will be nothing less than historic. The peace talks in Havana will end. After more than two long years of negotiating with the oldest guerrilla force in the hemisphere, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Government will settle for peace. A peace without surrender. A peace of compromises and commitments.
Whatever deal Havana churns out, will be praised by the international community. Ending a half-century of conflict won’t be achieved by the stroke of a pen and keeping the peace will be the greater challenge in the years to come. Colombia must make structural changes to way its tackles a wide range of issues: from rampant corruption and social exclusion, and even the way its rich natural resources are managed. The world in 2015 seems precarious, moving to the brink of an assets “bubble” and ready to burst at anytime, evaporating the economic miracles of many an emerging market.
In hindsight, what the FARC and the Government fear, aren’t necessarily each other, as they’ve no doubt grown used to seeing each other in a hotel lobby of Havana. It’s what happens on the other side of the ramparts, where market forces can either sink or swim entire nations. While there’s a glut of cheap oil from Saudi sheiks and the U.S cashes in on a shale bonanza, Venezuela’s much improvised economy could go into default, affecting its trade and out-of-balance payment mechanism with many Colombian companies. And after Brazil recently re-elected Dilma Rousseff, this fast growing economy must tackle high inflation and a disgruntled middle class willing to take to the streets over excessive government spending.
This won’t be the year to cash in your pesos, either. As the U.S gains economic momentum, and the world watches the “greenback,” the peso will lose ground, sinking gently into a comfort zone of devaluation. You may find that cheap air fare to Orlando, but once on the ground, your bill at Motel 6, just became a five star experience compared to a night in the chalet overlooking the mist covered valley of Guasca. So when I say, I am going to stay close to home, I mean it. I am going to relish in what remains (and still stands) of Petro’s last year in office. Then again, we are in for another election year. This time, for the second highest post in the land: Mayor of Bogotá. The issues at hand will resurface soon enough: from reinventing the garbage collection scheme, to reinstating bull fights in the Plaza Santamaría. And by the time City Counselors figure out how to pay for that first line of the metro, another mayor would have come and gone.
This won’t be the year of rapid transit either. With ‘Uber’ challenged, the TransMilenio tested, and the Séptima’s flow reduced to gridlock, mobility, is the big issue this city must grapple with in the year to come. I, for one, am not ready to take on the streets on a bike. I will continue to structure my agenda around busetas and the M80. When in doubt, I will walk, keeping my eyes open for potholes and warped sidewalks, which inevitably result in a sprained ankle or two.
As I close January’s editorial, I have met the first deadline of the year. Others will follow. In the meantime, I wish you all a safe and happy 2015.