The most delicate crisis in the recent history of Colombia, unleashed by the protests against the government of President Iván Duque, has passed a month without a solution in sight for the blockades and political instability that impede the normal functioning of the country, much less for chronic problems like poverty and inequality.
The demonstrations, which spread throughout the country in the first few days, although then lost strength as vandalism increased, leaving at least 43 dead, a figure that varies according to the source, 129 missing and heavy losses to the economy. from companies to farmers and merchants.
This wave of protests, the longest in remembrance of the country, has also exposed the lack of leadership of the parties not only to calm the waters but also to open a negotiation that leads to an agreement that takes into account the demands of young people, converted into the motor of mobilizations, and allow a country already affected by the pandemic to return to normality.
Negotiation in limbo
This situation has led Colombia to a limbo in which, on the one hand, the Government, which plays with time in its favor, conditions the opening of a negotiation to the end of roadblocks and cities, while the National Committee of Paro (CNP) maintains in its thirteen that the obstruction of roads is a form of protest.
At the same time, doubts arise about the ability of the CNP to influence a mass movement as heterogeneous as the one participating in the protests.
“I see the country stagnant because there is no clarity about the real capacity that the leaders of the national strike have to stop, with an order, the demonstrations that occupy public space in the country,” analyst Jairo Libreros, professor of the School of Government of the Externado de Colombia University.
Libreros points out that it is also clear “that the voices of the leaders of the national strike do not have the conduction or leadership of the vandalism and violence” and therefore a call to suspend them can be like a shot into the water.
On the other hand, the Government of President Iván Duque, which did not see the storm of popular discontent coming, erred in calculating the political cost that the tax reform project that triggered this crisis would have and still cannot find ways to appease it.
“The national government’s response is slow, it is not assertive, it is not even capable of assuming political responsibility for police abuses, it does not find a mechanism that allows it to give immediate responses,” says the analyst.
This is due, on the one hand, to the fierce opposition that Duque has had from a sector of the left since the beginning of his mandate and that he is very active on social networks, and on the other, to the weakness of his Administration, which Unlike other crises faced by Colombian presidents, it has failed to attract the support of political sectors that could help it build agreements and consensus.
For Libreros, it is evident that “the government’s political will is lacking” to lead the negotiating table, which in two weeks has not passed the preliminary dialogue phase, as “it was hesitant about the need to find a mechanism to match the different views that exist on the crisis in the country.
On the other hand, he considers that the leaders of the strike are “emboldened” because with their initial call for the protest of April 28 “they managed to attract the attention of many people” and although there is wear and tear in a wide sector of society, Mainly with the blockades, the demonstrations put social unrest in a large part of the country on the table.
The social bomb
This discomfort has reached the ears of leaders such as the councilor of Bogotá and former senator Carlos Fernando Galán, who made a mea culpa as a member of the political class “that has not achieved a country enough for all” and of a State that did not act “With a forcefulness capable of avoiding the social bomb that exploded in our faces.”
«Complex situations will never change from one day to the next, but complex situations sometimes need very simple acts to open spaces that allow at least to start talking. Today I feel a very strong denial of the tragedy that the country is experiencing, in particular of those of us who have been on the strong side of the institutionality, of power, of the status quo, whatever you want to call it, “he said.
However, the 30 days of violence and uncertainty seem not to be enough for the parties that resist the negotiation to resolve a social protest that, everything indicates, is far from over, also given the proximity of an electoral year such as 2022, that has many politicians doing the math on the expediency of their movements.
“This is going to take a long time. The peaks of confrontation and demonstration may not be that high, but this is going to last, and at least the first part goes until July 20 (date on which the new session of Congress will be installed, last of Duque’s four-year term) », says Libreros.