lessons from colombia

Image: Juan Nino


Considerations about the victory of the progressive ticket Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez



The victory of the progressive ticket Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez, from the Historic Pact coalition, in the presidential elections of June 19 in Colombia has a lot to teach Brazilians who, in three months, will also go to the polls. Governed in rotation by conservatives and liberals, Colombia has not had, throughout the XNUMXth century and up to the present day, a single minimally democratic president, which shows the importance and historical dimension that this victory assumes.

Unlike most Latin American countries that have known governments committed to popular interests, such as Juan Domingo Perón, in Argentina (1946-1955), Getúlio Vargas, in Brazil (1930-1945/1951-1954), Lázaro Cárdenas , in Mexico (1934-1940) or more recently Hugo Chávez, in Venezuela, Evo Morales, in Bolivia, Rafael Correa, in Ecuador or Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, the Colombian ruling class managed to transform the country into a colony of the United States .

It was not by chance that the homeland of the renowned writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez – who, fearing assassination, left Colombia – was considered Uncle San's number one ally in Latin America, a kind of Southern Israel, or as some prefer, a gateway to natural planes, directed against the countries of the region.

In this regard, the nine US military bases spread across Colombian territory leave no doubt about the intentions of the White House, regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans in power. As these bases are considered United States territories, Colombians do not even know what is inside them, apart from obviously planes, weapons and troops ready to act.

This situation, which in itself constituted a reality that many considered impossible to change, was not the only obstacle faced by Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez in the electoral campaign. There was no lack of acts and gestures by the President of the United States, Joe Biden, trying to signal that Petro was not a welcome name. Considering the warm applause that marked the presence of the current president of Colombia, Ivan Duque, at the recent Summit of the Americas, not to mention that envoys from the United States to Bogotá during the electoral campaign met with authorities, businessmen and other candidates, but excluded any contact with Gustavo Petro or Francia Márquez.

Not letting yourself be intimidated by open or hidden pressure from Uncle Sam is, without a doubt, the greatest lesson that the elections in Colombia leave for Brazilians. The problems that the new Colombian leaders will have with Uncle Sam obviously do not end with victory at the polls. Quite the opposite. It is enough to observe that the “CIA manual” indicates that if it is not at all possible to avoid the victory of a progressive candidate, the next steps involve: complicating the life of the elected candidate, measuring no efforts to destabilize him and doing everything to overthrow the government supposed opponent.



There are the progressive governments of Peru and Chile facing all kinds of problems. Inducted less than a year ago, Pedro Castillo, from Peru, still hasn't been able to govern. He has already been forced to change his ministry three times and also for the second time he managed to defeat the impeachment request led by the far-right and right-wing opposition with all the fingerprints of Washington.

In Chile, the situation is similar, even if the local peculiarities can confuse the most naive. A month after taking office, in March 2022, Gabriel Bóric was already facing demonstrations and saw his popularity collapse with a speed never seen in the entire democratic world. The change of mood on the streets in Chile is reminiscent of the June 2013 demonstrations in Brazil, when a youth protest against the increase in public transport fares in São Paulo was hijacked by the Brazilian right and extreme right, with the aim of overthrowing the then progressive president Dilma Rousseff.

At the time, the demonstrations were believed to be legitimate. Time came to show that, also in this case, the fingerprints of the Brazilian “elite of backwardness” and those of Uncle Sam were present.

Bóric will still face many problems, because Chile has ahead of it the referendum on the new Constitution, which will replace the Charter in force since the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). The new Constitution includes what is being called a “catalog of rights” to address Chileans' demand for more social equality. A situation that obviously does not interest the Chilean elite, much less the United States, which always prefers to see “communist danger” where there is only the interest of the majority of the population.

Even having indicated, in his speech after the victory, that he expects a frank and open relationship with the United States, Gustavo Petro knows that the support of his government will only be possible thanks to popular mobilization. That's why in these cases and also in Colombia, the lesson has a name and a surname: popular mobilization. Where this mobilization was weak or did not exist, as in Brazil, the result is painfully known.



Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez faced, on the part of the Colombian corporate media, one of the most lying and sordid campaigns ever heard of. As a matter of fact, the Latin American corporate media, like the Brazilian ones, strive for permanent work against the interests of their countries and their populations. From the moment the candidate was launched, the fruit of an important popular and social movement, the Colombian corporate media tried to attach the label of “dangerous guerrilla” to Gustavo Petro and to his vice-president, Francia, a militant of environmental causes, the doubt about the her competence or qualification, because she is a black and poor woman.

What this media tried to hide, until the last moment, is that one of the first measures taken by economist Gustavo Petro, as mayor of the Colombian capital, was to ban the carrying of weapons in the city and to start the debate on disarmament in his country. His participation in the fight against the fascist governments in his country had long since been left behind.

Colombia has been experiencing an undeclared civil war for decades, with hundreds of civilian deaths every month, especially popular and social leaders, without governments taking any effective action. And if at the end of his eight years in government (2010-2018), José Manuel dos Santos agreed to formalize the Peace Agreement, mediated by several Latin American countries, in order to end the permanent slaughter in which Colombia was living, the current president, Ivan Duque, was unaware of the matter.

José Manuel dos Santos, by the way, received the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for this initiative. In Ivan Duque's government, in 2021 alone, more than 140 human rights activists were killed. Added to these are the hundreds of deaths of ordinary people, since the far-left groups surrendered their weapons, but the same was not done by the far-right military and paramilitary groups, which continued to act with complete ease.

Not to mention the permanent allegations involving “false positives”, popular Colombian leaders murdered almost daily, but presented by those responsible for security as “subversives killed in combat”. Farce co-opted by the corporate media, which guaranteed ample space for this news, even if the relatives of the murdered had all the evidence to the contrary. Hence the name “false positives”, by which they began to be designated by the population.

From these extreme right groups, for example, the various death threats that Gustavo Petro received throughout the campaign. At times, the situation became so serious and tense that the Historic Pact candidate had to cancel commitments or even suspend the campaign for several days.

None of this was the least bit serious on the part of the Colombian corporate media, which preferred, throughout the first round of elections, to extol the virtues of the situationist candidate, Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez, former mayor of Medellín, also supported by former president Álvaro Uribe, the main leader of the extreme right in the country. The former mayor of Medellín was a permanent presence in newspapers, radio and television stations, while Gustavo Petro's activities were either silent or negatively addressed.

Something that also happens in the Brazilian corporate media when it comes to the other candidates for the presidency of the Republic and the candidacy of former president Lula.

Brazilian newspaper editorials State St. Paul, Folha de S. Paul e The Globe, always critical of Lula and his government proposals, defenders of a “third way” or even sympathetic to Bolsonaro, show that the Colombian media's performance is the same as that of the media here.



The similarities even go further. In the final stretch of the first round, when Gustavo Petro was likely to win, the Colombian elite changed their strategy. He abandoned the candidacy of “Fico” Gutierrez, as he identified with the situation, and began to unload his support on behalf of Rodolfo Hernandez, who until then had only 10% of the voting intentions.

A cross between Bolsonaro and Moro, Hernandez was renamed by the Colombian media as “the third way”, someone capable of offering an alternative outside the “extremes”. The big lie, which this media has once again tried unsuccessfully to preach to the Colombian population, concerns the right-wing extremist Hernadez being presented as a person of the center. Even more: to be presented as a competent engineer, a prosperous businessman, a person averse to politics and a true enemy of corruption.

But Hernandez was also mayor of Bucaramanga, the capital of the Santander district, where dozens of corruption allegations weigh. Incidentally, the very name of the party for which he decided to run is a trap for the unwary: Anti-Corruption League of Governors.

It was Hernandez who disputed the second round with Petro. Any similarity with what the corporate media did here, in the 2018 elections, with Bolsonaro, is not mere coincidence. Any similarity with what was tried to be done with former partial judge Sérgio Moro and with Operation Lava Jato for this year's elections is also not a mere coincidence. The strategies of the Latin American elites and their Washington bosses are not even original.

Even though it was not original, it was clear that the plan to avoid the victory of the Historic Pact in the first round had worked. Even worse: the first polls about the second round in Colombia indicated a technical tie or even Hernandez in front. Without going into the merits of these surveys and also the peculiarities involving Colombia, what is the lesson that we Brazilians should draw from this episode?

As much as the victory in the first round may seem close, it is necessary not to celebrate ahead of time. You have to keep in mind that the opponent is cunning. If it is not possible to win in the first round, remember that the second round is another election and a much more complicated one. The game only ends when it ends, as an acacia football coach would say.



Colombians had everything to fear about the victory of their progressive candidate. Just remember that there voting is neither mandatory nor electronic. Historically, there have always been countless accusations of corruption in elections, whether in the counting of votes or through the action of militiamen in the sense of violently preventing populations from rural areas or small towns from attending the polling places.

What did the Historic Pact campaign do? Without fanfare, he worked intensely with these communities. At the same time, he tried to gain the support of candidates defeated in the first round such as “Fico” Gutierrez and the former mayor of Medellin, Sérgio Fajardo, who ran for the Green Party, an auxiliary line of situationism. Gutierrez, even having been passed over at the last minute by Uribe and Duque, preferred to go with the extreme right.

Fajardo ended up starring in one of the most ridiculous episodes of the Colombian election campaign. Invited to join Petro, he preferred to offer his support to Hernandez, who rejected him. It is not known whether Fajardo went to Paris. Could such a fate, in Brazilian terms, await Ciro Gomes?

The votes that the right and the extreme right bet the Historic Pact would lack came precisely from the poorest regions and the most humble voters: women, blacks and indigenous people. It was Petro's reinforced commitment to a free and sovereign Colombia and, above all to the most humble, that made it possible for hope to overcome fear in the second round. May these lessons not be forgotten.

* Angela Carrato é journalist and professor at the Department of Communication at UFMG.

Originally published on the website Viomundo.


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