Gustavo Petro is closer than ever to becoming President of Colombia, and has been trying to do so for more than a decade. His political project promises “change” to a country that has never had a left-wing government, and assures that the government of his greatest rival Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez is “based on an alliance of politics and crime.”
Three weeks before election day, he is by far the most wanted man in the country, and not just by journalists or supporters. This Thursday, he climbed onto the platform in a bulletproof vest and is surrounded by four escorts with armored shields after his team discovered a plan to kill himself.
He looks suspicious and, when asked about his next date in the square, warns “If we get to that.”
What does Gustavo Petro have that he didn’t have four years ago?
More people, more years. More years, for obvious reasons, and undoubtedly a lot more people, polls say. The public has experienced firsthand what it means to support Uribismo by voting for (President Ivan) Duque. And he lived through these four years of deep crisis. Yesterday, statistics from the DANE (statistical entity) price index (for consumers) showed a 26% increase in food prices.
We stop producing food in Colombia and import it. (…) Then you have an absurd food price index compared to an income that has barely risen between 5 and 10% of nominal. This means only one thing: at this point, hunger in Colombia must have increased significantly (…) Colombia is a country with fertile land, with plenty of water, we should not be in this state.
Colombia has had assassinated presidential candidates in the past: Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948, and in the 80s and 90s others like Luis Carlos Galán, Bernardo Jaramillo or Carlos Pizarro, could a candidate have been assassinated in Colombia in 2022 year?
Oh sure. There are a significant number of people who would be interested in assassination, who have nothing to do with the highest echelons of power, but who have a lot of money, a lot of power, weapons and the opportunity to do it; that the risk exists.
What happened? How were the threats?
I didn’t have threats; I receive daily threats. This time we discovered the plan in our own security system and learned that there was an operation against me in Pereira (…) There (La Cordillera) there is a large gang, closely associated with the production of synthetic drugs based on heroin. (…) a very powerful gang with connections in politics, with control over neighborhoods, over the population, which allows them to choose people.
What political interests did they have to attack you?
This is what I have condemned for a long time, which is the articulation between crime, politics and power, that is, the way political power has moved in Colombia for 30 years.
“The state never detected operations against us, we were ourselves and could still deactivate them”
We found out how many people, how much more or less they were paid, who paid, and finally we passed all the information to the Government and suspended the action, which was supposed to be in a place that they themselves managed to establish through their penetration force. The state never detected operations against us, we were ourselves and could still deactivate them.
And this problem of non-disclosure of criminal plans concerns not only you, but also many public figures in this country.
Yes, only that they have less ability to detect it, and what is happening is happening. There were constant, drop-by-drop murders of public figures, but there are already more than a thousand of them (…) Gangs are building some kind of wholesale extortion for the population and are very useful for traditional politics, because returns forced votes and therefore political power.
“Gangs are building a kind of generalized extortion for the population and are very useful for traditional politics”
This formation of gangs (…) can cause a kind of balkanization, the territory begins to fragment due to crime. The Duke’s government lost most of its power over the territory. and (…) you start to find the same reasons why Colombia was classified as a failed state some time ago.
And is there a way back? What will you do with it if you become president?
First, to rebuild what was done by (Juan Manuel) Santos, who was on the right track, unfinished but successful and has already created hope for peace in Colombia.
Santos settled on three elements: an agreement with the FARC, which has been violated by the current government, so it must be respected and could lead to the deactivation of dissidents; an agreement with the ELN that was half-fulfilled, but which should be accelerated and which could, depending on the ELN, recreate an atmosphere of peace and democratic progress, and they managed to propose a policy of collective submission to justice, which is a legal mechanism where the interlocutor is not the state and the justice system.
The Colombian reality is that there are collective gangs with hundreds of members, and therefore the mechanism must be collective subordination.
The government talks about terrorists and criminals when talking about all the armed groups in Colombia. Who are ELN or FARC dissidents to you who have insurgent roots?
These are gangs consisting of several criminals; The issue of political insurrection has already passed. Are there any roots? causes in societyin history, but the wars that take place on the battlefields of Colombia involve conflicts between criminal gangs, even alliances with highly visible sectors of the state.
There is a struggle for territorial control, but it is not aimed at seizing power, as a political insurgency might think, but at profiting from the illegal economy of various kinds.
In this situation, the problem arises that the production of cocaine is increasing every day, and there are many areas of the country where coca has created a bonanza that is difficult for the state to provide. How to solve this problem?
The farmer who produces coca leaf and processes it on an industrial scale lives better than any other product. The great advantage of coca leaf production today is that the farmer does not sell the leaf.but is engaged in agro-industrial processing and sells pasta.
If the replacement is solely for the peasant who produces raw vegetables, does not own industrialization, and cannot add value to it, then it is not as profitable as coca paste and the program fails.
Even the program should include a supply of land (…) Coca paste makes a profit in the poor and the jungle far from urban centers, but one way to compete with the profitability of coca paste is to provide them with fertile land near the cities.
Why don’t you do it? Because the owners of the drug trade are left with the fertile soil of Colombia and because they wield political power and obstruct agrarian reform; It’s a business in every way.
The latest polls give him a nearly 17 percentage point lead over his main right-wing opponent, former Medellin mayor Federico Gutierrez, how do you see that?
This is Uribismo, Duque’s candidate. This political project is based on the union of politics and crime. The only way Uribe’s project can stay in power today is through elections – because obviously there were other ways – through fear and lies.
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