Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Political Center in Colombia

The Canadian Council for the Americas held a webinar on the political center (sorry, centre!) in Colombia and whether it can unite. There was former Vice President Humberto de Calle (under Ernesto Samper, and he was also the head of the negotiating team with the FARC*) and then a bit later also Colombian journalists and a financier, moderated by Ken Frankel.

The quick answer is that it's really tricky.

De la Calle's main point was that, unlike Colombian political tradition, the center needed to start with a basic program rather than choosing a person to rally around. He gave various indicators, based on local election results and polls, about an appetite for centrist positions and parties. Centrist policy positions included agrarian reform, tax reform, pension reform, and crop substitution.

But that is where the conversation got more difficult. Responses included asking where was the focus on women and youth? If the right dominated non-urban areas, how was this going to function? What are some concrete objectives? Doesn't this seem too top-down? And, fundamentally, what is the "center" anyway?

Unless I missed it toward the end, when I had interruptions and missed chunks, the political mechanics of all this was missing. Who gets the ball rolling, which means controlling the message at the beginning? De la Calle advocated for self-exclusion, meaning no one would be rejected as long as they broadly accepted the program. But that depends on who defines the program.

I've written before about how the FARC really screwed the democratic left in Colombia, because it's too easy to connect the left to the FARC (and nowadays also to Venezuela, though I don't know how much that actually convinces people). But I hadn't thought as much about the center. This discussion demonstrated to me how tough such a project would be. The essential question "can it unite?" just kind of hung there. Fear has served the right very well, and it's hard to overcome.

* His overall political biography is really interesting.


Unknown 1:15 PM  

Hi. Thanks for your blog. Your link to de la Calle's biography is invalid (at least on my end). Thanks.

Greg Weeks 2:20 PM  

You're right--I just fixed it (it was just Wikipedia).

Unknown 2:40 PM  

Great. Thank you. And I didn't mean to be creepy "unkown." Don't know how that happened. My name is Sebastián. Thanks again. Yours is definitely one of the blogs I check regularly. While I grew up in the U.S., my parents are from Colombia and Peru, and once this pandemic is over, I hope to go study and live down there for a bit.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP