The presidential candidate Gustavo Petro explained his policies and proposals on Tuesday in a talk with the director of EL PAÍS, Pepa Bueno, less than two weeks before the final elections for the presidency of Colombia are held, in which confronts businessman Rodolfo Hernández. “I will relegitimize the institutions, apply the Constitution and build a country that can live in peace. That implies reforms and stepping on privileged tripe,” Petro said in Cartagena de Indias, where the PRISA Thought Festival is being held.
Hernández declined the invitation to the event at the last minute. “He did not want to be. He did not want to come and we are sorry because we would have liked to discuss his proposals and ideas, ”Bueno said at the beginning of the talk. Petro, beside him, raised his eyebrows. The advisors of the former mayor of Bucaramanga, a 77-year-old businessman with an anti-corruption discourse, have recommended that he not enter into a melee with Petro, a more experienced politician in debates. Hernández, until a week ago, had an advantage of seven points in the polls, but today the numbers show a technical tie.
The discussion with the leader of the left initially revolved around climate change. Petro has had it on his agenda since he went into exile in Belgium 20 years ago, when the former guerrillas who had laid down their arms like him, those of the M-19, got into politics and a part of society did not accept him and persecuted them. In Europe he became an environmentalist. “It’s a problem of humanity,” Petro said. “If you look, the United States is the world’s largest emitter of coal and oil, which is what produces the climate crisis. We, with the Amazon, have the sponge. You have to reach an agreement because you have to take care of the sponge, ”he added.
Pepa Bueno, who had the support of journalist Alberto Casas, wanted to know how Colombia’s dependence on oil and coal, its two most important sources of income, was going to decrease. He replied that his plan is not only to govern a country, but to transform it. He wants to put an end to the extractivist economy that Latin America has lived through in the last two centuries. In his understanding, Colombia imitated the economy of Venezuela, which consisted of selling oil and buying everything imported, which made it allow production in the interior. “That made us believe that we were rich and we were not. The entire local industry went bankrupt. We renounce knowledge, the university, we destroy all the quality of the educational system. The political class became corrupt for easy money, via tax and royalties,” he continued.
For this reason, he added, Colombia must make a transition in the short term to implement the peace that was signed in 2016 and get the country to go from five million tourists to 15. “That would replace half of the foreign exchange from oil. But we need peace. In a country where people kill each other, there is no tourism,” he said. The candidate has been blunt when explaining in the electoral campaign that the country must move towards green energy, which has raised blisters in the mining and oil sectors. He insists that it is necessary to anticipate the end of hydrocarbons to save the planet.
Bueno wanted to know what message he was sending to international markets and domestic businessmen who have expressed their concern and uncertainty about the possibility of his becoming president. Petro brought up that one of the world’s most respected investment funds, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, bought a large amount of Colombia’s foreign debt bonds when he was leading the polls. “They bet that if I ruled this country it would be better,” he insisted. “If you look at the internal logic,” he went on, “you find paradoxes. I have seen (Colombian) industrial entrepreneurs voting for landowners. Tourism businessmen voting against peace. It’s strange”.
From there he jumped to one of the fundamental issues of the campaign, the need for a tax reform that helps balance the State’s accounts. “There is no lie or demagoguery, a tax reform is needed,” he said, and recalled that his opponent assures that he will lower VAT without explaining how he will collect for social programs. “The reform is not done with more taxes on food, it should be taxed on the richest layer of the country.” His theory is that the highest layers of Colombian society do not pay enough taxes. It does not refer to the rich, but to the millionaires. With that he believes he could raise 50 billion pesos more. With measures of this type, he assures, the Government could finance social spending so that all youth have higher education and mothers can have a minimum income: “That is not populism.”
The director of EL PAÍS then threw several questions at him that he had to answer quickly.
—Would you have gone to the Summit of the Americas?
—Yes, I would have gone to talk to Biden face to face. I want there to be a first element of discussion: climate change and anti-drug policy.
—And the relations with Venezuela?
—The border is opened and diplomatic relations are restored. If the gringos now let the Venezuelans export oil, that money that Venezuela is going to receive can become money from Colombia with the export.
—If you win and Lula wins in Brazil, will Boric create a new Latin American axis in Chile?
-Undoubtedly. A Latin America that values knowledge, culture and agriculture.
—That it does not connect with any previous axis—, Pepa Bueno insisted.
“No, because before those axes lived on oil,” Petro settled.
Last week he offered Hernández an institutional pact. He was asked why he was doing it with someone who is accused of corruption. His response sought a global look at the institutional framework: “The agreement belongs to society. Those forces that are not going to vote for me if I am elected president deserve to be heard. I am not going to continue with the logic of the government persecuting the opposition. I want peace. Those in opposition must be treated like human beings. They have a constructive role in democratic society.”
Indirectly, Petro was watering the conversation with the idea that Hernández is a demagogue who has no concrete proposals and who has based his campaign on sentimentality. “Emotions, directed without reason, can lead us to the abyss,” she finished.
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