Gustavo Petro has emerged as the candidate with the best chance to become president of Colombia. With a populist discourse that accuses the elites of the country’s problems, the candidate of the extreme left has managed to conquer almost 35% of Colombian voters.
Petro’s discourse is full of euphemisms, with phrases such as “politics for life.” The promises of being the “Change” have become the basis of the rhetoric of the Historical Pact, the political movement created by Gustavo Petro and where almost all the Colombian left is now agglutinated.
Petro’s proposal is vague, hardly any statistics can be read in his text and there is an abundance of promises ranging from the unrealistic to the simply delirious. Many of these proposals are similar to the policies of Chavismo in Venezuela, Kirchnerism in Argentina, or MORENA in Mexico.
Gustavo Petro’s proposals
Perhaps the most worrisome proposal of Gustavo Petro’s plan is his intention to declare a state of “economic emergency” in the country once he comes to power, supposedly to address hunger in Colombia. This declaration would give Petro special powers as president, and he could legislate by decree, bypassing Congress.
Several Colombian jurists believe that decreeing an economic emergency is an unconstitutional move, since the president can only declare it in the face of catastrophic events such as a pandemic or economic crisis.
Petro’s most notorious proposal is his promise to reconvert the country’s energy matrix to fully rely on renewable energies, but prohibiting the use of reservoirs and dams, since a sector of his electorate is opposed to this type of energy.
The candidate has proposed banning oil exports and exploration for new wells, claiming that this will somehow reduce Colombia’s carbon footprint, thus contributing to mitigating climate change. Colombia is responsible for less than 0.3% of the world’s Co2 emissions.
On numerous occasions, Petro has said that he will also end coal mining, an economic activity for which Colombia earns more than $4.5 billion a year. The Marxist candidate has also pledged to ban fracking.
Petro has also suggested eliminating the independence of the Bank of the Republic to finance subsidies for the poorest classes, and proposes a tax reform that would fall on the shoulders of the richest in the country, however, insufficient to finance the additional spending that would arise from the implementation of his political project.
Among the most costly and far-fetched proposals is the promise that the State should give a job to every unemployed Colombian. The cost of that proposal is almost $12.5 billion a year, twice the money that the failed tax reform of 2021, which caused massive protests in the country, sought to raise.
Petro’s campaign has also proposed to end the private pension system and force all contributors to contribute to the State Pension Fund, Colpensiones, whose bankruptcy is only avoided by the constant transfers from the Ministry of Finance to the coffers of the pachydermic institution.
The pension reform proposed by Petro could strongly impact the Colombian financial markets, where pension funds play a leading role, as they are one of the few institutions with liquidity that actively invest in these markets.
The health system is also in the sights of Petrismo, who has proposed to eliminate the figure of private insurers in the country and return to the old Social Security system of more than 30 years ago, where the population barely had health coverage under the catastrophic State system.
One of Petro’s most popular proposals is an agrarian reform where he proposes to expropriate (he uses the euphemism democratize) the large extensions of private land to give it to the Colombian peasantry, arguing that the accumulation of land in Colombia has occurred due to the dispossession caused by the armed conflict.
Petro’s agrarian proposal is also accompanied by a whiff of protectionism, and even his vice-presidential candidate, Francia Marquez, has been vocal against the Free Trade Agreements signed by the country in the last decade, claiming without evidence that they have devastated the Colombian countryside and industry.
Finally, Petro proposes a viro to the war on drugs, legalizing the coca producer and establishing a peace process with the different drug cartels in Colombia.