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“We must be very careful that total peace does not equal total impunity,” said former Colombian President Ivan Duque on Tuesday in reference to current President Gustavo Petro’s plan to promote the agreement signed with the FARC guerrillas, which includes other armed groups such as the ELN.
“The peace process is not a single process, because Colombia did not have only one armed group. With the FARC it is an agreement with one group, but there were still puntilleros, pelusos, caparros, clan del golfo, ELN, etc…”, Duque pointed out in an interview with EFE in Madrid, where he is participating in a meeting of the International Foundation for Freedom (FIL) chaired by the Spanish-Peruvian Nobel Prize for Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa.
According to the former Colombian president, the peace process with the FARC had “more implementation in the years of my government than in the first 20 months and I gave continuity to the things that really have a sense of positive involvement for the country”.
For Duque, Petro’s “total peace” plan “is different”, because “the submission to justice of illegal armed groups is positive as long as it carried out under the pressure from the authorities and entails the demand to pay internal sanctions, and also that all the ill-gotten resources of the criminals are handed over to the Colombian people.”
“If criminals keep part of their fortune what we will be witnessing is an asset laundering operation and that is why we have to reject it,” he noted.
As stated by Duque, the pressure of the authorities must continue, since the subjugation is a figure that is contemplated in the Colombian law, but this subjugation “can have neither impunity nor the possibility for the criminals to keep part of their fortune.”
The ex-president also indicated that the ELN is a narco-terrorist group “and I was the first president to extradite some of its members for drug trafficking. And beyond that today we have in the Colombian Constitution a rule that we took forward in our Government so that neither drug trafficking, nor kidnapping are crimes related to political crime and therefore cannot be amnestied.”
In his opinion, allowing FARC dissidents “to wipe the slate clean when they have already failed to comply with a process, the only thing it can bring is to generate new forms of violence”.
Petro is not the first one focused in social issues
For Duque, it is necessary to put an end to the “cliché” of Petro being the first government with a social focus that Colombia has had and also to put in context that the fact that the left is in power was a process that “had been gestated.”
“The truth is that in the second round (of the elections) he had practically no rival. When I was able to face him I won, and I won with arguments and a solid defense of my ideas. The evidence shows that he had no rival, there was no deep debate, no capacity to expose the model that had to be defended at the time and he won and that is the result of democracy and I do not dispute those results”, he admitted.
But “to say that this is the first time there is a leftist president in Colombia is something I dispute. Colombia has had many presidents who have had a social focus. In the past, and recently, both Álvaro Uribe’s government and mine had a great social content.”
Iván Duque’s tax and agrarian reform
Duque defended his tax reform that “was manipulated by some political sectors with electoral pretensions”, but after being withdrawn and presenting another one, it came out “based on broad consensus.”
“And that reform proved its benefits because last year the Colombian economy grew 10.7%, the highest growth in our history and that this year will grow above 7%”, he remarked.
According to Duque, Colombia “needs to expand its tax base”, but “what seems to be of interest today is to burden the sectors that generate investment, productive and industrial activity and if they are suffocated they will stop investing, stop generating competitiveness and employment.”
“A reform has to maintain the entrepreneurial and investment spirit”, he stressed, and warned that “he sees worrying signs” at present, such as saying that oil exploration is going to stop, when more than 40% of Colombia’s exports are crude oil.
On the agrarian reform undertaken by Petro, Duque indicated that it is not as much as buying three million hectares, because “the land alone does not generate wealth”, but needs many more productive resources, which will increase investment.
“The massive land purchase is something that has been tried many times and has always failed because it has never had the other components. And who is going to profit from it? There are a lot of more gray things than clear,” he concluded.