By breakfast you know what lunch will be like. The breakdown of the negotiations between Gaviria, as head of liberalism, and the Historical Pact is the preamble to the difficult relations that a possible Petro government will have with the political class in Congress. The reason for the breakup was, according to Gaviria, the unacceptable language used by Francia Márquez, recently appointed Petro’s vice-presidential formula. But it is clear that there are more substantive issues for the agreement between Liberals and Petristas to fail. These issues involve two visions of politics, both in its content and in its methods, which inevitably lead to irreconcilable positions.
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Petro’s government proposal contains radical transformations in society, in the economy and in the State. They are widely known because Petro announces them from time to time in the campaign: put an end to oil exploitation, flexibility with the issuance of money, imposition of tariffs, end mining, creation of a large state bank, use of AFP pension savings, etc. In short, they are proposals that imply State intervention in the economy and an increase in public spending that goes far beyond what is planned in the institutions and the existing order.
In other words, what Petro is going to ask for in Congress to advance his government is going to be far superior to what each president normally asks of the political class.
It is so well known that it will be so, according to Daniel Coronell and other reports, Gaviria himself introduced a series of red lines for a possible negotiation with Petro that included, among others, the non-reelection of the president, the independence of the institutions and respect for the autonomy of the Banco de la República. They are red lines that not only the Liberals are going to claim, but also the bulk of professional political blocs in Congress if Petro is president. If they go beyond these lines, the power of the congressmen and of the political leaders in the opposition would be surpassed by that of a president who intends to transform the country without a minimum of consensus with them.
The breakdown of the negotiations between Gaviria and the Historical Pact is the preamble to the difficult relations that an eventual Petro government will have with the political class in Congress.
Petro surely knows that he can win the presidency without the backing of the Liberal Party. The machines in the presidential elections in Colombia, except when there are relatively small differences, are not definitive. But he must now be aware that he is going to have a Congress without majorities. The arithmetic of seats changed substantially with the break with the Liberals. There are 15 senators and 32 fewer representatives that he will have after the breakup. Petro will then have to negotiate them one by one and not as a bench, just as he will have to do it with many other benches because, despite the success of his votes, the Historical Pact is far from constituting a majority in Congress.
The contents will not be the only problem. The methods are also predicted to be problematic. Petro has spoken in the middle of the presidential debate of disobeying the decisions of Congress and appealing to the people. He did not elaborate on this, but one would assume that this means some kind of mobilization to impose institutional changes. Less risky is the use of an economic emergency caused by hunger to facilitate a government at the point of decrees – a tool that the last presidents have already been exploiting. Once again, the power of the political class in Congress would be diminished.
Thus, the vice-presidential nomination of Francia Márquez indicates that Petro’s political project has, for now, a stronger commitment to his more ideological bases than to the political class that aspires to moderate him and govern with him. There is a reason for Roy’s concern after Gaviria’s letter.
(Read all of Gustavo Duncan’s columns in EL TIEMPO, here)