Buried news: Colombia's poor rejected socialism, big time, out of a credible fear of 'another Venezuela'

Sunday's election of a hardcore conservative in Colombia has left the media elites and their pundits befuddled.

Some are calling Ivan Duque, the 41-year-old new conservative president-elect a "populist" as if to suggest that both President Trump and the late unlamented Venezuelan strongman, Hugo Chávez, are all dreadful peas in the same pod.  Others are speculating that Colombia elected another Emmanuel Macron, as if France's youthful, namby-pamby president amounted to a comparable sea change to what this election represents.  We heard of the new president summed up as "pro-business" by the Wall Street Journal, as if that was all he meant to voters, and more pointedly still, summed up as "right-wing" by Agence France-Presse and National Public Radio, both of which are clearly displeased.  He's also been accused of being a "puppet" of former president Alvaro Uribe, the country's Reagan-like leader from 2002-2010, who put terrorists on the run and changed Colombia's reputation from night-haunted hellhole to success story, even a vacation paradise.  The press dutifully spread the puppet stuff far and wide.

The best story I saw comes from a local, on-the-ground source.  Here's Colombia Report's headline: "Iconic Medellin slum votes Duque to avoid 'another Venezuela.'"


Medellín at La Sierra.  Image by Monica Showalter.

Now the clarity comes. Poor people voted for a genuine conservative out of terror of becoming another Venezuela, because they know what it is up close.  And yes, those are the vaunted poor who for years we have been hearing are so poor that they can vote only for candidates who offer to shovel the most pork.  They didn't.  And it wasn't even close.  Duque won against his opponent, socialist ex-guerrilla and former Hugo Chávez admirer Gustavo Petro, by a margin of about 54-42, according to the New York Times.

That didn't merit any headlines from larger news sources?

It gets worse for the press, because the Colombia Reports story is chock-full of on-the-ground shoe-leather reporting illustrating just that from the poor: an absolutely clear-eyed rejection of socialism, based on the example coming, and coming, out of Venezuela:

"You know what everyone's saying," said Teresita Alvarez, 63, as she walked to the polling station with her daughter and granddaughter.

"He [Petro] could bring Colombia down – he could make it like Venezuela.  No one here wants that."

Strangely, both Teresita and her 36-year-old daughter, Liliana, who have always lived in La Sierra, voted for centrist Sergio Fajado the first time round.  Their second vote was a massive swing to the right.

Builder Alex Gutierrez, 40, picked Duque for the same reasons.

"We've seen the problems with Venezuela. We don't want to risk that happening here," he said.


Medellín.  Image by Monica Showalter.

The Washington Post also reported similar talk from voters but buried those remarks in its otherwise hand-wringing piece about Duque:

"[Leftwing presidential candidate Gustavo] Petro is another Maduro," said Marta Quintero, a 54-year-old Bogota real estate agent, referring to Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro, whose country is confronting crippling hyperinflation and soaring hunger.  "All you need to do is look over our border, at Venezuela, to see that the left is no solution."

That's what the reporters were hearing over there with their own ears, over and over, particularly in Medellín, home to one of the hemisphere's largest shantytowns, ground zero of 1980s cocaine wars, Pablo Escobar, and all sorts of mayhem from its past, which has since calmed down, but it remains no paradise for the poor.


Medellín.  Image by Monica Showalter

Let's get a look at this: Venezuela's collapse and disintegration are the outcome of socialism wherever it is tried.  Venezuelans are going without food, medical care, gasoline, car parts, and pretty much everything else as a result of the signature shortages of socialism, brought on by price and currency controls and exacerbated by falling oil production.  That latter problem means that not even welfare handouts, the absolute rationale for resentful populist socialism, are forthcoming.  What's more, Venezuelans are swamped in crime, the world's worst; corruption, the world's worst; and hyper-inflation north of 33,000%, once again, the world's worst.  Naturally, the people experiencing that are fleeing – and to any place they can.  The first stop is Colombia, which harbors at least 600,000 legal refugees and illegal migrants, who are all probably in the same dire circumstances.  The New York Times reports that 30,000 Venezuelans are crossing into Colombia per day.

Now, who is most likely to experience Venezuela's vast refugee wave up close and personal, as well as hear from Venezuelans firsthand of the horrors they have experienced under Chavista socialism?  That's right: the poor of Colombia's shantytowns.  Desperate people connect with other stressed people.  By this presidential vote, what we see is that Colombia's poor of the shantytowns pretty much came to the conclusion that they didn't want any of that socialist nightmare near them.  No socialist populist yelling about yanqui imperialismo and promises of bags of beans could persuade these very poor people this time to vote for anyone promoting socialism, because the example of Venezuela is that baleful.  The very word must stink to them, given what they have heard from the Venezuelans.  The siren song of Duque's leftist opponent, Gustavo Petro, a socialist, an ex-guerrilla, an ex-terrorist, someone who has openly admired Hugo Chávez in the past, bearing goodies for the poor, did not persuade these shantytown-dwelling Colombians to vote for him.

That's news.

Since I've been to that very neighborhood, and recommend a good documentary on that 'hood called La Sierra, all I can say is, this represents a sea change, a seismic shift, a broken paradigm that the poor will always side with the socialists because the socialists always side with the poor.  That myth is gone now.  The poor of Colombia have profoundly rejected socialism.  Colombians instead elected their very own version of Donald Trump, who has vowed to cut taxes; has promised to get control of Colombia's borders; has already scared the FARC terrorist guerrillas so bad that they are offering to come to the negotiating table; and, above all, seems to mean to keep Colombia from becoming anything like socialist Venezuela.  That's news.  ¡Viva Colombia!


Medellín's La Sierra area.  Photo by Monica Showalter.


Medellín's La Sierra, viewed from the Metrocable.  Image by Monica Showalter.

Sunday's election of a hardcore conservative in Colombia has left the media elites and their pundits befuddled.

Some are calling Ivan Duque, the 41-year-old new conservative president-elect a "populist" as if to suggest that both President Trump and the late unlamented Venezuelan strongman, Hugo Chávez, are all dreadful peas in the same pod.  Others are speculating that Colombia elected another Emmanuel Macron, as if France's youthful, namby-pamby president amounted to a comparable sea change to what this election represents.  We heard of the new president summed up as "pro-business" by the Wall Street Journal, as if that was all he meant to voters, and more pointedly still, summed up as "right-wing" by Agence France-Presse and National Public Radio, both of which are clearly displeased.  He's also been accused of being a "puppet" of former president Alvaro Uribe, the country's Reagan-like leader from 2002-2010, who put terrorists on the run and changed Colombia's reputation from night-haunted hellhole to success story, even a vacation paradise.  The press dutifully spread the puppet stuff far and wide.

The best story I saw comes from a local, on-the-ground source.  Here's Colombia Report's headline: "Iconic Medellin slum votes Duque to avoid 'another Venezuela.'"


Medellín at La Sierra.  Image by Monica Showalter.

Now the clarity comes. Poor people voted for a genuine conservative out of terror of becoming another Venezuela, because they know what it is up close.  And yes, those are the vaunted poor who for years we have been hearing are so poor that they can vote only for candidates who offer to shovel the most pork.  They didn't.  And it wasn't even close.  Duque won against his opponent, socialist ex-guerrilla and former Hugo Chávez admirer Gustavo Petro, by a margin of about 54-42, according to the New York Times.

That didn't merit any headlines from larger news sources?

It gets worse for the press, because the Colombia Reports story is chock-full of on-the-ground shoe-leather reporting illustrating just that from the poor: an absolutely clear-eyed rejection of socialism, based on the example coming, and coming, out of Venezuela:

"You know what everyone's saying," said Teresita Alvarez, 63, as she walked to the polling station with her daughter and granddaughter.

"He [Petro] could bring Colombia down – he could make it like Venezuela.  No one here wants that."

Strangely, both Teresita and her 36-year-old daughter, Liliana, who have always lived in La Sierra, voted for centrist Sergio Fajado the first time round.  Their second vote was a massive swing to the right.

Builder Alex Gutierrez, 40, picked Duque for the same reasons.

"We've seen the problems with Venezuela. We don't want to risk that happening here," he said.


Medellín.  Image by Monica Showalter.

The Washington Post also reported similar talk from voters but buried those remarks in its otherwise hand-wringing piece about Duque:

"[Leftwing presidential candidate Gustavo] Petro is another Maduro," said Marta Quintero, a 54-year-old Bogota real estate agent, referring to Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro, whose country is confronting crippling hyperinflation and soaring hunger.  "All you need to do is look over our border, at Venezuela, to see that the left is no solution."

That's what the reporters were hearing over there with their own ears, over and over, particularly in Medellín, home to one of the hemisphere's largest shantytowns, ground zero of 1980s cocaine wars, Pablo Escobar, and all sorts of mayhem from its past, which has since calmed down, but it remains no paradise for the poor.


Medellín.  Image by Monica Showalter

Let's get a look at this: Venezuela's collapse and disintegration are the outcome of socialism wherever it is tried.  Venezuelans are going without food, medical care, gasoline, car parts, and pretty much everything else as a result of the signature shortages of socialism, brought on by price and currency controls and exacerbated by falling oil production.  That latter problem means that not even welfare handouts, the absolute rationale for resentful populist socialism, are forthcoming.  What's more, Venezuelans are swamped in crime, the world's worst; corruption, the world's worst; and hyper-inflation north of 33,000%, once again, the world's worst.  Naturally, the people experiencing that are fleeing – and to any place they can.  The first stop is Colombia, which harbors at least 600,000 legal refugees and illegal migrants, who are all probably in the same dire circumstances.  The New York Times reports that 30,000 Venezuelans are crossing into Colombia per day.

Now, who is most likely to experience Venezuela's vast refugee wave up close and personal, as well as hear from Venezuelans firsthand of the horrors they have experienced under Chavista socialism?  That's right: the poor of Colombia's shantytowns.  Desperate people connect with other stressed people.  By this presidential vote, what we see is that Colombia's poor of the shantytowns pretty much came to the conclusion that they didn't want any of that socialist nightmare near them.  No socialist populist yelling about yanqui imperialismo and promises of bags of beans could persuade these very poor people this time to vote for anyone promoting socialism, because the example of Venezuela is that baleful.  The very word must stink to them, given what they have heard from the Venezuelans.  The siren song of Duque's leftist opponent, Gustavo Petro, a socialist, an ex-guerrilla, an ex-terrorist, someone who has openly admired Hugo Chávez in the past, bearing goodies for the poor, did not persuade these shantytown-dwelling Colombians to vote for him.

That's news.

Since I've been to that very neighborhood, and recommend a good documentary on that 'hood called La Sierra, all I can say is, this represents a sea change, a seismic shift, a broken paradigm that the poor will always side with the socialists because the socialists always side with the poor.  That myth is gone now.  The poor of Colombia have profoundly rejected socialism.  Colombians instead elected their very own version of Donald Trump, who has vowed to cut taxes; has promised to get control of Colombia's borders; has already scared the FARC terrorist guerrillas so bad that they are offering to come to the negotiating table; and, above all, seems to mean to keep Colombia from becoming anything like socialist Venezuela.  That's news.  ¡Viva Colombia!


Medellín's La Sierra area.  Photo by Monica Showalter.


Medellín's La Sierra, viewed from the Metrocable.  Image by Monica Showalter.