Petro and the reality of governing
A couple of nights ago, I got a taste of politics in Colombia. A 40-something lady in my class was worried about her country going to the left. A young woman had the smile on her face that reminded me of the Obama "hope and change" rallies of 2008.
Two Colombians and their faces told the story.
Yes, it's hard to believe that Gustavo Petro, a leftist of leftists, will be the president of Colombia. I hate these results, but they are what they are.
Let's hope reality is a bigger threat to his presidency than a weak center-right candidate. In other words, president-elect Petro may find that climate change and promoting social justice make for a better campaign speech than a governing plan.
There is a good article about this in Bloomberg:
To have any hope of succeeding in the face of global inflation and other hard-to-control headwinds, Petro must inject a dose of realism into an electoral program that verges on the naive.
Protectionism won't solve any of Colombia's problems.
His tax changes will struggle to meet spending promises that include wider pensions coverage and state jobs for those without work, even as unemployment is running at about 11%.
He is right to focus on the energy transition, but how exactly will he fill the revenue hole left by hydrocarbons, once new exploration is halted and energy outfit Ecopetrol turned into a wind and solar producer?
Crude is still Colombia's biggest export, and sudden shifts can give investor confidence a nasty knock.
Assets tumbled after markets re-opened on Tuesday following the election.
Talk of bypassing the normal workings of government by declaring an "economic emergency," meanwhile, is both short-sighted and alarming for an already vulnerable democracy that few trust.
So President Petro has a little bit of a challenge. He won't be lucky like Fidel Castro, who was subsidized by the USSR, or Chávez, who used oil revenues to stay in power. Yes, you never heard Hugo Chávez talk about climate change!
So I will be cautiously optimistic. I trust that Colombia's middle class, who generally rejected Petro, will make a course correction. Petro should check out Chile, where leftist Boric's approval rating has sunk to 33%, or Peru, where leftist Castillo can't get anything done.
Again, I will trust Colombia's middle class and hope a Petro presidency is more practical and less ideological.
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Image: Arturo de La Barrera.