Colombia needs a Donald Trump to blow apart 200 years of elite rule.
Since independence, Colombia has been governed by clique largely governing in their own interest.
Colombia should follow 2016’s anti-establishment lead. Ivory Towers have had their day (for now).
‘Trump in charge of Colombia’ will send the snowflakes into meltdown, I know. But bear with me. This is a metaphorical Donald Trump; not the real one.
It’s what Trump represents, not the character of the man himself.
Imagine Colombia’s elections were won by an outsider without an electoral machine.
Imagine it mattered what a politician promised, not the patronage he was able to secure (or, the number of votes he could buy).
Colombia’s elections are won not by campaigning ideas, but by a combination of backroom deals and rank corruption. Politics with some politics would be truly revolutionary in Colombia.
No. I’m not supporting Donald Trump’s ideas. But to have a president who does what (at least some of) the people want, would be entirely novel in Colombia.
Current president Juan Manuel Santos, has done nothing of note to reform health, education, law and order, justice. But the polls repeatedly show this is what the public care about.
And little wonder. Top justices admit the system is corrupt, sclerotic and often arbitrary. The UN ranks Colombia’s education as among the worst in the world. Healthcare is fine if you’re a millionaire, and the police blame the victim of a crime more than they pursue a culprit.
Colombia’s elites have failed.
Colombia needs an anti-corruption candidate (more on that in later posts). It needs someone to drain the swamp.
Colombia needs someone to stick up for the forgotten middle and lower middle classes (on whom this current president has heaped tax rise after tax rise).
Colombia needs someone to focus on what’s right for the nation, not just on what looks good in the international media. Mr Santos is popular abroad, but loathed at home. He’s much like Macavity the cat, disappearing (in this case overseas) every time there’s a crisis at home.
With some justification, readers may think me hypocritical. I am ordinarily quick to vaunt my antipathy to populism, of the left or the right.
Yes, populists offer a demagogic politics based on often infantile solutions to complex, adult problems. Yes, populists neither campaign in poetry (but ugly rhetoric), nor govern in prose (but often chaotic incompetence). Yes, populists are often authoritarian and illiberal.
I know all this. But is it a price worth paying to break with Colombia’s political class?
Perhaps it’s been tried before.
Alvaro Uribe was a populist. Not exactly an outsider, but he wasn’t of aristocratic blood, either. Yet his reputation has been trashed; an authoritarian demagogue with, plenty will argue, questionable links to, well, you know…
And there was Gustavo Petro, former Mayor of Bogota. He was an outsider alright, a demobilised guerrilla from an unremarkable family. But he was hopelessly chaotic, demagogic and incompetent. A man unfit to manage a petrol station, they cruelly said.
Earlier, there were other populists who fought to move politics away from the families Santos, Lleras, Lopez, etc. First there was Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. He was shot and killed. There was later Luis Carlos Galan. He was shot too. Then there were some hard lefties. They were also shot.
Past failure shouldn’t put us off. It’s the game the political class has played for generations. You create idea that there is no hope, that election results are inevitable, and that resistance is futile…
Colombia elects its next president a little over 12 months from now. The number of candidates will be laughably long. And we’re already seeing the elite coalescing around “continuity” figures. I’ll talk about these in future posts.
The good news is, we already have an anti-corruption ticket – Claudia Lopez and Sergio Fajardo (again, more later).
The media and the political class are already scoffing at them, writing them off. If that sounds rather familiar, it ought to.
Time is ripe for change. One day Colombians will vote out the elite. If for nothing more than to give them a break. Next year could be that moment.
Kevin is a political consultant and lobbyist who cut his teeth working in the UK Parliament. He is a regular panelist on Colombian television, a political communication strategist and a university lecturer. Kevin is the founder and editor of Colombia Politics.