NewsLatin AmericaThe opposition reminds Petro that the street does not belong to the left

The opposition reminds Petro that the street does not belong to the left

The social outbreak of 2021 that cornered the Government of Ivan Duque and brought thousands of Colombians to protest throughout the country marked the political future of Colombia. Gustavo Petro acknowledged this Tuesday that he won the Presidency thanks to the fact that the youth then took to the streets and wants to recover that momentum. The months of political peace that accompanied his rise to power last August are over. The opposition has raised its tone against the Government and is beginning to show its teeth. Petro wants his people connected to his project, but the opposition refuses to let him stage the street. The marches against Petro mobilized this Wednesday almost twice as many people as those harangued by the president.

The two demonstrations that marked the week showed a picture of what is happening in the country. On the one hand, an opposition without clear leaders that was knocked out after the 2022 presidential elections, when its traditional parties were swept away in the first round, but that is beginning to wake up from the bad dream of the polls. The march against Petro showed that more and more people are upset with the Government and a reform plan that has picked up speed in recent weeks, with the presentation of the sanitation company and the upcoming arrival of the pension and labor benefits. The march, without speeches, started and ended on time. The demonstrators almost filled the Plaza de Bolivar and, convinced of their victory over the day before, they dispersed at lunchtime.

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Petro is a political animal of the public square. His figure as a leader was forged on stage, before thousands of people who for years have listened to his long speeches between ecstatic and numb by the president’s good oratory. The left, due to the country’s own history, is more accustomed to taking to the streets against it than in favor of it. Even when they accompanied Petro during the electoral campaign behind it there was a form of protest against the status quo. The president summoned his people on Tuesday to show his support for the reforms, but the highlight of the day was not the march, but his final speech.

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A protester seen through a flag, in the Plaza de Bolivar in Bogota.Chelo Camacho

Petro is interested in transferring the political fight to the streets. In the midst of so many reforms and so many open fronts that the president has, in addition to an institutional communication that tends to disorder and a multiplicity of voices, the message that reaches the citizenry is confusing. The objective of the march on Tuesday was, in essence, to explain the health reform, although in the end he talked about everything and more. With such a broad reform program, tension and uncertainty begin to spread among an increasingly numerous sector, which the president refers to as those who are reluctant to change.


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Citizens greet members of the military police during the march this Wednesday.
Citizens greet members of the military police during the march this Wednesday.CELLO CAMACHO

These are the ones who begin to protest against the government. They don’t seem unaccustomed to the street. In Colombia, the protest, as in other countries like neighboring Peru, is not synonymous with the left. The marches against the peace process of President Juan Manuel Santos with the FARC were not only massive, but effective. The campaign of the opposition to the process managed to impose a no to the agreements in the plebiscite promoted by the then president, in one of the most unexpected electoral results on record.

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On the horizon are not only the months that will mark Petro’s term, with his success or not in approving the reforms, but also an electoral appointment that will shape territorial power. The president needs to consolidate his victory at the polls in 2022 by extending his support in the local and regional elections in October. For that, he needs to mobilize his party, blurred since he became president and advocated for a broad and diverse cabinet, which received applause from his detractors, but left his staunch cold.

Colombian politics, the one that always lives as in an eternal electoral campaign, already smells the polls. In October, the right stakes its survival and the left the strength of its project. Both will be measured in the streets.


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