Colombia: the reforms promoted by Gustavo Petro cause the first government crisis

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The social reforms of the president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, detonated, before completing seven months in government, the first crisis of his cabinet from which the Minister of Education, Alejandro Gaviria, a critic of the proposed changes to health care, was dismissed, and with him the leaders of Culture and Sport.

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The changes were announced last night by the president in a speech in which he said his government “will not give up reform to improve health, pensions and working conditions fair for all Colombians”.

In this sense, the replacement of Gaviria with Aurora Vergara, one of his deputy ministers of education, was not surprising since the official, minister of health for seven years in the government of Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018), He is a critic of industry reform.

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“It is very difficult for a minister to try to maintain a slightly dissident line in the government; Alejandro Gaviria had reservations about health care reform because he had previously been minister of health, he gambled on entering the government and try to process these differences to seek consensus and moderate that reform in a way, but it didn’t work,” Yann Basset, a professor of political science at the Universidad del Rosario, told EFE.

Gustavo Petro, President of Colombia.  photo by AFP

Gustavo Petro, President of Colombia. photo by AFP

empowered women ministers

In the speech in which Petro announced the ministerial changes, the ministers of Health, Carolina Corcho, and of Labor, Gloria Ramírez, appeared next to him in the front row. promoters of the reforms that the president considers a prioritya sign that both have won this first battle against the critics of the changes.

“If one sees the image of last night, with the two reform ministers next to the president, yes, it is symbolically a recognition for them“, says Basset, who however clarifies that Petro had previously met with the heads of allied parties to obtain legislative support for the reforms and had expressed willingness to negotiate.

The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, announced on Monday the departure of the ministers of education, Alejandro Gaviria;  Culture, Patricia Ariza, and Sport, María Isabel Urrutia.  Photo EFE

The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, announced on Monday the departure of the ministers of education, Alejandro Gaviria; Culture, Patricia Ariza, and Sport, María Isabel Urrutia. Photo EFE

The president said the government is “at a decisive moment for our reforms” and will continue to “seek consent and agreements to consolidate and deepen” those changes.

“We have agreed that the presidents of the parties will bring us proposals for the articles they believe should be changed,” Petro added yesterday.

The president clarified that neither the possible inclusion in the healthcare reform of the proposals of the allied parties nor the ministerial innovations will change it will lead to charges for those who support it in Congress.

“The ministerial changes do not depend on the meeting with the presidents of the parties”, wrote the president on Twitter, who dedicated this Tuesday to meetings with a commission for the attention of war veterans and other internal affairs.

The health controversy

Healthcare reform has caused a deep controversy in the country because, according to his critics, it will jeopardize the sustainability of a system which, despite its many flaws, works, but Minister Corcho said over the weekend in an interview with EFE that it is to be expected that the design of law presented to Congress undergoes amendments.

“The bills are always modified in Congress (…) we are obviously aware that in the variegated democratic debate in the Congress of the Republic, modifications will be presented, like all bills, as happened with the tax reform and as happens regularly with the projects presented by the Government”, manifested.

If the reasons for the change of the Minister of Education are clear, that of the heads of Culture, Patricia Ariza, and of Sport, María Isabel Urrutia, is not so and those concerned assure it they learned of his firing minutes before the announcement and that Petro didn’t even communicate with them.

The replacement of both would be due to alleged complaints about his lack of managementbut under no circumstances should replacement make way for new allies in the legislative reform process.

“These changes have nothing to do with the reform”, says Basset, who assures that among the theses under consideration is that the president “took the opportunity to change these ministers because he considered, for various reasons, That They didn’t give the expected results.”Basset said.

Urrutia’s replacement in Sport will be Astrid Rodríguez, while Ariza’s in Culture will be, as coach, Ignacio Zorro, who according to local media, he is a trusted man of the first lady, Verónica Alcocerand piano teacher to one of the president’s daughters.

With this first ministerial crisis, Petro seems to have sent messages that he is willing to go for his reforms, that he will not allow “friendly fire” in his cabinet, and that his closest aides need to show greater results.

Source: Clarin

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