-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — What kind of government can we expect from Colombia's president-elect, conservative Iván Duque? He has limited government experience, having worked as a junior assistant to two conservative finance ministers, Roberto Junguito and Alberto Carrasquilla (between 2002 and 2007), and as a cultural official in the Inter-American Development Bank, thanks to the outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos. But he ultimately owes his entire political career to former president Álvaro Uribe, who put him in his closed Senate list four years ago. Duque is disciplined, has a sharp memory and some talent for singing and dancing, but little formal training in either economics or political science.

This all means that he is bound to be greatly dependent on the architect of the extreme right-wing coalition that has raised him to power: Mr. Uribe.

One worries about the coalition backing Duque, not to mention the clientelist politicians who joined his bandwagon when it began to look like he might win. In fact he needs the legislative support of more than 55 senators to govern without problems and he only has 19, which is why he will offer ministries and positions to parties like the liberal Radical Change (Cambio Radical, with 16 senators), the Conservatives (15 senators), the centrist Unity Party (14) and the Liberals led by former president César Gaviria (7). He will offer lesser positions to other, prominent figures like the former conservative inspector-general, Alejandro Ordoñez and the former Attorney-General Viviane Morales. This means that all the old politicians are back in the saddle, as if nothing had been promised during the elections.

Ordoñez and Morales will play an influential, ideological role in family policies, which will discriminate against single mothers, youth pregnancies and the LGBT population. There will be discrimination against native communities and Afro-Colombians, and education policies will be swayed away from science, toward the ruling coalition's religious ideas.

Duque's continuing denunciations of what is left of the FARC, the country's mostly disarmed communist rebels, will end up strengthening its dissidents who have not accepted the peace process because they do not believe it will be implemented. The incipient peace process with ELN, the other Marxist guerrillas, may well grind to a halt and the group may even absorb FARC dissidents, reviving the specter of civil war in Colombia. We shall miss the departing Santos (who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his efforts to resolve the civil war).

Washington is interested in regime change in Venezuela.

This will be a government that will seek to downsize a state still plagued with clientelism and endemic corruption. It will cut taxes for the rich and neglect already ailing public services. Public universities will decline and once more become centers of resistance to the regime.

Few have reflected on the affinities between people like Duque and Uribe with Donald J. Trump, or what this will entail for Colombia's international relations in an increasingly fractured world. The United States will not invade Venezuela since its soldiers are already risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is interested in regime change there. We shall therefore have a bellicose Uribe-Duque administration that will aid in a blockade of our neighbor's economy, and perhaps help topple President Nicolás Maduro. That would mean thousands more Venezuelans fleeing to Colombia and Brazil; or, another massive humanitarian crisis.
Luckily, there will be a block of 27 senators who will act as opposition. Either way, we will have a rough four years ahead.


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