[News] Colombia: World Power Of Life Or Neo-Fascist Pillar?

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Mon Jun 13 11:08:12 EDT 2022

Colombia: World Power Of Life Or Neo-Fascist Pillar?
By Agustín Laó-Montes - June 12, 2022

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Above Photo: Francia Marquez and Gustavo Petro
The leftist Historical Pact emerged as the favorite of Colombian voters in
the recent election.

*But rightist forces are working to prevent Gustavo Petro and Francia
Marquez from winning in the second round and becoming President and Vice
President of Colombia. A new and devastating utopia of life, where no one
can decide for others even how to die, where love is truly true and
happiness is possible – Gabriel García Márquez.*

We live at a historical crossroads, an era of civilizational crisis where
life and death are at stake worldwide, a situation in which Colombia faces
a deep dilemma. On May 29, 2022, around 21 million citizens voted in
Colombia’s national elections to elect its executive branch. The victory of
the *Historical Pact “Colombia Can”* comes to the fore, an alignment of the
new left with Gustavo Petro as president and Francia Márquez as
vice-presidential formula. It is the first time that a left-wing coalition
has triumphed in a presidential election in Colombia, adding 8.5 million
votes, the largest number obtained in the first electoral round by any
political group in the country’s history. On June 19, a second round will
be held to decide the two main executive positions, since no one obtained
more than 50% of the vote.

It was a Sunday of multiple passions and conflicting expectations,
revealing the political and ideological plurality of one of the countries
with the greatest ethnic-racial, ecological, cultural, and regional
diversity in the Americas and in the world. Colombia is a stronghold, a key
player in the geopolitical strategy of the United States, with nine
military bases that are pillars of the Southern Command. As Secretary of
State in the Barack Obama administration, Hillary Clinton characterized
Colombia as “the most stable democracy in Latin America”, thus defending
the so-called “democratic security” policy of then President Álvaro Uribe,
which left an equation of millions of displaced by the armed conflict,
along with tens of thousands of murdered and disappeared social leaders and
trade unionists, consolidating a regime of violence and corruption that
still prevails in the country. The imperial eyes are set on the Colombian

Since the parliamentary elections and the consultation for presidential
candidacies on March 13, 2022, the most notable political fact have been
the triumph of the duo Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez of the Historical
Pact, itself product of the alliance of a multiplicity of
movements—Afro-descendants, Indigenous, peasants, youth, students,
feminists, LGTBQ+, urban, workers, ecological, pacifists—a broad
constellation of demands that invigorate and combine the country’s social,
cultural, and political struggles. The “Pact” represents a coalition, a
discourse and a program that reinvents the Latin American left, due to its
fully democratic vocation and its intersectional politics that articulates
a plurality of identities, struggles and demands. Gustavo Petro, the most
prominent progressive political figure in Colombia, who was mayor of
Bogotá, is the third time he has participated in the presidential contest,
achieving second place with more than 8 million votes in the 2018 elections.

The biggest novelty in Colombian politics is the candidacy of Francia
Márquez, first for the presidency, and once she comes second in the March
13 consultation, for the country’s second executive position. Francia is an
Afro-descendant lawyer and activist who emerges on the national stage with
her leadership of the struggles of her rural mining community “La Toma”, in
the Department of Cauca. She began as the leader of the communal council of
her neighborhood in Suàrez, Cauca, and as a social movement activist,
particularly the Process of Black Communities-PCN, a social movement
organization that has spearheaded efforts in favor of autonomy, territorial
integrity , against racism, in opposition to the neoliberal paradigms of
development, in favor of peace with justice, human rights, ethnic-racial
and cultural identity, differentiated citizenship and substantive
democracy, from its bases in Black communities, throughout the country.

In 2015, Francia emerged forcefully onto the national stage as the main
organizer of the *March of the Turbans*, a week-long pilgrimage from Cauca
to the capital city of Bogotá, protesting the destruction of the
environment and the assassination of leaders in the community of “La Toma”.
The slogan *Black Women March for Life and in Defense of their
Territories* served
as a paradigmatic example in denouncing the violation of lives and
territories in Black, Indigenous, and Peasant communities across the

Francia Márquez, enunciating a new discourse of protection of the “common
home”, mother nature, brandishing the banner of life against the
destruction, both of the environment and of human lives, which prevails in
Colombia due to the formations of violence promoted by armed actors
(paramilitaries, guerrillas, army) and the neoliberal model, won the
Goldman Prize for environmental justice in 2018, and emerged as vox populi
during the 2021 National Strike. In this context, the *Soy Porque
Somos* Movement
emerged, which launched her presidential candidacy advocating for a broad
project of justice and peace, against the web of violence and
injustices—social, ethnic-racial, ecological, patriarchal—that abound in
the country.

The inclusion of Francia Márquez as a candidate for Vice-President added to
Gustavo Petro’s presidential campaign the voice of a Black woman from the
popular-rural sector, with authenticity and clarity in her criticism of
inequalities and oppression, and a sharp speech of change not before seen
in the Colombian national political scene. It is important to recognize
that Gustavo Petro’s discourse was enriched by Francia Márquez, giving
greater prominence to problems such as racism and sexism and, therefore, to
the demands of Afro-descendants, Indigenous people, feminists and LGTBQ+
sectors. In this key, the Historical Pact sows the seed of a new way of
doing politics, for a more plural and profound project of liberation.

The political discourse of the Historical Pact can be summed up in three
slogans: Gustavo Petro’s assertion that its main purpose is to turn
Colombia into “a world power of life”, and Francia Márquez’s affirmations,
“Let’s go from resistance to power until dignity becomes customary”, and we
want to build a kind of country where you can “*Vivir Sabroso*”. The call
to turn Colombia into “a world power of life” is a statement for peace, an
alert to combat necropolitics, the forces of death, evident both in the
daily sum of political assassinations and femicides, and in the serious
increase in insecurity and social inequality. That is why it is
fundamentally a cry for peace with social justice.

In that vein, when Francia Márquez speaks of the movement “of resistance to
power until dignity becomes customary”, she states the imperative need for
a substantive change in the political equation of the country, that is, a
deepening of democracy where the “*nadies*”—black people, indigenous
people, peasants, young people, from the urban popular sector, LGTBQ+,
etc—who are excluded from political power, come to govern the country. “*Vivir
Sabroso*” is an Afro-descendant vernacular expression from the Chocó region
to name the ideal of life, which in the mouth of Francia Márquez has become
an ethical-political principle to signify the will to rebuild the country
for the sake of a politics for life based on ideals of justice, peace,
equity, and hope, a “politics of love” to recreate the nation.

>From another angle of vision, the great surprise of the elections of May
29, 2022, was the achievement of second place by Rodolfo Hernández, a
millionaire tycoon from the construction industry, who was mayor of the
city of Bucaramanga in the Department of Santander, with almost 6 million
votes, which constitute 28% of the electorate, forcing this to a second
round of elections to decide the executive. Hernández surprised by beating
the former mayor of Medellín—the second most important city in
Colombia—Federico Gutiérrez, recognized as the opposition candidate against
the Historical Pact, promoted by the political and economic elites that
govern the country.

These ruling classes see Petro and France as a serious threat to their
prevailing regime of injustice and corruption. Rodolfo Hernández emerged at
the last minute to second place with a simple moralistic rhetoric against
corruption, manifested in his slogan “Do not steal, do not lie, do not
betray.” He claims to be outside the political class despite being an
elected politician facing legal charges of corruption. His authoritarian
populist discourse is nourished by his express admiration for “a German
thinker named Adolf Hitler”, as he declared in a television interview. In
that vein, in another interview, Hernandez said that he could dispense with
the legislative power to govern, because he intends to preside directly
with “the people”, to which he added that his government management could
well be sustained by declaring the “state of shock” (or state of exception)
by the executive.

His neo-fascist sensibility is fueled by his misogynistic statements that
women are not meant for politics, but “to stay home and cook.” These
demonstrations are related to their xenophobic expressions against
immigrant women from Venezuela in Colombia who, according to Hernández, are
only “machines to give birth to poor babies.” This type of disdain for
subaltern sectors is also evident in his description of families from the
popular sector who are indebted to their housing projects as “little men
who live in debt to me.” We wonder to what extent the electorate is aware
of these actions and how they interpret them. Expressions of support on
social networks indicate that a sector of the electorate sees Hernández as
a benevolent patriarch with the will to “save the country”, as he stated in
his triumphant speech on May 29, celebrating being declared a contender for
Gustavo Petro by the presidency in the second electoral round.

Despite his claim of independence from the country’s political elites, the
official leadership has expressed support for Hernández, beginning with
former President Álvaro Uribe along with the main political figures
associated with *Uribismo* such as Senator María Fernanda Cabal and Paloma
Hernández. In conservative concert, in his public speech accepting that he
lost the elections, Federico Gutiérrez expressed his intention to vote for
Hernández, stating that “we do not want to lose the country”, while
accusing Petro of being “a danger to freedoms, the economy, our families
and our children”. With this move, Gutierrez promoted a rhetoric of fear to
the “socialist threats”, marking an ideological route for the political
contest to come.

The coming to the main arena of Colombian politics of Rodolfo Hernández can
give a clearly neo-fascist character to Colombian power scene. His speech
and strategy are more similar to the new right-wingers like Trump and
Bolsonaro than to the old leaders of the Colombian right-wing like Álvaro
Uribe and Iván Duque, who were defeated by popular will in the May 29
election. Uribe masked his authoritarianism with a rhetoric of “democratic
security”, did not engaged in misogenous language, and made gestures of
recognition of excluded ethnic-racial groups. Again, it is important to
bear in mind that the majority of the active electorate voted for Gustavo
Petro and Francia Márquez, while Rodolfo Hernández declared himself
independent of political groups.

However, Hernández voted against peace in the 2018 plebiscite, defends
heavy-handed policies, and enunciates an authoritarian populist discourse
related not only to Uribe, but even more so to Donald Trump and Jair
Bolsonaro. His affinities with Trump are revealed in his corporate
projection of politics that celebrates him as a prosperous capitalist.
Also, Hernandez’s political advisor, David Lopez, was the one who designed
Trump’s campaign to attract the Latino vote. Hernandez’s similarities with
Bolsonaro are seen in his electoral strategy through social networks,
pragmatically identifying what message he is giving to each sector, and
refusing to participate in presidential debates.

His affinity with both Bolsonaro and Trump is evident in his aggressive,
belligerent, misogynistic and xenophobic speech that is demonstrated both
in his speech and in his attitudes of insulting and violating any different
opinion. His physical assault on councilor Jhon Claro, when he was mayor of
Bucaramanga, has been widely seen on Colombian television. Hernandez’s
authoritarian sensibilities, along with his lack of political experience on
the national stage, coupled with his lack of a historical project for the
country, in a serious context of crisis and polarization, make up a perfect
formula for neo-fascism.

In a country that has one of the highest scales of inequality in the world,
which maintains the highest rates of forced displacement and food
insecurity (or hunger), in addition to the highest levels of murder of
social leaders and trade unionists, the plainly pragmatic and demagogically
post-ideological political character of Rodolfo Hernández, combined with
his lack of a clear government program, point to the danger of the
consolidation of a neo-fascist regime in the event of of winning the
elections in the second round on June 19.

Colombia’s historical dilemma in the presidential elections of June 19,
2022 is clearly outlined as one between facilitating the path towards
consolidating a neo-fascist regime or cultivating a politics to transform
the country into “a world power for life”, as Francia Márquez says for “*Vivir
Sabroso*” (“Living Tasty”). Playing this drum, Gabriel García Márquez,
forty years ago, in his memorable speech upon receiving the Nobel Prize in
1982, said, as if prophesying this moment: “We, the inventors of fables,
who believe everything, feel we have the right to believe, that it is not
too long yet. too late to undertake the creation of the opposite utopia. A
new and devastating utopia of life where no one can decide for others even
how to die, where love is truly true and happiness is possible, and where
the lineages condemned to 100 years of solitude have finally and forever a
second chance on earth.”

Francia Márquez, with around 800, 000 votes, came second, after Gustavo
Petro, among the candidates for the presidency of the Historical Pact in
the March 13 consultation. France came in third place of the candidates of
all political parties in said consultation, which placed it as the third
presidential force in the Colombian political scene.

*Soy Porque Somos* which literally translates as “I am because we are”,
deliberately invokes the Africana category *Ubuntu*, that signifies the
“good life” in Africana political theory based on a condition of harmony
between human beings as well as with all beings including nature and

A literal translation of “Vivir Sabroso” will be “living tasty”.

Francia Márquez has taken the expression the “nadies” (which translates as
“the nobodies”)” from the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, turning it into
a category to signify the excluded political subjectivities that she
represents, and whose rise to the center of political power constitutes a
kind of political revolution in the country.

The concept of “authoritarian populism” was conceived by the Afro-British
intellectual-activist Stuart Hall to characterize the discourse and
politics of Margaret Thatcher who attracted wide support in the British
citizenry with a harangue of “representing the people” above the interests
of the ruling political class. In the broad and diverse debate on Latin
American populism there is a consensus that the figure of the caudillo is a
common element to populism as a discourse and as a government strategy. In
the debates, a distinction is made between right-wing populism, where we
place authoritarian populism and left-wing populism.
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