Colombian Politics

Zuluaga Or Santos, It’ll Be Status-Quo For The Foreigner In Colombia…And Status-Quo In This Part Of The World Is Pretty Darn Great

Living in the tropics, you understand why no tropical country developed in any substantial way until air conditioning arrived on the scene.

At home in Medellin, where we’ve spent the past week, we rely on more natural measures to keep things comfortable. First thing upon arrival, I push open the windows and terrace doors of our apartment and leave them open to the cool mountain air until we take our leave.

Which, unfortunately, is imminent. Do business in Panama City…relax in Medellin…

As I write, we’re packing for the return trip to business-as-usual in Panama.

We’ve managed to get some business done in Medellin, too. Specifically, for example, we spent an afternoon with our local attorney.

“Who will win the election this weekend?” I asked.

“Zuluaga,” he replied. “He has the backing of Uribe, and Uribe is still held is high esteem. He carries a lot of weight, and he has put it behind Zuluaga because he, like many Colombians, thinks that Santos has been too soft in his dealings with the guerrillas.”

“What would Zuluaga mean for foreign investors in this country?” I wondered.

“Uribe, when he was president, gave great speeches,” our attorney explained. “He’s a strong public speaker. And he would speak often about ‘three little eggs.’

“The first egg was democracy. Colombia is the oldest democracy in the Americas. We Colombians are proud of that, and we understand that a continued strong democratic tradition is important to our continued growth.

“The second egg was security. When Uribe spoke of security he meant: Eliminate the FARC. Literally. And he did eliminate many of them. Today they number in the thousands, rather than the tens of thousands, as they did during the height of their presence. This is because Uribe tracked them down and killed them. For him, this is a personal fight. His father was killed by the guerrillas.

“Santos has adopted a less dramatic strategy in his efforts to deal with the FARC. He wants them eliminated, too, of course, as we all do. But he has pursued diplomatic measures. And he is making progress. The two sides have been in talks in Cuba for the past year-and-a-half, and they’ve just come to terms on the third of five points. I figure in another year, maybe they’ll have reached some accord on the remaining two points…though there’s a reason these two points have been left to last. The fifth point, for example, is to do with how much prison time the FARC will serve if they surrender. The FARC want to surrender and be set free. Santos has been suggesting some minimal prison time. Uribe wants every FARC member to serve the maximum possible for his crimes.

“Really, though, it doesn’t matter. At this point, the FARC are dead men walking. Their numbers continue to dwindle, and they have no ability now to recruit new members. Even if the peace talks fail, the days of the FARC are numbered.

“Uribe’s third little egg was foreign investment. Under Uribe, our country enjoyed tremendous growth of foreign direct investment.

“These, then, were the three requirements, as Uribe saw them, for Colombia’s long-term prosperity. Zuluaga, if he is elected, as I believe he will be, would take up where Uribe left off, pursuing these same three big-picture agendas.

“Really, he wouldn’t be too different from Santos. In fact, Uribe isn’t too different from Santos in most ways other than his position on dealing with the FARC. All three are center-right candidates. Bottom line, whether Santos is re-elected or Zuluaga beats him out, things will continue status-quo.”

Sounds good to me. Status-quo in this part of the world is pretty darn great, whether you’re a foreign investor or a foreigner in search of a really appealing place to hang your hat.

Kathleen Peddicord

French Course Online