Thursday, June 17

Colombian Tax Reform: It is not the fault of others | Opinion

A demonstration against the tax reform of the Government of Iván Duque, in Bogotá, on April 29.
A demonstration against the tax reform of the Government of Iván Duque, in Bogotá, on April 29.LUISA GONZALEZ / Reuters

Three days in a row with the shout of indignation turned into cacerolazos, whistles, and harangues that slip through the masks of the dealers. Nothing could contain the call for a strike as happened last November. The streets are once again the scene of disagreement and uncertainty, of the rejection of a necessary tax reform proposal, but without consensus when the figures confirm that Colombia fell back a decade in poverty. 42.5% of the population, 21 million people, thousands of families who cannot eat twice a day. If they eat.

The images are repeated after each protest. At the end of the day, men and women of all ages walk exhausted looking for transportation to get to their homes. The revisionists knock down the statues, in the territories discontent is expressed by the murder of social leaders, and the cities are unable to regain normalcy because the authority does not exist, it only has a form of repression.

After each march, President Iván Duque appears saying that everything is criminal vandalism, but no. The march is degraded, yes, the shops are looted, the transport stations attacked, too, but the reality is that the people are desperate and the majority protest peacefully.

The voices of the leaders acquire a tone of despair, such as that of former president Álvaro Uribe asking to take the army out to the streets minutes after asking for consensus; that of former president Cesar Gaviria saying that they will not shut him up, that he was not afraid of Pablo Escobar! Others from the opposition like Cambio Radical make themselves heard through spots in the media, those of Gustavo Petro’s Colombia Humana are pointed out as being responsible for the excesses because they are in tune with the anguish of the people. Everything is always the fault of others, Petro, Venezuelans, Santistas, environmentalists, everyone, except themselves.

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But the strike continues, it is called again for next May 19 and with the indigenous people united. There are no interlocutors and everything seems like a dialogue of the deaf, the leaders of the workers’ centrals shout, the president continues to appear on television every night to count the few vaccines that he has been able to manage when Colombia, according to the World Data, is this week, the fourth country with the highest mortality rate after Brazil and India. As if nothing that happened was with him. Like someone who is convinced that the path that has been traced is the correct one. Television reflectors blur the view. The arrogance of the charges always charges inexperience.

Unemployment, tax and slow vaccination in an election year. A perfect cocktail that does not reveal the realities we are facing. The disagreement comes from behind, from an unhealed rupture between institutions and citizens and from a kicked-off peace. Today is a substantive issue that needs much more to withdraw a text of a reform to present another without background or solution.

Some speak of the need for a new national dialogue concerned that Bloomberg He has already named our bonds in the international market: junk bonds. How realistic is it to speak of a consensus? I do not know. But it is clear that with poverty at 42.5%, social protest will be stronger and stronger and there will be no employer who can continue to generate employment or citizen who can feel safe going out on the streets. And that forces postponed decisions that no longer wait. The president, his ministers, should be advised to look for some inspiration in the way in which Joe Biden in his first 100 days has managed to recover for his nation some hope, respect for politics.

It is true that within the union of the so-called opposition of liberals, greens, left and even some of the Democratic Center itself, a space for construction is not easy, but it is with them that we have to build a nation. It is with everyone, if we want to get the funds for urgent social programs and international credit, it is with the academy and with hundreds of brilliant minds in this country, ready to contribute.

Fedesarrollo proposed a new social contract that had to be signed. The reforms for a Colombia after the covid with social approaches seeking to universalize the pension protection of the elderly, a minimum monthly income that will unify the subsidy programs into a single fixed one for households in poverty, the labor reform, which must also be agreed. That word that has been ignored.

If a national consensus were possible, there are several decisions that they would be forced to take to regain some confidence in the citizens: the reform of the police, the freezing of congressional salaries or their reduction, and even the exploration of new dialogues by the peace with the ELN.

There is no crisis in which heads do not fall. And so that this Government does not have to cut them, it is better that some ministers make a mea culpa and let others come to rebuild. The president is running out of time, and meanwhile the nearly 50 candidates for the next election are silent. It is well worth knowing how they plan to get Colombia out of this crossroads before they receive a country in ashes.

How about starting by acknowledging that they were wrong, that they assume political responsibility, that they are going to rebuild the road. Is it too much to ask?

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