I think the president has been consistent in his rhetoric, even since he was mayor of Bogota. He did not say that he is anti-capitalist, but rather that he is anti-neoliberal, and this difference is important. In that it resembles many of the “pink tide” governments in Latin America, such as Lula or Evo Morales, who oppose neoliberalism, but not necessarily because they advocate a socialist or communist path.
Petro thinks of a more interventionist state and takes elements from Alfonso López Pumarejo’s Continuing Revolution, and in that context he cross-examines some of the politicians he has called at different times in his career.
Of course, it will be difficult to dismantle many neoliberal policies, because they are within a regional and global framework that is not easy to break. Here I think the current government is trying, but it will encounter difficulties, as we are already seeing in the health reform debate. I also imagine that there will be another debate front that will occur when we get to reforming Title 30 on higher education, which will be a huge debate because reform will bring back certain neoliberal policies.
How much can you achieve? It’s kind of hard to tell. I think he will not achieve what he wants. It will not be easy because the president at the time of the elections made alliances with different sectors that would reduce the ambition of his reform plans.
The government is not in the best time to change and rebuild the Colombian economy in a time of crisis, so it is a far cry from neoliberalism. But I think there is a slightly more favorable environment for him to make more direct criticisms of the prevailing economic model. For example, no matter what happens to the health reform, the Petro government is already forcing us to think about the model we have. Neoliberalism has become common sense, so just being able to question those institutions is progress.
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