Gustavo Petro wanted to go away for a few days off with his work ahead of schedule. Before taking a plane to Spain, the elected president met this Wednesday with former President Álvaro Uribe. The appointment was publicly confirmed last Friday, when Uribe accepted Petro’s invitation, which seeks a national dialogue that includes the Democratic Center, the former president’s party. Less than a week later they were both sitting at the same table. Uribe, who is not used to leaving his hacienda El Ubérrimo for almost any meeting, traveled to Bogotá to meet the leader of the Historical Pact.
The meeting lasted just over two hours and took place in the office of Gustavo Petro’s lawyer, Héctor Carvajal. The former president and Petro were alone for about 30 minutes. Later they were joined by Alfonso Prada, head of debate for Petro’s presidential campaign. On Uribe’s side, Senator Ciro Ramírez, Alirio Barrera, Nubia Stella Martínez and Representative Juan Fernando Espinal. All from the Democratic Center, his political party.
In the middle of the meeting, the image of both sitting at the same table, face to face, was shared by Petro’s press team, and a couple of hours later by himself. The photo is historic and adds to the album of images of what seems like a new era in Colombia. The left will come to power for the first time and two of the men who have played a leading role in recent political history, from completely opposite shores, sit down to talk and listen to each other.
Uribe, located at the ideological antipodes of Petro, with whom he has always clashed, last year tried to forge an “anti-petro” alliance, which he called “Watch out for 22”, alluding to this year’s elections. It does not seem now that he wanted to continue in that tone. Uribe described today’s meeting as “frank” and announced that his party will support the projects of the Petro Executive that they believe are good for the country. “A reasonable opposition will be made to what he considers problematic,” said the former president, who was seen as he had not appeared for many months: surrounded by microphones, in the center of attention. He himself acknowledged that in the presidential campaign he was barely present. Neither candidate, neither Fico Gutiérrez nor Rodolfo Hernández, wanted to appear with him in a photo. “My situation is difficult and our party, which we love so much, was the first in the Senate and today it is the fourth,” said Uribe, who assured that his main request of the new president is to be able to have a channel of direct dialogue with him. “It will be to talk about the country. If there are issues in which our concept can serve, that can count on us and in which we have discrepancies, there will be a reasonable opposition. This (the Democratic Center) is a democratic political party,” Uribe reiterated.
Petro, who preferred to leave the balance of the meeting before the press in the hands of the former president, tweeted a brief message: “Hopefully the country can see the stage of the dialogue of differences. The conversation with former President Uribe was helpful and respectful. We find the differences and the common points. There will always be a government/opposition dialogue.”
The former president did not offer many details of the meeting. He said that he had shown his concern about fiscal measures that could affect the private sector. “It seems good to us that the country advances so that Colombians have a decent income. But do not wither the productive sector. We share all the effort that is made so that this country accelerates the overcoming of poverty, but that should not be at the cost of withering the private sector, because that policy would become unsustainable and would lead us to more poverty”, said Uribe. According to him, a good part of the meeting revolved around the military forces. “This party will continue to speak out for the soldiers,” he assured. “I insisted on our thesis of the need to reform the JEP to give a really different treatment to the members of the Armed Forces.”
Uribe will not have a seat in Congress, which is installed on July 20. His prosecution for alleged witness tampering forced him to step aside and not participate. But his figure continues to be the most relevant of the right and of his movement, the Democratic Center, which maintains an important presence in the Senate and the House.
Uribism returns to the scene
Petro took the first step towards rapprochement with Uribe. At least 15 days before the second round of elections (on June 19) he was looking for a meeting with the leader of the right. But it was not that easy, as Uribe himself has recognized, his party is not going through the best of times, and he had to think about the effects within the uribe base before accepting. Relevant figures such as María Fernanda Cabal were not very enthusiastic about the meeting between Petro and his mentor. “Poor Colombia with a leftist government,” said Cabal, the most voted senator of the Democratic Center. According to Cabal, this Thursday’s meeting is nothing more than an “act of generosity.” “I continue to maintain that (with Petro) it happens like when you approach a crocodile, you don’t know if he is laughing or is going to eat it,” the senator told the magazine on Wednesday. Week.
The Democratic Center did not manage to have a candidate for the presidency and the two options they clung to, Gutiérrez and Hernández, refused to publicly accept their support.” The unpopular presidency of Iván Duque, who came to the House of Nariño with this political party, has generated divisions within the movement and ended up isolating Uribe himself from the political scene. Now, with the arrival of a new government, it reappears. “The first to have cured Uribism is me, but what is not cured is love for the country,” he said on Wednesday.
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