17 July 2022 ~ 0 Comentarios

Why the Petro Experiment in Colombia Will Go Wrong

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Petro’s experiment in Colombia will go terribly wrong. Mario Vargas Llosa has said it clearly. Colombians voted wrong. Also the Peruvians, and the Argentines and the Mexicans. Voting for the worst option is within everyone’s reach. Mario is an excellent writer, winner of the Nobel Prize in 2010, but he is not the Oracle of Delphi, nor does he try to appear so.

Why can something so pessimistic be assured? Petro has just won an election against a quaint old man who dyed his remaining locks. Most have given him a great support. A few days before assuming power, if he narrowly beat Rodolfo Hernández, former mayor of Bucaramanga, today he enjoys the broad support of 64% of Colombians. (Colombians are not opportunistic, but rather behave like other peoples – they tilt with hope towards the winner in the last general elections).

Let’s assume that Petro is an intelligent man and that he is full of good intentions. Colombians obviously want to put the violence behind them and have elected the first left-wing president. After all, he was a 17-year-old boy when he was a member of the M-19. At that age, people do a lot of silly things. At 19, Mario Vargas Llosa was a member of the Peruvian Communist Party. Petro wants to end the poverty and the corruption that has afflicted Colombians from time immemorial. Will he succeed?

I don’t think so. Two or three fundamental notions related to perceptions work against him. Petro remains being a guerrilla fighter in the eyes of the right-wing, hardened by its experience. Many people hold him responsible for the kidnapping of children, the rape of girls and boys, thousands of murders, the displacement of two or three million peasants, the destruction of a great part of the material wealth of the nation and, ultimately, for having been an incompetent administrator of Bogotá, the city that elected him as mayor. The general consensus is that he was a lousy mayor, but a good parliamentarian.

There is no longer the division between capitalism – private enterprise plus market – and socialism. Experience tells us that socialism, when it got closer to communism, failed horribly. Perhaps it has not been possible to create a reliable model. Chinese communism, with metaphors that referred to cats, in a very Chinese way, led to a single-party dictatorship plus “entrepreneurship.” Russian communism took a different path – “crony capitalism.” To prosper in Russia, they resorted to gangsterism.

Petro intends to count on his opponents to create wealth. He tries to recruit the big and middle businesspeople. Without their investments and that of foreign companies, there will be no overcoming of poverty. And that money will flow abroad, to more hospitable markets. That is the story of Miami. It thrives on the failures of Latin America. There is already a legion of Miami bankers, some of them of Colombian origin, requesting the money saved by the entrepreneurs. That is to say, there will be no “money to create more money” in Colombia, because the capitalists perceive Petro as an enemy of free enterprise and free market, and they practice and recommend staying on the lookout for what is going to happen in Colombia in the medium term.

What is the Colombian “medium term”? Nobody knows. But, without a doubt, it is an elastic concept that will last as long as the prophecy that “Petro is the same Petro as always.” Unless Petro realizes the situation and declares himself pro-market and pro-free enterprise but taking the necessary measures to be credible.

Frankly, I would be surprised if Petro started a really pro-capitalist government. That would be asking for the impossible.

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