Monday, July 11, 2022

Will the military recognize the new president of Colombia on August 7th?

 Gustavo Petro and Francia Marquez were elected the  next President and Vice President of Colombia on June 19, 2022.  This will be the first Leftist government in Colombia, an historically conservative country.  Petro became a militant at 17, was arrested for possession of arms and spent 18 months in prison, where he was tortured by the military.  He had been a member of the M-19 guerrilla group, an insurgency that made peace with the Colombian government in 1990.

Former M-19 members formed political parties and Petro was elected to the Chamber of Representatives, the Senate and most recently, Mayor of Bogota.  He plans to reform the Armed Forces, which has been linked to mafias, to corruption and to serious violations of human rights.  The most important violations revealed through the Special Justice for the Peace tribunal involved the killing of 6,402 innocent civilians, whom the Armed Forces claimed were insurgents, known as "false positives," to boost their alleged success in the internal armed conflict.  Petro aims to "demilitarize" society by abolishing obligatory military service and affirming the primacy of civilian leadership over the military.  He also plans to abolish military courts.  The Colombian Armed Forces are comprised of 310,000 members of the military and 170,000 members of the police, and are all under the Ministry of Defense. Petro plans to move the police to the Ministry of the Interior, where they will be under civilian rule.

Not surprisingly such a major change has provoked a reaction from the Armed Forces.  A lawyer from the Ministry of Defense revealed that retired members of the military were trying to incite active duty members to insubordination by not recognizing Petro as the new head of State on August 7, the date of his inauguration.  Petro thinks that the right-wing orientation of the Armed Forces is due to their lack of education and seeks to upgrade their preparation by providing more university opportunities for the military.

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