Ingrid Betancourt has materialized this Saturday her threat to leave the center coalition in Colombia less than two weeks after announcing her presidential aspiration. Politics has ended up blowing up from within the alliance that she initially helped to forge, after putting both Alejandro Gaviria, the focus of her confrontation, and the other candidates with whom she competed on the ropes. . “We are forced to step aside from the Centro Esperanza Coalition. I will be an independent candidate”, she announced this Saturday after the bloc published rules to receive accessions that did not meet her demands. “This lack of a clear position forces us to assume the leadership of a battle that we have to give and win in Colombia, for a clean, fair policy that does not steal opportunities from 51 million Colombians who are kidnapped by corruption,” declared with the phrase that has become a slogan of his fledgling campaign.
The coalition had attempted a difficult balancing act to remain a competitive option in the presidential elections. The public clash between Betancourt and Gaviria, two of his most recognized letters, has exposed the bloc’s fragility. On the cornice, the Hope Center Coalition tried to solve its umpteenth existential crisis with rules that responded to the claim put forward by politics but did not separate the former Minister of Health, who has rejected that ultimatum, but celebrated the document.
“The hard time we are going through demands from us the greatest responsibility with the country. It is Ingrid and Alejandro’s decision to join us or not,” said the long-awaited statement from the Hope Center Coalition, published at noon this Saturday and signed by its other five candidates: Sergio Fajardo, Juan Manuel Galán, Carlos Amaya, Jorge Enrique Robledo and Juan Ferdinand Christ. “The acceptance of one of its members of support by leaders who have accompanied President Duque’s government agenda, which we firmly oppose, is a mistake that we do not share and we regret,” the statement said. “It was also unwise to air it publicly, without prior discussion, as had been done on previous occasions.”
Without mentioning them, the statement points to the support for Alejandro Gaviria’s campaign by traditional politicians such as congressmen Miguel Ángel Pinto, of the Liberal Party, and Germán Varón Cotrino, of Cambio Radical –although both parties have formally declared independence, nor of the Government nor of opposition, have accompanied initiatives of the Executive. The message comes at the end of a week of turbulence, after Betancourt and Gaviria had a bitter confrontation on Tuesday during an electoral debate. Betancourt then staged his reproach for the politicians who were adhering to the former rector of the Universidad de los Andes. “I’m not going to let the wolves get where the sheep are,” he snapped. When it was his turn to reply, Gaviria pointed out his “hypocrisy and opportunism” and told him that he spoke with “moral superiority.”
The criteria for receiving or rejecting adhesions emphasize the opposition character of the Centro Esperanza Coalition against the Duque Administration and Uribismo, the political current created around former President Álvaro Uribe, the president’s political mentor. Among others, they veto congressmen who have been part of the parties that have declared themselves in government, have accompanied the initiatives of the Executive, “or the Democratic Center, whose purpose has been to weaken the implementation of the peace agreement.” They also reject leaders convicted or sanctioned for corruption, drug trafficking or for having allied themselves with armed organizations outside the law, or those clans that have inherited political organizations from convicted or sanctioned relatives.
“I am pleased that the document contains my criteria and observations,” Alejandro Gaviria reacted almost immediately. “I share the principles. I have fulfilled them and I will fulfill them. I will participate in the Centro Esperanza Coalition consultation in March. We are going to win”, he wrote on his social networks, although he reaffirmed that he is not going to give up the support he has already received. An hour later, Betancourt claimed that the statement did not announce actions on the support already received, so she stepped aside.
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Betancourt’s slam has shaken the alliance he helped forge. After postponing an ultimatum that did not provoke major reactions, politics materialized his threat and now he will run for his party, Verde Oxígeno. The most visible of all the politicians who spent long years kidnapped by the extinct FARC guerrillas demanded that their fellow members of the block urgently and in their terms pronounce themselves on corruption. On Thursday she had issued his first ultimatum. “If the coalition does not make the decision to prohibit the support of people linked to machinery that leads to corruption and if the decision is not made tonight (…) I will withdraw,” he had said then. With the term expired, he insisted on his threat on Friday, when he published a video in which he said that he decided to give the coalition a new term, until Saturday at noon, “to decide if we remain firm against the corruption that the machinery brings.” ”.
“I believe in politics that unites, brings together, talks with the different, seeks solutions and builds collectively in the midst of the crisis. I don’t believe in a political center that hides, isolates itself and turns its back on the country. No more #ultimatum”, Gaviria trilled this Saturday when the new deadline imposed by Betancourt approached. “I reject all the accusations, I am not a politician or patron. I have shown it over and over again, by example, with events in my life, as an educator first, as a civil servant and as an economist”, he had replied in the middle of the week. “I want to unite the country around a common purpose and a shared vision. Whoever divides and excludes now, during the election, will not be able to unite the country around the reforms that we Colombians need”.
In less than two months, Betancourt has gone from being a friendly fixer to the candidate who cracks the fragile alliance between politicians who oppose the extremes represented by the leftist Gustavo Petro, on the one hand, and the continuity of Uribismo in power, for the other. The bloc has sought to present itself as an option for responsible change, but has not been able to finish settling its differences. “In this Coalition there are no leaderships, and this makes it more complex to reach consensus,” acknowledged its statement this Saturday.
“The candidates will compete in a frank and fair manner. The spirit of trust will prevail between us”, stated the first point of the agreement that gave shape to the Coalition on November 28. In essence, he contemplates that the winner of the consultation on March 13 will receive the support of all its members. Ingrid Betancourt signed that founding document as a “guarantor”, since she only launched her presidential aspiration on January 18, and she was even in charge of announcing the pact. Her candidacy had barely managed to be measured in the polls. A survey by the firms Guarumo and EcoAnalítica released this week gave him 4.1% of the preferences within the Centro Esperanza Coalition, far behind Sergio Fajardo (41.6%), Alejandro Gaviria (22.1%) or Juan Manuel Galan (15.7%). Now, Betancourt is on her own.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.