Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Saintly Year for Colombia?

Juan Manuel Santos: Saintly?
One year into his presidency, Juan Manuel Santos is enjoying great success: a strong economy, a clean, corruption-fighter image and warm relations with Colombia's leftist neighbors.

Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that his popularity is over 70%.

Probably the most dramatic change brought by Santos has been the change in relations with Ecuador and Venezuela, which were mutually antagonistic during the last years of Pres. Alvaro Uribe's administration. In contrast, Santos has called Venezuela's socialist Pres. Hugo Chavez 'my best friend.' Trade between the neighbors has grown. Unemployment has dropped to a still-high 11% and pollution is under control. The economy is growing at about 5%. That's not all due to Santos (almost all of the continent is booming), but at least he hasn't interfered with the growth.

Santos has also won support thru his backing of policies for victims of violence and anti-corruption efforts (which have produced tensions with Uribe, under whom Santos was defense minister). Under Santos, the army also killed FARC military commander Mono Jojoy, altho that hasn't produced any major shift in the conflict.

But Colombia's fundamental troubles remain: the economy still depends dangerously on raw material exports, the drug trade, with all of its corrosive impacts, continues. And the drug-fueled conflict with the leftist guerrillas continues, and violence has even surged during recent weeks. Nor has Santos taken the lead in advocating a shift in drug policy, which could do much to reduce Colombia's problems.

A graffiti, which originally said 'Neither God nor Saints'
on a church wall in La Candelaria. 
Santos, whose last name means 'Saints' and who comes from one of Colombia's most powerful families: three previous men with the 'Santos' surname have held Colombia's presidency, as did the previous administration's vice president, altho I'm not sure all of them were of the same family. And the Santos family is the traditional owner of the El Tiempo newspaper, which this weekend published several flattering reports about his first year in office.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

Conde said...

Qué lástima que no sepa inglés, es mi asignatura pendiente.