Opinion: The Candidacy of Juan Carlos Echeverry is a Threat to the Environment in Colombia

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The former Minister of Finance and former president of Ecopetrol seeks to become the new president of Colombia, but in the past he has already shown little interest in environmental well-being.

Juan Carlos Echeverry

How much does Juan Carlos Echeverry care about the environment? Photo: LatinAmerican Post

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: Opinión: la precandidatura de Juan Carlos Echeverry es una amenaza para el medio ambiente

We are just under a year away from going back to the polls for the 2022 presidential elections in Colombia . With the current presidency of Iván Duque, we went through a period of great mistrust, few solutions and discontent that led to the National Strike and, consequently, left an exorbitant number of deaths, injuries and brutality by the public forces. In short, the country needs a change that will take us out of the pond in which we have been in these almost four years .

Although the names that resonate the most are those of Gustavo Petro, Sergio Fajardo, Jorge Enrique Robledo, Humberto de la Calle, Enrique Peñaloza, Alejandro Char or Federico Gutiérrez, among others, there is one in which it is necessary to stop for a moment: Juan Carlos Echeverry . He is an economist who, during the first two years of Juan Manuel Santo's first term as president, served as the Minister of Finance and Public Credit. He also served as president of Ecopetrol, Colombia's leading oil company, from March 2015 to August 2017.

Also read: Opinion: The Oil Industry Lobby is the Cancer of Our Time

In recent months, Echeverry has traveled the country in order to maintain dialogues with different sectors and in mid-July he made his candidacy official with the beginning of the recollection of signatures , a method with which he aspires to reach the presidential candidacy. Although, despite his conservative political tendency, he has shown a very friendly face with more progressive sectors such as, for example, the young people of the "Primera Línea", there is a detail that we cannot miss.

A potential climate change denier

It is more than clear that as a species we are going through a critical moment. If before the pandemic, environmental crises were a problem that generated an echo, after the mandatory confinements around the world it is one of the events that generates the most fear and for which we must be most concerned. We are seeing natural disasters produced by climate change and we are getting closer and closer to there no turning back point.

In that order of ideas, it is more than necessary that when choosing a president for any country, its position on climate change must be taken into account. We are at a point where it is necessary for world leaders to create policies and regulations that have the environment as their primary subject. Literally on this depends the future of planet Earth and, consequently, of the human being as a species .

If we talk about the case of Colombia, we must bear in mind that hundreds of environmental leaders have been assassinated in recent years for protecting and openly fighting the rights of ecosystems and those who inhabit them. In addition, with Colombia's recent failed entry into the Escazú Agreement, it is more than clear that the protection of the environment and its activists is not at the top of the country's political agenda when more than ever it should be.

In the case of Echeverry, there is one fact in particular that made it very clear what his political tendencies are regarding the environment. In April 2016, when he served as president of Ecopetrol , Echeverry defended tooth and nail the carrying out of oil projects in the La Macarena mountain range , a territory that was first a red zone for decades and secondly, where the famous Caño Cristales is located, river of great importance for the country and for the ecosystem of the region.

As if that were not enough, the way in which Echeverry approached the subject was so cynical that it generates as much laughter as embarrassment, especially because his arguments fell short and showed that he is little or nothing interested in environmental well-being, much less people that may be affected by this.

While debating with the professor and oil engineer, Óscar Vanegas, Echeverry assured that if you search on Google for "people kidnapped by aliens" you would find many more results compared to searching for "aquifers dried up by the oil industry" . According to him, nothing would be found. He also pointed out that people seeking to protect these areas were actually holding back the country's economic growth.

And yes, five years have passed since this happened, but what can you expect from a person who preferred to talk about aliens rather than give valid and clear scientific arguments to defend oil extraction. It would not be surprising if, if he succeeded in entering the candidacy, Echeverry would come out to say that climate change does not exist.