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What Has Gustavo Petro Tried To Communicate With His New Cabinet?

In just a few weeks of being president-elect of Colombia, Gustavo Petro announced his new cabinet

Susana Muhaman, Alvaro Leyva and Cecilia Lopez

Photos: TW-susanamuhamad, TW-AlvaroLeyva, The Middle Line

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: ¿Qué ha querido comunicar Gustavo Petro con su nuevo gabinete?

Gustavo Petro, the newly elected Colombian president, is already beginning to show signs of how he wants to shape his administration. To date, the heads of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (Álvaro Leyva), Finance (José Antonio Ocampo), Culture (Patricia Ariza), Health (Carolina Corcho) and Environment (Susana Muhamad) have been announced, in addition to the position of Minister for Equality who will be occupied by Vice President Francia Márquez.

An equal cabinet

Petro himself had promised it in the campaign: he would have a joint cabinet and even, as far as possible, with a majority of women. So far, this is true. Of the 6 names that he has released to the public, there are 4 women and 2 men.

However, 2 of the main portfolios are held by men: the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Finance. For their part, women dominate Agriculture and Health.
Similarly, the Ministry of Culture and Environment, which have traditionally played a secondary role, have been relevant issues for the next president of Colombia.

Moderate economic policy

The election of José Antonio Ocampo as Minister of Finance and Public Expenditure is not a random decision. Ocampo is a man of moderate politics, with a long career in public office in past governments.

Ocampo already held the Ministry of Finance between 1996 and 1997 during the government of President Ernesto Samper. He was also Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development between 1993 and 1994 during the presidency of César Gaviria. He was also Director of the DNP (National Planning Department) between 1994 and 1996 and Executive Secretary of ECLAC from 1998 to 2003. Recently, he was part of the economic team of the centrist Sergio Fajardo's campaign.

His election demonstrates the calm message that Petro wants to send to businessmen, investors and international markets. He wants to show that you are willing to reach agreements and have a responsible economic policy. Similar to the appointment of Mario Marcel in Chile. Marcel, president of the Chilean Central Bank, came to Boric's cabinet to send a message of calm and moderation.

However, the Colombian economy has already been partially affected by the slightly moderate proposals that the leader of the Historical Pact mentioned during the campaign. Mainly, his intention to stop oil exploration. In recent days, Ecopetrol, the Colombian state energy company, has lost value on the stock market, above competitors that suffer from the volatility of gasoline prices. The share value of the Colombian company went from 17.43 dollars on June 7 to 10.19 dollars on July 5, which represents -40.79%. By comparison, Exxon Mobil lost -14.19% last month and British Petroleum lost -13.10% in the same period.

A Ministry of Health that promises great changes

Perhaps the name that has received the most criticism so far is Carolina Corcho in the Health portfolio. The former vice president of the Colombian Medical Federation is an important critic of the current health system. She has repeatedly criticized the Health Provider Entities (EPS), who are intermediary companies, but which Corcho deems inefficient. The woman from Antioquia has shown her intention to change the current system for one that does not have profit as its main benefit.

Likewise, Corcho has been accused of sharing false news during the pandemic, in which he claimed that Colombia would only vaccinate 70% of its citizens until 2023 (according to OurWorldInData, Colombia has already reached 71% of people with the complete scheme) or that the coffee country had been excluded from supplying vaccines for electoral interests. Her political opponents call her a denier.

Corcho will be the first woman to lead the Ministry of Health at a time when Covid-19 cases are increasing in several countries. 

A priority in the environment


If the government's plan has to be summed up in a single word, it could be "environmentalist." Gustavo Petro has had a speech very close to the most progressive environmental policies today. He has insisted on the energy transition and on urgent measures to counteract climate change. This is why the election of Susana Muhamad can give a broad panorama of what Petro's Colombia will be like.

Also read: Pacific Alliance: What Happens Now That Every Member Is Left-wing?


Muahamad is a person close to Gustavo Petro, during his mayoralty in Bogotá, the environmentalist was Secretary of the Environment and Secretary General. Additionally, he served as Councilor of Bogotá since 2020.

Agriculture

Another important appointment was that of Cecilia López as Minister of Agriculture. López will have the difficult task of implementing the points of the peace agreements related to land.

Under her hand will be the Comprehensive Rural Reform that the new Government wants to implement and that was specified in the peace accords and to implement the proposal to increase production in the field that Petro has. Two crucial axes in the president's government plan.

The woman from Bogota was already Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Environment and Director of Ernesto Samper's DNP, Director of ECLAC's Employment Program, ambassador, Senator, among other positions.

A culture for peace


Finally, Patricia Ariza will be the next Minister of Culture. The Santanderean poet has united culture and politics. She had recently been working with victims of violence in Colombia. Upon accepting the appointment, Ariza stated that the ministry "we will try to ensure that culture and art contribute to peace and inclusion."

Petro has yet to name the heads of several other ministries. Their eyes are on several that will be decisive for their electoral intentions and promises: energy and mines; defense; among others.