Who Are the New Ministers of Education, Culture and Sports of Gustavo Petro?

The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, made a change in his cabinet that could mean the victory of the more radical wing over the moderate one .

Aurora Vergara, Ignacio Zorro, Astrid Rodríguez

Photos: TW-AuroraVergaraF1, YT-COCREA, TW-petrogustavo

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: ¿Quiénes son los nuevos ministros de Educación, Cultura y Deportes de Gustavo Petro?

Gustavo Petro seems to be going through his first major governance crisis in less than a year in office. The Colombian president had maintained a peaceful plural government, with different voices within his cabinet, until recently. The straw that broke the camel's back was the reform of the Health system, which today is going through Congress seeking support from different benches.

President Petro made 3 changes. He decided to request the resignations of Alejandro Gaviria, María Isabel Urrutia and Patricia Ariza, who held the Education, Sports and Culture portfolios respectively. In the same order, he announced the appointment of Aurora Vergara, Ignacio Zorro and Astrid Rodríguez as his replacements.

Read also: Colombia: The Special Powers on Which Gustavo Petro Depends

Aurora Vergara Figueroa

The new education minister is a sociologist from Universidad del Valle, with a PhD from the University of Massachusetts. She is an Afro woman who had been serving as Vice Minister of Higher Education. She is a specialist in Social Studies, former director of the Center for Afrodiasporic Studies and professor at the ICESI University. Additionally, she is a piece close to Vice President Francia Márquez, being her delegate in the junction with the Government of Iván Duque.

Vergara was born in Cali, Valle del Cauca, and raised in Chocó. She suffered the disappearance of her father when she was only 4 years old.

Ignacio Zorro

Ignacio Zorro goes from the Vice Ministry of Creativity of the Ministry of Culture to occupy the head of the portfolio. He was director of the National Colcultura Choir and Director of the Antonio María Valencia Conservatory in Cali. Zorro would be close to the First Lady, Verónica Alcocer, according to what was reported by Blu Radio and what was confirmed by the outgoing Minister of Culture.

Astrid Rodríguez

The one who will now occupy the Sports portfolio will be Astrid Rodríguez. The new head of the portfolio has a degree in Physical Education from the National Pedagogical University; She has a Master's in Education and a PhD from the Externado University in Social Studies. She was a teacher at the Bogotá education secretariat and worked together with the Ministry of Education between 2010 and 2019 on public policies.

What Does the Departure of Alejandro Gaviria Mean?

The now former Minister of Education had been one of the most moderate voices within the cabinet. He was Minister of Health of the Government of former President Juan Manuel Santos, Director of the National Planning Directorate during the Government of Álvaro Uribe (although he resigned shortly after) and rector of the main private University of the Andean country (the University of Los Andes).

In the last elections, he was a pre-candidate for his movement Colombia Tiene Futuro, which competed within the consultations of the Centro Esperanza Coalition (uniting various politicians and centrist parties). However, almost immediately he lost in the consultations, finishing fourth, far behind the winner Sergio Fajardo. He was accused of starting talks with Gustavo Pero and the left-wing coalition of the Pacto Histórico. Finally, after the first presidential round, where Fajardo came third, Gaviria openly supported Petro's candidacy. Despite the fact that they seemed to be politicians with important differences, their presence gave the idea that there were moderate voices within a campaign branded as extreme left.

Gaviria did not renounce his positions, sometimes so different from the rest of the cabinet. Especially, the former Minister of Health was one of the main critics of the Health Reform that his president was planning. The dispute between the current Minister of Health, Carolina Corcho, and Gaviria came out of the councils of ministers to the media. The former rector of the Andes was always open in his objections. This, in the end, seems to have been the main reason why President Gustavo Petro took sides within both sides in his cabinet and preferred to support Corcho, who is much closer to the Petrista base and to Petro's electorate in the first round. For his part, Gaviria was only an ally of Petro in the second round and served to attract undecided or centrist votes.

Signs of Change in Petro's Cabinet

Since Gaviria's departure, it was noted that the battle between the moderate wing and the more orthodox wing within the Petro government was won by the latter. So much so that during the presidential address where Petro announced the changes, Minister Carolina Corcho was just to the right of the president. Beyond the new ministers or any other official, Corcho was the one to accompany this change in the portfolios. This sends a clear message that President Petro is still loyal to his most loyal constituency. Between the crossroads of operating his policies or embracing his closest sectors, he has chosen the latter in order not to change his political discourse.

However, fears within the center spectrum seem to be increasing. In addition, it can also generate a division between the moderate sectors and the left, an alliance that was decisive for the arrival in the presidency of the first progressive president in the history of the country. With the regional elections on the horizon (second semester of 2023), Petro's decision will be tested, and it will be possible to show what effect it has on the opinion of Colombians when they get to the polls.

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