Although President Gustavo Petro easily defeated Uribismo in last year’s elections, Álvaro Uribe remains his most respected interlocutor for the opposition. Last Friday the president and leader of the left met again with the former president and leader of the right. It was the third meeting after Petro won the elections, after decades of being political enemies. Uribe failed to win his candidates in the 2022 elections, he is still being investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office, and his party was weakened after the unpopular government of former President Iván Duque. By meeting with him, Petro reinforces Uribe as an important figure in the opposition, and may lessen the impact of criticism of him amid fierce debates over social reforms coming this semester.
The first meeting between the two leaders was in June 2022, a few days after Petro won the elections, and after this the former president said that his party would make “reasonable opposition” to the new government. It was a meeting that Petro called to prove that he could rule for everyone, including his enemies. The second meeting was in September, when Petro was already president, he had already presented his ambitious tax reform and was advancing in the debate for an agrarian reform. After that meeting, Uribe reiterated that he wanted to make a “constructive opposition.” The result is that Uribe, in six months of government, has not been a loss in the shoe for Petro.
The last meeting was last Friday night and, according to the public version, they talked about the social reforms that the Government will present this semester: health, pension and labor reforms. “Different issues of the Homeland were discussed,” former President Uribe briefly wrote on his social media.
Also at the meeting was the rancher leader José Félix Lafaurie, a former uribista presidential candidate who contradicted Petro who also lowered his tone as an opposition after he agreed with the president that the government would buy three million hectares from the ranchers (now also He is a negotiating member of the government at the dialogue table with the ELN guerrillas). Lafaurie published his version of what happened at the meeting.
“This is a respectful president of the opposition who wants to know the opinion of a former head of state, head of the opposition, on issues that are critical in terms of the ongoing reforms, especially health, and another series of issues that were addressed with great respect, with great cordiality”, he says in a video that he shared on social networks.
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The meeting occurred a few days before Petro presents the bills for these reforms, and when there have already been pronouncements against some of them. Especially in the face of the reform of the health system that could put an end to the Health Provider Companies (EPS) and give a fundamental service to Colombians a roll.
Cabinet members have already spoken out against it, such as former health minister Alejandro Gaviria, in charge of the Education portfolio. Some small sectors of the opposition plan a march against the reforms for February 15, but that still does not have the support of former President Uribe.
The former president has stated in his networks and in some regional events that the health sector needs “adjustments to improve preventive medicine”, but calls for “adjustments without disruption.” He has done it discreetly, without attempting a strong confrontation with the president. Either because of how damaged his image is because of the investigation he has in the Prosecutor’s Office, or because of these three strategic meetings with Petro, Uribe continues to make a fairly discreet opposition.
There is an unofficial version of what was implicit under the table in that third meeting. Also present in it was the lawyer Héctor Carvajal, who in past decades has been a lawyer for both Gustavo Petro (when he was removed as mayor of Bogotá) and the two sons of Álvaro Uribe (in an administrative fight over a million-dollar commercial business). . He is a man who has earned the trust of the two most influential politicians in Colombia in the last two decades.
Carvajal had already been to the first meeting, and according to the magazine Change, is one of the most interested and optioned to be the next attorney general when the current one leaves office. For that, he needs the approval of the president, who must care for him, and get votes among the magistrates of the Supreme Court. Former President Uribe, investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office, obviously does not want one of his enemies in that position and Carvajal is not in that group. President Petro, who also trusts Carvajal, would be doing Uribe a great favor by putting on a friendly face. There is a year to go, and many more meetings, to find out if a similar agreement is finalized.
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