Educación superior para todos los jóvenes colombianos

Por Natalia Ariza Ramirez

Read this entry in English here.

Una universidad comunitaria en los Estados Unidos celebra su ceremonia de graduación. (Foto cortesía de COD Newsroom).

Hace algunos años, alguien me dijo que una de las promesas de campaña que más motivaba a los colombianos para votar por algún candidato en una elección popular, era ofrecer a los jóvenes la posibilidad de ingresar a la universidad. Desafortunadamente, esta no fue la promesa de campaña más destacada de las pasadas elecciones en Colombia, pero sí debería ser uno de los retos que nos motive en el periodo del post conflicto.

Una de las primeras barreras para acceder a la educación superior de calidad en Colombia, son los pobres resultados de la educación básica y media.  En este país es evidente que si vas a educación básica y media de mala calidad, casi siempre a la que acceden los pobres, esto te cierra la puerta para poder acceder a la educación superior de calidad.

Por algo, la educación superior pública de Colombia ocupa el deshonroso lugar, después de las pensiones, de ser el segundo servicio público social peor focalizado. Pero esto no importa mucho, incluso para algunos académicos y políticos de este país, para quienes es un honor desprestigiar el Programa Ser Pilo Paga (PSPP) diciendo que es un atentado contra la equidad, pues le quita los recursos a la educación superior pública, la cual hoy no garantiza el acceso a la educación de los más pobres, pero no se escuchan muchas alternativas para eliminar las barreras de entrada que se han puesto a este grupo de población, como la que beneficia el PSPP, para acceder a sus aulas.[1]

El presidente Santos en Nueva York en 2013. (Foto cortesía de la Embajada Estadounidense de Colombia).

Pero hay al menos dos cosas que el nuevo Gobierno Nacional puede hacer para romper el círculo dañino que mantiene a los pobres en un sistema educativo mediocre. Frente a la calidad de la educación básica y media podemos crear una válvula de escape, además de otras estrategias, transformando de manera contundente la formación de docentes. En el Plan Nacional de Desarrollo (PND) de Santos se estableció la obligatoriedad de acreditar en alta calidad todos los programas de formación de docentes.[2] Esta medida llevará al cierre de al menos la mitad de los programas de licenciaturas y por eso invito a ser valientes. Quedarán otros 200, los de mejor calidad.

La segunda herramienta es la reestructuración del modelo de educación superior que hoy existe en el país. La primera puerta a tocar es la del Sistema Universitario Estatal (SUE). Este debe convertirse en el protagonista de esta gran reforma. Pero no solo un protagonista que pide dinero y reclama autonomía. Debe ser un protagonista que también analice, cree y ejecute el plan de ofrecer educación superior para todos. Es un llamado a ser el líder de un proceso de transformación de la visión de la educación superior que ya está ocurriendo en los últimos 50 años en otras partes del mundo. Por eso, el SUE debe involucrarse con lo que está sucediendo en el resto de la educación superior, el Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA) y los colegios de educación media. He escuchado a las universidades decir que los estudiantes, incluso los que pasan sus procesos de admisión, no vienen con las habilidades y conocimientos suficientes para hacer frente a los requerimientos de la educación superior, pero he visto a muy pocos de estos quejosos trabajar duro con la educación básica y media.

El recién elegido presidente colombiano Iván Duque. (Foto cortesía de la Casa de América).

¿Dónde se le podría ocurrir al SUE, que se abrirán los espacios para 1.5 millones de nuevos estudiantes en la Educación Superior de calidad? Para responder, se deben explorar opciones como crear los grados 12° y 13° en la educación media, algo que se asemeje al esfuerzo que está haciendo la Universidad Nacional de Colombia con el Programa de Especial de Admisiones y Movilidad Académica (PEAMA) o el modelo de educación general de los Community Colleges de los Estados Unidos, entre otros. Estas son alternativas que permitirían desarrollar el modelo de Educación Superior General (EduGen).

Crear una oferta de programas de EduGen de dos años, permitirá cerrar la brecha de conocimiento requerida para acceder a la universidad y luego estos contenidos pueden ser homologados como sus dos primeros años de carrera profesional y los estudiantes podrán continuar sus estudios para obtener un título, bien sea de profesionales universitarios o de profesionales técnicos o tecnólogos. Este modelo permitiría pensar en que la educación superior tendrá un estándar mínimo, para no permitir que los profesionales se gradúen con niveles muy bajos de habilidades y conocimientos, como lo muestran los resultados de las pruebas SABER PRO [3].

Un edificio universitario en Bogotá, Colombia. (Foto por David Gómez).

Este modelo, abre a su vez un espacio para repensar el SENA y la función que hoy cumple en Colombia. Creamos esta institución hace 61 años pensando en el país de esa época. Era la entidad para formar la masa de trabajadores de la industria, por lo general sus operarios. Hoy el SENA es la puerta de entrada al mundo de la educación terciaria de más de 1 millón de jóvenes. Solo por esta condición, no puede ser sólo un centro de entrenamiento de oficios. Debe ser una institución que también amplié la capacidad de pensar y crear de los jóvenes. Así que el modelo de EduGen también lo podría adelantar el SENA. Como también podría ofertar el ciclo posterior de formación de los profesionales técnicos y tecnólogos, aumentando su nivel de competencia para que lleguen a eslabones más altos de las cadenas ocupacionales de cada sector, no solo al nivel de operarios.

El gobierno de Santos dejó creado el Sistema Nacional de Educación Terciaria (SNET), no solo en la ley PND, sino en documentos técnicos, y este modelo podría recoger estas recomendaciones. Para hacerlo realidad es necesario tomar la decisión política de querer igualar las oportunidades de los jóvenes, dialogar sobre los métodos para hacerlo, hacer lo necesario para conseguirlo y no destruir lo ya logrado. Al contrario, construir sobre terrenos ya explorados en Colombia y en el resto del mundo.

[1] Este programa fue creado en el Gobierno del Presidente Santos en el año 2015, para dar acceso a los jóvenes más pobres del país, quienes obtuvieron los mejores resultados en la prueba de estado SABER 11.
[2] En Colombia existe el Sistema de Aseguramiento de la Calidad, a través del cual las instituciones de educación superior pueden ser acreditadas en alta calidad cuando cumplen con los estándares establecidos por este Sistema.
[3] Esta prueba se realiza para todos los estudiantes de últimos semestres de pregrado como requisito para obtener su título de profesionales.

NATALIA ARIZA RAMIREZ is an economist at Universidad Nacional de Colombia and was Deputy Minister of Higher Education in Colombia (2014-2016). She is an expert in the design, execution, monitoring, and evaluation of public policies, especially in the education sector, and has led the construction of regulatory and public policy frameworks in institutions in Colombia including the National Apprenticeship Service, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Social Protection, and the National Planning Department. Natalia is a CLAS Visiting Fellow for the Fall 2018 semester.

 

 

 

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Building Better Higher Education in Colombia

By Natalia Ariza Ramirez

A community college in the U.S. celebrates its 50th graduation ceremony. (Photo courtesy of COD Newsroom).

A few years ago, someone told me that one of the most motivating campaign promises to encourage young Colombians to vote in elections was to offer them help in accessing higher education. Although, this was, unfortunately, not the most prominent campaign promise in the recent election, it is still an important challenge that should continue to motivate us.

One of the most significant barriers to quality higher education is poor primary and secondary education. In Colombia, it is clear that if you attend low quality primary and secondary schools, which is usually the only option for the poor, the door to access quality higher education remains closed.

In 2015, President Juan Manuel Santos’ government introduced the Ser Pilo Paga Program (PSPP) in an attempt provide access to higher education for young people from the lowest economic group with the best test results. However, Colombia’s public higher education system continues to lack focus, and some academics and politicians discredit PSPP by saying it is actually an attack against equity. They argue that PSPP takes away resources from public higher education, which as it stands does not guarantee access to education for the poorest. They also refuse to listen to any alternatives that might eliminate these barriers.

President Santos in New York City in 2013. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy of Colombia).

Students who do manage to enroll in university often struggle with the academic rigor of their classes. I have heard university faculty and administrators say that students, even those who pass their admissions exams, do not arrive at university with the skills and knowledge to meet the basic requirements of higher education. However, I have seen very few of them work with primary and secondary educators to address the underlying issues.

Under the leadership of the recently elected president Iván Duque, the new national government should use two approaches to break the cycle that keeps poor people in a mediocre education system. Faced with the low-quality primary and secondary educational systems in Colombia, we first need to transform teacher training programs. The National Development Plan (Plan Nacional de Desarrollo; PND), created under President Santos, established that all teacher training programs must be accredited [1]. Enforcing this measure would lead to the closure of at least half of the degree programs, but 200 better quality programs would still remain.

Second, we need to restructure the higher education model that currently exists in Colombia. The State University System (Sistema de Universidades Estatales; SUE) must become the protagonist of this great reform – but not a protagonist who asks for money and demands autonomy in return. The SUE must become the kind of protagonist who analyzes, promotes, and executes a plan to provide higher education for everyone. The SUE must lead the process to transform higher education to match developed countries around the world. To do this, the SUE must collaborate with the National Learning Service (SENA) as well as secondary schools.

Newly elected Colombian President Iván Duque. (Photo courtesy of Casa de América).

Where could the SUE find space for 1.5 million new students in quality higher education? To find an answer, we should explore options such as creating 12th and 13th grades in secondary schools, something that resembles current efforts by the National University of Colombia and the Admissions and Academic Mobility Special Program, or something similar to the U.S. Community College model.

These alternatives would enable the development of the General Higher Education (GHE) model. A two-year GHE program would close the knowledge gap required to access universities, ensuring that higher education meets minimum standards and graduates have adequate skills and knowledge, as shown by the results of the SABER PRO tests [2].

A university building in Bogotá, Colombia. (Photo by David Gómez).

This model would give us the opportunity to rethink SENA and the role it plays in Colombia. SENA was created 61 years ago, with the intention of training industrial workers. Today, SENA is no longer just a trades training center – it is the gateway to the world of higher education for more than a million young people. SENA must also expand young people’s ability to think and create. SENA can propel the GHE model, offering training for technical professionals to increase their competence beyond the basic level.

The Santos government created the National Tertiary Education System, which would be the ideal institution to carry out these recommendations. To make this a reality, the government needs to make a political commitment to creating equal opportunities for young people. We should not destroy what has already been achieved, but rather take advantage of our accomplishments and learn from other examples around the world.

[1] In Colombia, there is the Quality Assurance System, through which higher education institutions can be accredited when they meet the standards established by this system.
[2] All undergraduate students take this test their last semester as a requirement to obtain their professional title.

NATALIA ARIZA RAMIREZ is an economist at Universidad Nacional de Colombia and was Deputy Minister of Higher Education in Colombia (2014-2016). She is an expert in the design, execution, monitoring, and evaluation of public policies, especially in the education sector, and has led the construction of regulatory and public policy frameworks in institutions in Colombia including the National Apprenticeship Service, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Social Protection, and the National Planning Department. Natalia is a CLAS Visiting Fellow for the Fall 2018 semester.

 

 

 

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Update from Mexico

By Paloma Corcuera

AMLO supporters fill the Toluca Plaza in Mexico. (Photo by Eneas de Troya).

On July 1st we elected our future president, 9 state governors, 128 senators, and 500 lower house representatives. This election was historic not only because of the number of local and federal positions that were at stake, but also because of the result. For most of the positions, Mexicans overwhelmingly elected representatives of a new political party: MORENA.

Even though MORENA was registered as a political party only 3 years ago, today it is the most powerful political party in Mexico. This is due to the general disappointment Mexicans feel about the more established political parties due to their numerous corruption scandals, a lack of efficient institutions, blatant inequality, increasing human rights abuses, and a sense of distrust towards the State in general.

MORENA, led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who founded the political party and won the presidential elections by a whopping margin, got the diagnosis right. He tapped into the anger and annoyance of the Mexican population, which feels that the government governs only for few and mostly to enrich themselves. MORENA gave hope by promising a common good approach that would prioritize the more than 50 million poor people who live in Mexico. During his campaign (which is his third, as he lost the past two elections), AMLO claims to have visited every municipality in Mexico; he listened to concerns and promised change.

AMLO’s opposition is concerned that he is over-promising and that his proposals lack implementation plans and details. Some critics fear that even though he got the diagnosis right, his policies won’t bring about solutions and that he won’t be able to materialize the promises he has made. But also, let’s face it, a lot of them worry they will lose their privileged citizen status. AMLO is viewed by most of his opposition as a populist authoritarian threat.

Now let´s take a step back for a second. Let me describe the current situation of my country. Mexico is suffering from an insecurity crisis: high levels of violence combined with high levels of impunity and a generalized lack of trust in institutions. Additionally, the levels of inequality in Mexico are terribly high and corruption scandals occur on a regular basis.

The current homicide rate in Mexico is 22.5 for every 100,000 people. This compares to 89 in Venezuela, 60 in El Salvador, 24 in Colombia, or 3.3 in Chile. This number started steadily increasing in Mexico since the government of Felipe Calderón declared a war on drugs in 2006. Since then, Mexico has been combating drug organizations with the army. This strategy has changed the dynamics of the drug industry but has not been able to reduce the supply of drugs. Big cartels have broken down into smaller and more violent ones – due to the approach of capturing the heads of the organizations – but as the demand in the United States continues to grow, the cartels always find a way to profit. Additionally, this intensified prohibition creates a riskier environment that demands higher prices, which result in an even more profitable market.

Felipe Calderón speaks in London in 2012. (Photo courtesy of CONADE).

While this strategy has failed massively, Mexico is immersed in a human rights crisis. According to Human Rights Watch, there are alarmingly high rates of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture. Moreover, crimes are under-prosecuted in Mexico, both because of a lack of trust in institutions that result in few crimes being reported but also because this lack of trust is based on the reality that institutions are often incapable of penalizing criminals.

Inequality is another big concern in Mexico, and feeds the sense of discomfort of the majority of the population. Around 43% of Mexicans live in poverty, and this number is on the rise. At the same time, the fortune of the richest 16 Mexicans grows in size five times a year. On the corruption front, it is hard to say if corruption has actually been increasing or if it is just more visible, but there is no denying that it remains one of Mexico’s largest problems.

While AMLO did not talk much about his approach to the insecurity crisis during his campaign, he did refer to his proposals to reduce inequality, poverty, and eliminate corruption.

Now, let’s talk about what has been happening since the election. AMLO received 53.3% of the vote, even more than the polls originally reported (Oraculus: 48% and Bloomberg: 51%). From the nine states that elected governors, five elected MORENA representatives. The coalition led by MORENA (which includes a conservative political party fighting against rights like access to abortion or same sex marriage) attained the majority in both houses and in 17 of the 32 local congresses.

MORENA and AMLO have a historical opportunity to guide the country towards social progress, but there is also a real risk that this amount of power will be used in an authoritarian manner. AMLO has been criticized multiple times during his campaign and after being elected for contradicting himself. For example, he says he will eradicate corruption but has allied with some very corrupt actors including Elba Esther Gordillo, one of the few Mexicans arrested on corruption charges (whose arrest coincided with the beginning of President Peña’s regime and was recently freed due to lack of evidence after five years in prison, coinciding with an alliance with AMLO), and Manuel Barlett, responsible for the electoral fraud of 1988 that favored Salinas, arguably one of the most hated Mexican presidents.

When asked how he will eradicate corruption in Mexico, AMLO responds he will do so by setting an example. Critics argue that this is naïve and that in order to actually end corruption, institutions must be strengthened to reduce the levels of impunity (which is among the highest in the world). Recently these questions on corruption have intensified, as the electoral institution fined MORENA for failing to explain the origin and destination of resources that were deposited into a trust fund. Instead of recognizing his party’s mistake, AMLO called the fine “vile and vindictive”. This attitude calls into question the seriousness of his commitment to end corruption.

Along the same lines, an independent district attorney would be instrumental in reducing impunity, corruption, and human rights abuses. Civil society has been demanding one without success. It is very worrisome that AMLO has not pronounced his support for this. Instead, he has said he will propose three alternatives and that Congress will be able to choose one of them. This obviously would not result in an independent district attorney but in a position appointed by the president, who, even if his three alternatives are excellent choices, would not be able to prosecute autonomously or free from political pressure.

AMLO casts his vote in the 2012 election. (Photo by Eneas de Troya).

There are also concerns about where AMLO will get the funds to implement all of his proposed policies, as he has promised not to raise taxes and only implement fiscally neutral policies. He states that he will fund all of his policies with money saved from ending corruption and the austerity program (the reduction of bureaucrats’ salaries, including his by more than half).

On the other hand, there is finally hope to reach an end to the devastating war on drugs in Mexico. Even though this was not one of the main topics during his campaign (probably because of the controversial nature of the subject), the only proposal provided regarding national security was one that would have intensified the militarization strategy. AMLO’s proposal was to create a joint force between the military and the police and use only this force to combat crime. Human rights activists, many academics, and members of civil organizations pronounced themselves against this, arguing that it would not solve the problem and would only make matters worse.  Alfonso Durazo, the future government’s secretary of security, has recently stated that this plan will not be implemented (at least not in the short term), and that the creation of a Public Security Department (SSP) will be the priority instead. This department would be formed by a civil police force in charge of combating crime. Durazo has also stated that the military forces would return to their barracks in the next three years, restoring the responsibility of public security to civil police forces.

Additionally, Olga Sanchez Cordero, the proposed Secretary of the interior, has been very vocal about the strategy that AMLO’s government will pursue to start a peace process with the objective of reducing violence and impunity. Sanchez Cordero understands both the causes and the vicious cycle that the militarization strategy has created, and is putting forward a drastic change in direction.  This includes legalization of marijuana, decriminalization of opium poppy production, amnesty for lower tier crimes, and new trainings for police forces aimed at demilitarizing the country and enforcing human rights.

Even though there is wide agreement that this strategy would stop the trend of increasing violence, there is still a lot of pushback by proponents of militarization and prohibitionist strategies historically led by the United States government. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said “[…] I can say that we would not support the legalization of all drugs anywhere and certainly wouldn’t want to do anything that would allow more drugs to come into this country.” The United States government has historically had great influence in Mexican policy, so we have to wait and see how this plays out.

Inequality was one of the central topics in AMLO´s campaign. For years, AMLO has been blaming what he calls the “power mafia” (la mafia del poder) for the lack of democratic institutions and the high levels of poverty. As I mentioned above, inequality is a very big problem in Mexico with some municipalities enjoying one of the highest Human Development Index similar to Norway’s and others comparing to Liberia or Congo. In order to reduce inequality, AMLO is aiming to eradicate corruption and privileges while reducing public employees’ salaries, increasing minimum wage and pensions, providing scholarships, and increasing the number of universities by 100. The achievability of this last idea is also doubtful because of the huge cost, but a smaller number might be realistic and hopefully a more young people would be able to attend university (today, only 3 out of 10 do so).

A young pro MORENA skater in Mexico City. (Photo by Eneas de Troya).

Another contradiction that has been criticized is that political parties were not included in AMLO’s austerity program. In Mexico, political parties receive exorbitant amounts of public money. This administration will receive 4,700 million pesos (more or less 250 million U.S. dollars) even though there will be no elections. MORENA would receive more money than any other political party due to the substantial majority achieved in the past elections. It is incongruent that this budget is excluded from the austerity program. Recently, taking a step in the right direction, some congress representatives of the political party proposed to halve the budget allotted to political parties.

In terms of the relationship with the United States government, in a recent exchange with Donald Trump, AMLO agreed that the priorities of the relationship of their governments will be trade, economic development, migration, and security. AMLO has promised to develop a more prosperous Mexico in order to deter the need for migration to the United States. He has talked about increasing the minimum wage. This would also increase the probability of reaching a trade agreement with Canada and the United States as these countries have been arguing that the salary differential is too high and harms their economies. Trump stated in a letter that he would like to see a NAFTA agreement as soon as possible, but also threatened that if this doesn’t happen soon he will have to find a different path. This threat implies that Mexico and Canada would have to accept an agreement that they don’t feel comfortable with. Again, we can just wait and see how the negotiations evolve with this change of priorities of the Mexican government.

The United States government has been pressuring the Mexican government for decades to stop Central American migrants at the Mexican border before they travel to the U.S. border. Mexico has engaged in horrible practices like increasing the speed of the train that migrants use to travel north, effectively making the trip more deadly. Mexico should start by treating migrants in transit the same way Mexico demands migrants be treated in the United States.

In terms of security, as I have stated above, I believe that there will be huge disagreements between both countries due to the conflicting drug policy approaches.

On energy policy, AMLO has proposed to build two new oil refineries, arguing that Mexico should be able to produce its own gasoline and end the dynamic of exporting oil and importing gasoline. Environmentalists are naturally against this because they believe we should be moving away from the dependence on fossil fuels. Additionally, there are concerns about the economic feasibility of these investments. Critics believe that the refineries will cost a lot more than what AMLO is budgeting. On the other hand, he has said he will also invest in renewable energies and that he will prioritize community need above the investor’s, which would be a shift from the current administration’s approach.

It is undeniable that there are plenty of proposed policies that mark a positive change for Mexico towards a more peaceful and equal country. Nonetheless, there are also many contradictions and a real risk of authoritarian tendencies due to the mass representation of MORENA. As for the civil society, let’s hope for the best, stay informed, and continue to provide constructive criticism.

 

PALOMA CORCUERA studied economics at Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City, and earned a Master of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. Today she conducts macroeconomic analysis and teaches at the Economics Department of the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City. Follow her on Twitter @palcorcuera.

 

 

 

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Desafíos del nuevo gobierno en Colombia

Por Daniel Payares Montoya

Read this entry in English here.

La inauguración del President Iván Duque en Colombia. (Foto cortesía del gobierno Colombiano).

El ocho de agosto inició el período de gobierno del presidente Iván Duque, quien tendrá que liderar a Colombia en los próximos cuatro años en medio de un ambiente político marcado por la polarización y una incipiente recuperación económica tras el fin del súper ciclo de commodities en 2014.

Dentro de los incontables desafíos a los que tendrá que hacer frente como cabeza del Gobierno, hay al menos tres que determinarán la forma en la que será evaluada su gestión en el futuro.

El primero de ellos está relacionado con el fin del conflicto con las FARC. Si bien este acuerdo, sumado a una eventual negociación exitosa con la guerrilla del ELN, significarían el fin del último vestigio de la Guerra Fría en América Latina, aún es temprano para cantar victoria.

El Estado enfrenta numerosas dificultades para consolidar su autoridad y legitimidad en las zonas de posconflicto, las cuales han empezado a ser copadas por disidencias de las FARC, grupos rebeldes y otros actores criminales asociados al narcotráfico. Así mismo, la institucionalidad en esos sitios es mínima y la provisión de bienes públicos básicos, como educación, justicia y salud, entre otros, es precaria. Tampoco es claro cómo se va a crear el suficiente dinamismo económico para proveer oportunidades para la creación de riqueza legal y reducir la pobreza y la desigualdad que han agobiado durante décadas a las poblaciones que se encuentran allí asentadas. Si bien es cierto que se han diseñado planes para hacer frente a estas dificultades, su implementación no ha sido fácil y han tomado más tiempo del presupuestado.

Periodistas asesinados a manos de disidentes de las FARC. (Foto por Agencia de Noticias ANDES).

Por otro lado, en el frente económico, el país parece haber superado exitosamente la caída de los precios internacionales de las materias primas que se inicio hace cerca de cuatro años, y se encamina a tener tasas de crecimiento cercanas o superiores al 3% en 2018 y 2019.

No obstante, el principal desafío en el mediano y largo plazo para poder tener un mejor desempeño económico sigue estando asociado a la productividad. Durante tres décadas, ésta ha estado estancada y es necesario que tanto el sector privado como el Gobierno nacional actúen conjuntamente para revertir esta situación. Mejorar las capacidades empresariales, aumentar la eficiencia de los mercados, reducir la informalidad y cerrar las brechas de capital humano, son algunas de las acciones que deben considerarse para lograr esto.

Aunque ya se han realizado propuestas concretas desde el sector productivo para avanzar en este sentido, al nuevo gobierno le corresponde responder rápidamente con medidas encaminadas en esta dirección. Sin productividad será complejo pensar en generar bienestar de manera sostenible para todos los colombianos.

Participantes en el programa “Jóvenes con Futuro” en Antioquia, Colombia. (Foto cortesía de la Secretaría de Educación Antioquia).

Finalmente, y quizás el reto más importante, consiste en superar la división política que se ha exacerbado en los últimos años y consolidar un ambiente en el que, desde la diferencia, distintos grupos de interés puedan aportar para el desarrollo del país. Como lo manifestó recientemente el mismo presidente Duque, es fundamental que los colombianos puedan construir sobre las cosas que los unen y no quedarse en el lo que los divide; de lo contrario, será sumamente complejo pensar en que Colombia pueda dejar atrás definitivamente una historia que ha estado marcada por la violencia.

En resumen, el nuevo gobierno tiene retos enormes. Aunque su resolución estará plagada de desafíos, en sus manos está la posibilidad de que Colombia continúe avanzando hacia el desarrollo y entregar un mejor país del que recibe dentro de cuatro años.

 

DANIEL PAYARES  MONTOYA es un estudiante de primer año del Master of Development Practice de la Universidad de California, Berkeley. Antes de ir a Berkeley, él trabajo en el Consejo Privado de Competitividad, en Bogotá, como Investigador Asociado y en la Fundación Proantioquia, en Medellín, como Coordinador de Proyectos. También ha sido profesor de cátedra en las universidades EAFIT y CESA en Colombia.

 

 

 

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Challenges for Colombia’s New Government

By Daniel Payares Montoya

The inauguration of President Iván Duque on August 8, 2018 in Colombia. (Photo courtesy of the Colombian government).

August 8th marked the beginning of the term of President Iván Duque, who will lead Colombia for the next four years. This comes amid a political environment characterized by increasing polarization and a slow economic recovery after the commodities super cycle ended in 2014.

Among the countless trials that President Duque will face as the head of the new government, three specific challenges will determine the way his presidency will be assessed in the future:

The first is related to the end of the conflict with the FARC Marxist guerrillas. While this agreement, along with an eventual successful negotiation with the ELN Maoist guerillas, would mean the end of the last vestige of the Cold War in Latin America, it is still too early to claim victory.

The Colombian state still faces numerous difficulties in consolidating its authority and legitimacy in post-conflict zones. These areas have begun to be taken over by FARC dissidents, rebel groups, and other criminal actors associated with drug trafficking. Likewise, the presence of government institutions in post-conflict zones is minimal and the provision of public goods, such as education, justice and health, among others, is precarious. It is not clear how economic growth will provide opportunities for the creation of legal wealth and reduction of poverty and inequality that have affected people for decades. While plans have been designed to deal with these difficulties, their implementation has not been easy, and they have taken more time than predicted.

Journalists murdered by FARC dissidents. (Photo by Agencia de Noticias ANDES).

On the economic front, the country seems to have successfully overcome the fall in international prices of commodities that began about four years ago. It is estimated that GDP will grow at rates close to or above 3% in 2018 and 2019.

However, the main challenge for economic performance in the medium and long term is still associated with productivity. For the last three decades, productivity has been stagnant. Both the private sector and national government must act together to reverse this situation. Efforts are required to improve business productivity, increase market efficiency, reduce informality, and close human capital gaps, to name a few.

Although concrete proposals have already been made by the private sector to address this, the new government has to respond quickly with measures aimed in this direction. Without increased productivity, it will be hard to improve the standard of living for all Colombians in the long run.

Participants in a youth development program in Antioquia, Colombia. (Photo courtesy of Secretaría Educación Antioquia).

The final, and perhaps the most important, challenge is to overcome the political division that has been exacerbated in recent years. Instead, Colombia must create an environment in which different interest groups can contribute to the development of the country.  As President Duque said recently, it is fundamental that Colombians build on the issues that unite them and not remain divided; otherwise, it will be extremely difficult for Colombia to leave behind a history marked by violence.

To sum up, the new government has enormous challenges. Although the solutions are not easy, Colombia can continue moving towards development. President Duque has the opportunity to deliver a better country in four years than the one that he has inherited today.

 

DANIEL PAYARES MONTOYA is a first year Master of Development Practice student at UC Berkeley. Before coming to Berkeley, he worked at the Private Council on Competitiveness in Bogota as Associate Researcher and in Proantioquia Foundation in Medellin as Project Manager. He also has been a visiting lecturer at EAFIT and CESA universities in Colombia.

 

 

 

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La transformación de México

Por Sergio Aguayo

Read this entry in English here.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador como candidato presidencial en 2012. (Foto por Arturo Alfaro Galán).

México vive una etapa muy especial. Con la victoria de Andrés Manuel López Obrador se abre la posibilidad de que se modifiquen las reglas de su sistema político y se ataque de frente la corrupción y la violencia que corroen las entrañas del país.

Tras el éxito de López Obrador está la opción pacífica tomada por una parte las izquierdas políticas, sociales y culturales. Gesta notable porque padecieron masacres y asesinatos, fraudes electorales y desprestigio y porque resistieron la tentación de la violencia o la corrupción.

En 1968 los partidos y asociaciones de izquierda eran ilegales, irrelevantes o cómplices del gobierno. El Movimiento Estudiantil exigió pacíficamente algunos cambios concesiones; el presidente se rehusó y ordenó la matanza de Tlatelolco. Ahí empezó la larga marcha de la generación del 68.

Algunos tomaron las armas, otros empujamos el cambio desde las aulas, el periodismo, el activismo, el sindicalismo o la política profesional. Pese a las diferencias coincidimos en dos principios irrenunciables: reconstruir lo sucedido en el 68 y perseverar en la no violencia. Creamos tejido social como el movimiento moderno de derechos humanos que nació en los años setenta para atender a las víctimas de la Guerra Sucia, pero se extendió como la humedad por muchos otros temas.

Los simpatizantes de López Obrador en 2012. (Foto por Arturo Alfaro Galán).

Al mismo tiempo se legalizaron los partidos de izquierda que, en las elecciones presidenciales de 1988, tuvieron un éxito inesperado, frustrado por un fraude electoral tan obvio que un sector de izquierda propuso el enfrentamiento. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, entre otros, entendió la asimetría de fuerzas y apostó por el gradualismo, inevitable cuando la urna se convierte en el método del cambio. El resultado fue la alternancia que fue resquebrajando al PRI y a su régimen.

En 1993-94 el Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) elaboró dos Declaraciones de la Selva Lacandona. En la primera de diciembre del 93 proclamó la guerra y anunció el avance hacia la “capital del país venciendo al ejército”. Cuando empezaron los combates las izquierdas sociales e intelectuales –y amplios sectores internacionales– salieron a las calles para exigir al gobierno cesar las hostilidades y a los insurgentes adoptar medios pacíficos. Respondieron con un cese al fuego y con el Zapatismo sumándose, en la Segunda Declaración, a “elecciones libres y democráticas”.

Supcomandante Marcos con otros miembros del EZLN en Chiapas en los 90. (Foto por C. Cardoso).

De ese momento crucial se origina la reforma electoral de 1996, aquella que  hizo posible la derrota del partido gobernante (PRI) en 2000. Vicente Fox y su partido, el PAN, traicionaron su esencia y sucumbieron, junto con el PRD, a la cultura priista del saqueo presupuestal y la entrega de cargos a familiares y amigos. Las cúpulas de los tres grandes partidos se ahogaron en corrupción y/o  ineficiencia; el Estado se debilitó y se fortalecieron los poderes fácticos entre los que destaca el crimen organizado.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador empezó a preparar su primer asalto a la presidencia en 2000, cuando llegó a jefe de Gobierno de la capital. Esos seis años dejaron como sello su honestidad personal y una gestión razonablemente eficaz alejada de radicalismos. En 2006 encabezaba las encuestas pero perdió por errores estratégicos, defectos de personalidad y un fraude electoral tan evidente y grosero que hubo sectores que abogaron por el enfrentamiento. El ahora electo presidente perseveró en el sendero de Cárdenas y optó por la protesta pacífica. El desenlace lo vimos este año.

López Obrador nos promete una transformación “pacífica pero radical”. En su último acto de campaña preciso: “no hemos hecho todo este esfuerzo para meros cambios cosméticos, por encimita”. La tarea es monumental por la fortaleza de los cuatro jinetes de nuestro apocalipsis. La violencia, la corrupción, la desigualdad y los Estados Unidos de Donald Trump tienen sólidas redes de poder. Las resistencias serán enormes, los resultados inciertos.

Serán batallas de las cuales, siendo optimistas –y el momento se presta para ello– saldremos victoriosos y seremos capaces de forjar un mejor futuro. Que esto sea posible se debe en buena medida a las izquierdas mexicanas que resistieron las agresiones, las marginaciones, las burlas y los menosprecios. Igualmente meritorio fue su rechazo a la tentación de entrar al manejo de los presupuestos como patrimonio propio. En el trasfondo, insisto, ha estado la fidelidad con los métodos pacíficos. Estamos, pues, ante una oportunidad inédita. Por primera vez en nuestra milenaria historia tendremos la oportunidad de cambiar al régimen sin violencia. Costó pero lo logramos.

Una versión de este artículo salió inicialmente en la edición del periódico Reforma el 4 de julio 2018, y está reproducido aquí con el permiso del autor.  

 

SERGIO AGUAYO es profesor del Colegio de México y científico visitante de la Escuela de Salud Pública de Harvard. Contribuye a varios periódicos y programas de televisión y escribe una columna semanal en Reforma. Hace poco publicó el libro electrónico, 68: The Students, the President and the CIA.”

 

 

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The Transformation of Mexico

By Sergio Aguayo

Andrés Manuel López Obrador as a presidential candidate in 2012. (Photo by Arturo Alfaro Galán).

Mexico is living through a unique reality. Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s victory has created opportunities to modify the rules of the political system and attack the corruption and violence that are corroding the core of the country.

Behind López Obrador’s success is the peaceful strategy taken by part of the political, social, and cultural left. This is particularly notable because although the left suffered massacres, assassinations, electoral fraud, and slander, they resisted the temptation of violence and corruption.

In 1968, leftist parties and associations were illegal, irrelevant, or complicit with the government. The Student Movement peacefully demanded changes; the president refused and ordered the slaughter of Tlatelolco. So began the long march of the generation of ’68.

Some took up arms; others of us pushed for change from classrooms or through journalism, activism, trade unionism or professional politics. Despite our differences, we agreed on two inalienable principles: to reconstruct what happened in 1968, and to persevere in nonviolence. We created the foundations of the modern human rights movement that emerged in the seventies to care for the victims of the Dirty War, and then spread to many other issues.

López Obrador supporters in 2012. (Photo by Arturo Alfaro Galán).

Left-wing parties were legalized in time for the 1988 presidential elections, but were frustrated by obvious electoral fraud to the point that a sector of the left proposed direct action. However, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, among others, understood the imbalance between the two sides and opted for gradual change, which is inevitable when the ballot box is the primary strategy. The result was “alternancia,” the political transition that split the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and undermined its regime.

In 1993 and 1994, the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista National Liberation Army, EZLN) prepared two declarations from the Lacandon Jungle. In the first, from December of 1993, they proclaimed war and announced their advance towards the “capital of the country to defeat the army”. When combat began, the intellectual and social left – and large international sectors – took to the streets to demand that the government cease hostilities and that the insurgents adopt peaceful means. They responded with a ceasefire and supported the addition of “free and democratic elections” to the EZLN’s Segunda Declaración.

Supcomandante Marcos with other EZLN members in Chiapas in the 1990s. (Photo by C. Cardoso).

The 1996 electoral reform emerged from that crucial moment, which later made the defeat of the governing party (the PRI) possible in 2000. Vicente Fox and the PAN (the National Action Party), betrayed their principles and succumbed, along with the PRD (the Party of the Democratic Revolution), to the PRI-like culture of budget looting and giving government jobs to family and friends. The leaders of the three major parties were drowning in corruption and/or inefficiency; the State got weaker and the de facto powers, including organized crime, became stronger.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador began preparing his first assault on the presidency in 2000, when he became the Mayor of the capital. In those six years, he left a mark through his honesty and his reasonably effective, non-radical management. In 2006 he led in polls proceeding the presidential election, but lost due to strategic errors, personality flaws, and electoral fraud so evident and crude that there were entire sectors that advocated for direct action. The current president-elect persevered on Cárdenas’ path and opted for peaceful protest. We witnessed the outcome this year.

López Obrador promises us a “peaceful but radical” transformation. In his last campaign act he specified, “We have not put in all this effort for mere superficial, cosmetic changes.” This task is monumental because of the strength of the four horsemen of our apocalypse: violence, corruption, inequality, and the United States of Donald Trump have strong networks of power. The resistances will be enormous, and the results uncertain.

There will be battles in which, being optimistic – and the time is ready for that – we will be victorious and we will be able to forge a better future. That this is even possible is largely due to the Mexican left that resisted aggression, marginalization, ridicule, and contempt. Equally commendable was López Obrador’s refusal to treat the budget as his own personal assets. In the background, I insist, has been allegiance to peaceful practices. We are, therefore, before an unprecedented opportunity. For the first time in our thousand-year history, we will have the opportunity to change the system without violence. It was difficult, but we made it.

This article originally appeared in Spanish in the July 4, 2018 edition of Reforma and was translated to English by CLAS staff with the author’s permission. 

SERGIO AGUAYO is a Professor at the Colegio de México and a Visiting Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health. He contributes weekly to Reforma, as well as to other newspapers and television shows. He recently published the eBook, “’68: The Students, the President and the CIA.”

 

 

 

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The Price of Entry: How AMLO Exchanged Ideology for Power

By Steve Fisher

AMLO during his unsuccessful 2012 presidential run in Orizaba, Veracruz. (Photo by Niña Astronauta).

The president-elect of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is probably best known for his tireless pursuit of the presidency and the fact that he has visited every municipality of the country at least once. His past two bids for the office failed and in both he decried electoral fraud. In his third, successful bid, it was clear that Andrés Manuel López Obrador would pull out all the stops to achieve his goal.

AMLO, as Lopez Obrador is commonly known, contradicted his past, anti-establishment rhetoric and created ties with the political gatekeepers of Mexico. In turn, he was given the keys, and the floodgates opened: he won the presidency by the largest landslide of any presidential candidate in recent democratic history. The combination of an electorate disillusioned with the failed promises of recent ruling parties and the “visto bueno,” or approval of those who hold the keys, won AMLO the seat he has sought for more than twelve years–and a majority in both congress and the lower house.

The president-elect is now faced with the unenviable task of meeting the expectation of his strong leftist base while at the same time navigating the demands of the old guard in his coalition.

One political gatekeeper includes the most powerful teachers union in the country, previously led by Elba Esther Gordillo, who maintains a strong influence on the syndicate. Forbes magazine named Gordillo one of the top ten most corrupt individuals in the country in 2013.

Union teachers across the country rallied as voting booth observers for MORENA. Various high profile leaders of the union are now part of AMLO’s cabinet, and in turn, he promised to revoke a controversial education law that Gordillo and the teachers strongly oppose.

Then there’s the far-right evangelical group, the Social Encounter Party, whose flag AMLO flew in his coalition party. The group is widely believed to be founded by a Secretary of the current administration, Osorio Chong, and holds some of the most hard right positions in the country, including anti-abortion stances. All this is in direct contradiction to the leader’s core, leftist base.

Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, Secretary of the Interior in the cabinet of Enrique Peña Nieto. (Photo courtesy of Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos).

And in a hail to the old Revolutionary Party guard of the 1970’s, AMLO brought under his wing the embattled former mining union leader, Napoleon Gómez Urrutia, who was accused of siphoning off $2.7 million dollars from the union coffers.

Urrutia, a powerful fixture of establishment politics, is now a prominent senator in the MORENA party. After winning the seat, Urrutia congratulated his party, MORENA. “A new chapter is coming,” he said in a video recorded from Canada where he fled after the corruption charges. “We will rebuild principles and values of the workers and national unionism.”

But perhaps the most high profile concession to the establishment was AMLO’s olive branch to the broadly unpopular, current president Enrique Peña Nieto. In his campaign, AMLO promised he would not seek to prosecute the president who has been plagued with corruption and human rights scandals.

A news investigation revealed that a multi-million dollar mansion provided to Peña Nieto’s wife by a powerful international company resulted in favorable government contracts. Forty-three student-teachers were disappeared in the state of Guerrero by federal authorities according to reports and an independent investigation, and yet nearly four years later they have not been found. And last year, homicides across the country were the highest in the past twenty years.

These and a host of other overtures to the Mexican political establishment suggest AMLO finally conceded core ideals in exchange for being given the most powerful position in the country. Still, the electorate has high hopes for a better life under AMLO.

The outsized expectations for change have not been lost on the man who promised to bring a “fourth transformation” to Mexico, which he compared with Mexican Independence and later the Revolution in the early 1900s.

Students for AMLO during his 2012 presidential run. (Photo by Eneas de Troya).

The president-elect has been moving quickly, ever since Election Day, to show he will make good on his rhetoric.

In a recent press conference, AMLO outlined the first steps in his ambitious agenda, including reducing salaries of politicians, restructuring civil law enforcement to address record high violence, and revising a law protecting presidents from prosecution.

“We’re always going to follow the law and we will protect no one,” AMLO told the press after a recent meeting with state governors.

The question is whether the foxes, which he brought into his henhouse, will allow the anti-corruption measures to mature.

Steve Fisher is a freelance investigative journalist based in Mexico. His primary focus includes the Mexican criminal justice system and human rights. Steve has published in the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones magazine and Fusion Investigates. He has a master’s in journalism from UC Berkeley, and was a Univision News Fellow at the Center for Latin American Studies.

 

 

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Invisible Imprints of Glacial Melt

By Emma Steigerwald

The Marbled water frog is believed to be important for its medicinal properties, as well as for its role in the ecosystem. (Photo by Emma Steigerwald).

“When I was a child and the rain did not come,” adults sometimes told us, “my mother had me carry a frog far from the water, so that its distressed song would call the rain”.

“Make sure you don’t annoy the frogs,” people would warn my team. “When they are upset, the lightning falls”.

“Make sure you return those frogs when you’ve finished. If you don’t, the springs will dry”.

This photo of one of our camps highlights the extreme weather conditions in the Cordillera. (Photo by Emma Steigerwald).

The cultural importance of amphibians in the most remote reaches of the Cordillera Vilcanota in the Peruvian Andes became more obvious each day that I spent there. People’s relationship with these animals is not an affectionate one: for the most part, they find the concept of contact with frogs disgusting or frightening. Still, a culture that depends on the success of their potatoes, tarwi, and alpaca will pay close attention to the creatures to whom they attribute sway over precipitation patterns. Communities that genuinely lose alpaca, homes, and people to lightning strikes will have respect for the creatures to whom they attribute sway over electrical storms. Therefore, when frog populations began disappearing in the early 2000s, Quechua herders broadcast their concerns (Seimon et al 2017). These reports motivated scientists to begin long-term amphibian monitoring in the Cordillera Vilcanota (Seimon et al 2017). Conversations with this monitoring team drew me to begin the first landscape genetic project ever based in the region, which I hoped to pursue without “annoying the frogs”!

I had my first field season this spring 2018, supported by the Tinker Summer Research Grant from Berkeley’s Center for Latin American studies. I was accompanied by local guide and horsedriver Gumercindo Crispin, as well as two students from the Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad de Cusco: Yonatan Jared Guevara Casafranca and Peter Frank Condori Ccarhuarupay.

The Marbled four-eyed frog, pictured here among some of the beautiful alpine plants found in its high-elevation wetland habitat. (Photo by Emma Steigerwald).

In their dedicated work with the Marbled water frog, Marbled four-eyed frog, and Warty toad, the long-term monitoring team has found the pandemic fungal disease chytridiomycosis implicated in the reported die-offs (Seimon et al 2017). The team was also amazed to find all three species at elevations hundreds of meters higher than had ever been previously registered (Seimon et al 2007). Accelerated glacial melt, which had entirely transformed the Cordillera in the last century, had also unlocked new habitat for these frogs to colonize (Seimon et al 2007).

Children of Huayna Ausangate helping us to search for Marbled water frogs after school. (Photo by Emma Steigerwald).

The situation of these Cordilleran frogs captivates me because I am interested in problems relating to conserving wild populations. Here, I saw the convergence of several pressures: glacial melt, climate-driven range shifts, a novel pathogen, and the potential for restored animal movement across a mountain chain that has served as a barrier for perhaps thousands of years. I wondered if my particular toolkit, landscape genetics, could lend insight into how these pressures are interacting. Rapid range expansion and new or restored animal movement across deglaciated mountain passes will impact the genetic characteristics of wild populations (e.g. Ibrahim et al 1996, Excoffier 2004, Kolbe et al 2008, Pfaff et al 2001). These characteristics are, in turn, integral to whether populations will adapt, cope with new threats like diseases, and finally persist in the long term (Bonin et al 2007). Since climate change is causing species across taxa and across the world to alter their ranges (Parmesan 2006), rapid deglaciation is proceeding in tropical and temperate zones alike (Berger et al 2017), and novel disease threats are emerging at an accelerated rate (Daszak et al 2000), it is critical that we examine the impacts of these pressures and how they interact.

Gumercindo and I hold buckets of tadpoles we netted for sampling. (Photo by Peter Frank Condori Ccarhuarupay).

Ecologists are driven by the understanding that no element of an ecosystem stands independently– not even humans. For this reason, I find wisdom in the ancient beliefs that were shared with us about the Cordilleran frogs. I suspect that, in the grand scheme of things, the presence of frogs is indeed important for streams to flow. I suspect that, ultimately, the health of frogs is indeed important for the rains to fall. As scientists, we currently understand only small parts of that larger puzzle. While we catch up, I am going to trust that deeper wisdom, letting it inspire my effort to understand the forces we unknowingly exert on the wildlife that surrounds us.

References
Berger, A., Yin, Q.Z., Nifenecker, H. and Poitou, J., 2017. Slowdown of global surface air temperature increase and acceleration of ice melting. Earth’s Future, 5(7), pp.811-822.
Bonin, A., Nicole, F., Pompanon, F., Miaud, C. and Taberlet, P., 2007. Population adaptive index: a new method to help measure intraspecific genetic diversity and prioritize populations for conservation. Conservation Biology, 21(3), pp.697-708.
Daszak, P., Cunningham, A.A. and Hyatt, A.D., 2000. Emerging infectious diseases of wildlife–threats to biodiversity and human health. Science, 287(5452), pp.443-449.
Excoffier, L., 2004. Patterns of DNA sequence diversity and genetic structure after a range expansion: lessons from the infinite‐island model. Molecular Ecology, 13(4), pp.853-864.
Ibrahim, K.M., Nichols, R.A. and Hewitt, G.M., 1996. Spatial patterns of genetic variation generated by different forms of dispersal during range expansion. Heredity, 77(3), p.282.
Kolbe, J.J., Larson, A., Losos, J.B. and de Queiroz, K., 2008. Admixture determines genetic diversity and population differentiation in the biological invasion of a lizard species. Biology Letters, 4(4), pp.434-437.
Parmesan, C., 2006. Ecological and evolutionary responses to recent climate change. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst., 37, pp.637-669.
Pfaff, C.L., Parra, E.J., Bonilla, C., Hiester, K., McKeigue, P.M., Kamboh, M.I., Hutchinson, R.G., Ferrell, R.E., Boerwinkle, E. and Shriver, M.D., 2001. Population structure in admixed populations: effect of admixture dynamics on the pattern of linkage disequilibrium. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 68(1), pp.198-207.
Seimon, T.A., Seimon, A., Daszak, P., Halloy, S.R., Schloegel, L.M., Aguilar, C.A., Sowell, P., Hyatt, A.D., Konecky, B. and Simmon, J.E., 2007. Upward range extension of Andean anurans and chytridiomycosis to extreme elevations in response to tropical deglaciation. Global Change Biology, 13(1), pp.288-299.
Seimon, T.A., Seimon, A., Yager, K., Reider, K., Delgado, A., Sowell, P., Tupayachi, A., Konecky, B., McAloose, D. and Halloy, S., 2017. Long‐term monitoring of tropical alpine habitat change, Andean anurans, and chytrid fungus in the Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru: Results from a decade of study. Ecology and Evolution, 7(5), pp.1527-1540.

EMMA STEIGERWALD is a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow and PhD student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Her research is motivated by the belief that, to manage wild populations with defined outcomes in mind, we should integrate our understanding of the complex ecological and evolutionary processes they are subjected to on diverse and ever-changing landscapes. She comes to Berkeley from a project working on an ecological corridor for endangered, range-restricted parakeets of the Ecuadorian Andes, and is glad to now be working on a project that also considers the implications of ecological corridors for infectious disease. Emma received a 2018 Tinker Summer Research Grant awarded by the Center for Latin American Studies. 

 

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La encrucijada de los grandes empresarios de Nicaragua por Carlos F. Chamorro

Por Carlos F. Chamorro

Read this entry in English here.

Manifestación ciudadana en pro de un diálogo nacional. (Foto por Jorge Mejía Peralta).

Hace exactamente un año, publiqué el ensayo ¿”Modelo Cosep”, o el régimen de Ortega?, analizando las particularidades de la alianza corporativista entre el régimen autoritario de Daniel Ortega y los grandes empresarios. Una alianza que nació en 2009 en medio de la crisis económica internacional cuando el Gobierno de Ortega atravesaba por su peor crisis política, después de haber sellado con violencia el fraude electoral municipal de 2008, que provocó sanciones económicas internacionales de parte de Estados Unidos y la Unión Europea. Eliminado el contrapeso de los partidos políticos democráticos, y con el soporte de la multimillonaria cooperación económica de Venezuela, el régimen designó al Cosep y a los grandes empresarios como su único interlocutor en la sociedad nicaragüense —desoyendo incluso a los obispos de la Iglesia católica, con los que únicamente se reunió una vez en una década– e instaló un sistema de cogobierno económico. Así nació un esquema de diálogo excluyente en el que los grandes empresarios nacionales y extranjeros se convirtieron en un actor político que le brindó legitimidad al régimen autoritario, a cambio de ventajas económicas y oportunidades de inversión, en un sistema de control social sin democracia ni transparencia. 

Mi intención entonces era promover el debate público sobre este “modelo” de estabilidad autoritaria, advirtiendo no solo sobre la falta de viabilidad y sostenibilidad a largo plazo de un régimen personalista –el Estado-Partido-Familia, sostenido en los pies de barro de la centralización, el nepotismo, la represión y la corrupción– sino también sobre el oneroso costo de oportunidad que representaba para la economía nacional la carga de la corrupción. Vale la pena releer hoy esas líneas y las de mis colegas, unos pocos, pero respetados periodistas, economistas, politólogos, e investigadores nacionales y extranjeros,  que cuestionaron el “modelo”, no tanto porque el análisis tenga algún mérito predictivo particular –que nunca fue esa su pretensión– sino porque ahonda en lo mucho que queda por hacer para desmantelar el corporativismo que se tambalea con el sistema político que lo engendró, y que debe ser sustituido por un sistema de gestión económica bajo normas democráticas y transparentes.

Las críticas al mal llamado “modelo Cosep” fueron acogidas en los pocos medios de comunicación independientes que sobreviven en el país, y en la agenda de discusión de Funides, el influyente centro de pensamiento del sector privado que de manera sistemática ha puesto en primer plano el nexo inseparable que debe existir entre la institucionalidad democrática y el desarrollo económico. Sin embargo, la intolerancia de algunos liderazgos empresariales intentó abortar el debate, al extremo que las cámaras del Cosep fueron invitadas a suscribir un comunicado de solidaridad con su presidente, alegando que era objeto de una campaña de “descalificación para dividir al sector privado”.

Manifestación ciudadana en pro de un diálogo nacional. (Foto por Jorge Mejía Peralta).

La vocería oficiosa del sector privado adujo absurdamente que se pretendía empujarlos a una confrontación con el Gobierno, mientras un empresario con mayor visión estratégica resumió su disyuntiva así: “estamos de acuerdo con el diagnóstico, pero ¿qué podemos hacer ante el Gobierno, si nosotros no tenemos la capacidad de presión que se nos atribuye?”. En realidad, al cuestionar el “corporativismo autoritario”, como lo bautizó el economista José Luis Medal, nunca se sugirió que el sector privado debía abandonar el diálogo con el Gobierno o convertirse en un partido político para tomar el poder, únicamente se le exhortaba a establecer límites claros ante el abuso del poder autoritario, y a denunciar la corrupción y la falta de transparencia pública, como una forma de defender no solo sus propios intereses a mediano plazo, sino los de toda la sociedad.  Después vinieron las amenazas de sanciones externas en el Congreso norteamericano con la Nica Act, quizás la última oportunidad para corregir el rumbo, pero en vez de convocar al sector empresarial para “ponerle el cascabel al gato” en las oficinas de El Carmen, un prominente líder del gran capital contrató al Carmen Group para cabildear, no en Managua, dónde está radicado el tumor de la enfermedad, sino en Washington D.C.

Hayan sido cómplices o rehenes del autoritarismo, o una combinación de ambas cosas, los grandes empresarios sucumbieron a la promesa de certidumbre en la estabilidad autoritaria, hasta que se acabaron los tiempos de “vacas gordas” del negociado de la cooperación venezolana, y la incapacidad del régimen para negociar la crisis fiscal y tolerar las expresiones de protesta social, provocó la matanza y la rebelión de abril. Entonces explotó la olla de presión y los agravios acumulados durante más de una década por la población, liderada por la juventud y los estudiantes universitarios, incluidos los simpatizantes sandinistas, en un reclamo nacional contra la represión y la conculcación de democracia y libertades públicas. La rebelión generalizada, ahora con la participación de amplios sectores económicos, movimientos sociales, y los sectores medios, simboliza el enorme costo humano, social, económico y político, que está pagando el país para librarse de una dictadura que cerró todos los espacios de participación democrática. 

La primera reacción del Cosep ante la masacre de abril, condenando la represión y respaldando el derecho a la protesta pacífica, y sobre todo reconociendo que ya no era posible negociar a puertas cerradas la crisis de la Seguridad Social y cualquier otro asunto de trascendencia nacional bajo el esquema excluyente, representó un paso importante de desmarcamiento del régimen, pero su déficit de credibilidad demanda un compromiso inequívoco con la democratización que, más de allá de proclamar un decálogo democrático, sea refrendado con acciones irreversibles.

La masacre perpetrada por el régimen que ya suma más de 50 muertos, la legitimidad de la protesta popular, y el surgimiento del movimiento estudiantil universitario como nuevo actor social y político, han establecido un parteaguas por la vía de los hechos y así se da por descontado que “el país cambió, y nada volverá a ser como antes”. No obstante, los liderazgos empresariales, hasta hace poco aliados del régimen autoritario de Ortega, le deben al país una revisión autocrítica de sus responsabilidades y del llamado “modelo de diálogo y consenso”, para definir las nuevas reglas del juego que deberán regir en la negociación sobre el fin de la dictadura, la transición, y la reconstrucción del país. 

Manifestación ciudadana en pro de un diálogo nacional. (Foto por Jorge Mejía Peralta).

El pronunciamiento del tres de mayo suscrito por los catorce grandes empresarios, consejeros del Cosep, las 27 cámaras empresariales, Amcham y Funides, ya no alude más al “modelo Cosep” y proclama que ¨es fundamental reconstruir el Estado de Derecho, dentro del marco institucional establecido por la Constitución y las leyes para responder pacífica y democráticamente a las demandas sociales, políticas, jurídicas y económicas de todos los sectores de la sociedad¨. En consecuencia, los grandes empresarios deberían reconocer que si antes fueron un soporte de la estabilidad autoritaria, la reconstrucción del Estado de Derecho que ahora promueven presupone que se conviertan en un factor de cambio, en un actor democrático, que es diferente a un partido político, o de lo contrario, si se aferran a maquillar el status quo para que Ortega y Murillo continúen en el poder hasta 2021, corren el riesgo de hundirse con un régimen que ya no es capaz de restablecer la estabilidad del país sin más represión.

En la víspera del diálogo nacional, el Gobierno ha nombrado como principales delegados a cuatro figuras clave del “modelo Cosep”, Bayardo Arce y Álvaro Baltodano, sus principales operadores de negocios con el sector privado, y los ministros de Hacienda y Banco Central, a cargo de las exoneraciones fiscales y la regulación bancaria y financiera. Es evidente que la prioridad de Ortega, al margen del clamor nacional sobre la matanza y la demanda de democratización, consiste en restablecer el viejo orden con los grandes empresarios. 

Según la ultima encuesta de Cid Gallup, el 69% de la población, incluido un porcentaje importante de simpatizantes sandinistas, está de acuerdo en que Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo deben renunciar al poder, para facilitar un proceso de negociación que conduzca a reformas institucionales y elecciones anticipadas, en el marco de una continuidad constitucional.  Pero ante una dictadura familiar que se aferra al poder para intentar replicar el esquema de Maduro en Venezuela, el cambio pacífico y constitucional solo será posible a través de una combinación de presión cívica beligerante y solidaridad internacional. La fuerza decisiva de esta presión descansa en la movilización que lideran los estudiantes, a la que se han sumado trabajadores, campesinos, empleados públicos, productores y comerciantes, sectores medios, y el sector privado. Y por el peso y la influencia que ejercen en sectores clave de la economía y del Estado, los grandes empresarios tienen una cuota mayor de responsabilidad, para contribuir a esta salida. Nicaragua no cuenta con instituciones autónomas para resolver la crisis provocada por Ortega y Murillo –que para la gran mayoría de la gente están política y moralmente inhabilitados para gobernar– porque simplemente fueron liquidadas por la dictadura. Es imperativo, por lo tanto, una negociación para reducir los plazos y los tiempos de salida de los gobernantes de forma pacífica, y esto solo será posible a través de una alianza nacional decidida a ejercer el máximo nivel de presión cívica para lograr el restablecimiento de la democracia. Si se considera que esta salida, como cualquier otra opción democrática es incierta, la alternativa a que conduciría la inacción es más desgaste y descalabro económico, y los imponderables que se derivan de más represión, muerte y rebelión.

Manifestación ciudadana en pro de un diálogo nacional. (Foto por Jorge Mejía Peralta).

En contrario a este argumento se alega que la aversión al riesgo político de parte de los grandes empresarios está justificada no solo por su propia lógica económica, sino también por el trauma de su experiencia histórica en 1979, cuando apoyaron la revolución contra la dictadura de Somoza, y luego se rompió la alianza nacional y fueron confiscados por una revolución de orientación socialista. Sin embargo, hay un falso déjà vu con 1979. Entonces, hubo una revolución liderada por un movimiento político-militar, la guerrilla del FSLN, que encabezó la insurrección popular para derrocar al régimen de Somoza. Lo que está planteado hoy no es una revolución armada, ni socialista, sino una rebelión cívica, pacífica, que demanda la salida de los dictadores por la vía constitucional, para promover reformas profundas. La bandera política de esta insurrección cívica proclama, como soñaba mi padre hace 40 años, que “Nicaragua vuelva a ser república”, para poder llevar adelante las reformas pendientes de la democratización, que no pudo garantizar la transición después de 1990. Se trata de una rebelión popular que carece de líderes visibles y organizaciones que la convoquen, y si algún paralelismo existe entre 2018 y 1979, este se reduce a las alarmantes coincidencias que hay entre la dictadura de Somoza y la de Ortega, hermanadas en la corrupción, la confusión de lo público y lo privado, el nepotismo, la vocación dinástica, y ahora también el genocidio y la matanza. 

Ante el colapso del régimen autoritario, del que fueron cómplices y también rehenes, la encrucijada de los grandes empresarios consiste en apostar otra vez por la inercia y dejar su suerte en manos del régimen, o convertirse, finalmente, en actores de un cambio democrático. 

Este artículo salió inicialmente en la edición del periódico Confidencial el 16 de mayo 2018 y está reproducido con el permiso del autor.  

CARLOS F. CHAMORRO es un periodista nicaragüense de renombre internacional. Es el director del programa de televisión Esta Semana y el editor del periódico semanal Confidencial, el cual fundó.  Es presidente del Centro de Investigaciones de la Comunicación (CINCO), una institución de la sociedad civil nicaragüense especializada en estudios de comunicación, cultura, democracia, y opinión pública. Anteriormente, fue editor del diario sandinista La Barricada. Chamorro presentó su trabajo en CLAS en el 2006.

 

 

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