Friday, August 13, 2010

A bicentennial and a new president

On July 20th, Colombia celebrated the bicentennial of its declaration of independence from Spain. As I understand it, on July 20th of 1810, lots of important Creoles (American-born people of Spanish descent) got together to demand a special type of representative assembly for governing the colony. They asked a Spaniard for a flowerpot for the celebration, and when he refused to loan his pot to the Creoles, they started a riot. Eventually they took the Viceroy hostage, and their demands for a representative assembly turned into a demand for complete independence from Spain. They spent the next nine years fighting against the Spaniards to gain this independence.

On August 7th of this year we also swore in Juan Manuel Santos, the new president of Colombia. As I've written before on this blog, he promises to continue Uribe's far-right-wing policies, despite what wishful political commentators may write about the difference between Santos and his predecessor.

Most bizarre is that Uribe has been named to form part of the UN panel to investigate the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla. That is to say that to determine the facts and culpability for a very complex, murky issue, the UN has assigned a man who presided over one of the world's most flagrant human-rights violating governments!

One interesting and promising point is that Santos has named Alejandro Reyes to head some sort of a land-redistribution panel. I can't find many details on this in Colombian media, but it's exciting because Reyes wrote a book called Guerreros y Campesinos, on the illegal paramilitary land grabs in Colombia. So maybe in this administration we'll see some progress made on fighting against land inequality and injustice.

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