6 September 2022, El Espectador

A month ago, Colombia lived through the most symbolic presidential inauguration in its history. In 30 days, fundamental changes have been proposed that had not been outlined in 30 or even 300 years; but we are a pendulum swinging country, oscillating between slowness and eagerness, and many are telling the government that it should have already moved from symbols to actions, and from proposals to responses. Of course, there are particularly sensitive issues, such as hunger or children, with no time for the static.

For example, at the time of writing this column, the directorate of the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare is still vacant; in a country burdened by abuse, child labour and domestic violence, the ICBF cannot be left without a directorate, and let us hope that no one sees it as the jewel in the crown of the first lady in office, or as a political and/or financial fortress with a chequebook and positions designed to pay favours and reward friendships. The ICBF must be a serious, efficient and transparent body that watches over the rights of Colombian or foreign children and adolescents who are in our territory, and even more so when they are in conditions of extreme vulnerability. It must work hand in hand with national and international entities that watch over migrant children, and promote the creation of protective environments, starting with the family. The government of life now has the opportunity to settle a historic debt and guarantee our children and adolescents honesty, respect and comprehensive protection.

On issues of food security, a group of experts worked for nearly two months and made proposals with consciousness; however, we have not seen actions aimed at eradicating malnutrition and guaranteeing that no Colombian goes to bed hungry. That was one of Petro’s candidate’s banners, so he will surely deliver. We have only been in government for a month, but one can understand the impatience: the clock of hunger is ticking fast, and the clock of solutions is slow.

Perhaps the most visible progress has been made in the legislative arena. The reform of Law 418 (law and order) will raise criticism, support and debate, but there is one point that I love, not only for what it is but for what it means: the creation of an alternative service to compulsory military service, which proposes five lines of action: digital literacy in urban areas, work with the victims of the armed conflict, promotion of compliance with the peace agreements, of the public policy of peace and reconciliation, and a service aimed at the conservation and protection of the environment and biodiversity.

It is only fair that after finishing school our young people should not have to go and wash toilets in military garrisons, clean rifles or polish anyone’s boots. It is logical and physically and emotionally healthy for them to develop their youth by caring for the culture of life and not by feeding the routine of ambushes; for them to make the classrooms and the fields their own, not the trenches or the cemeteries. That they have students and not enemies; that they are not cannon fodder and that the only weapons they wield are pencils, computers and hoes. Instead of being trained to take orders for the disciplines of war, they should be trained to think and act in ways that help erase the aftermath of violence. This is a significant, achievable and positive step forward. An advance that fits perfectly with peace as a state policy and the protection of life as a non-negotiable precept.

The original article can be found here