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EL ESPECTADOR

Iván Duque, New Colombia President Is Likely Trump Ally In Latin America

Colombia's next president may deepen divisions in his country and align Bogota with the belligerent postures of U.S. President Trump.

Duque upon arrival at his campaign headquarters in Bogota on June 17
Duque upon arrival at his campaign headquarters in Bogota on June 17
Salomón Kalmanovitz

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — What kind of government can we expect from Colombia's president-elect, conservative Iván Duque? He has limited government experience, having worked as a junior assistant to two conservative finance ministers, Roberto Junguito and Alberto Carrasquilla (between 2002 and 2007), and as a cultural official in the Inter-American Development Bank, thanks to the outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos. But he ultimately owes his entire political career to former president Álvaro Uribe, who put him in his closed Senate list four years ago. Duque is disciplined, has a sharp memory and some talent for singing and dancing, but little formal training in either economics or political science.

This all means that he is bound to be greatly dependent on the architect of the extreme right-wing coalition that has raised him to power: Mr. Uribe.

One worries about the coalition backing Duque, not to mention the clientelist politicians who joined his bandwagon when it began to look like he might win. In fact he needs the legislative support of more than 55 senators to govern without problems and he only has 19, which is why he will offer ministries and positions to parties like the liberal Radical Change (Cambio Radical, with 16 senators), the Conservatives (15 senators), the centrist Unity Party (14) and the Liberals led by former president César Gaviria (7). He will offer lesser positions to other, prominent figures like the former conservative inspector-general, Alejandro Ordoñez and the former Attorney-General Viviane Morales. This means that all the old politicians are back in the saddle, as if nothing had been promised during the elections.

Ordoñez and Morales will play an influential, ideological role in family policies, which will discriminate against single mothers, youth pregnancies and the LGBT population. There will be discrimination against native communities and Afro-Colombians, and education policies will be swayed away from science, toward the ruling coalition's religious ideas.

Duque's continuing denunciations of what is left of the FARC, the country's mostly disarmed communist rebels, will end up strengthening its dissidents who have not accepted the peace process because they do not believe it will be implemented. The incipient peace process with ELN, the other Marxist guerrillas, may well grind to a halt and the group may even absorb FARC dissidents, reviving the specter of civil war in Colombia. We shall miss the departing Santos (who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his efforts to resolve the civil war).

Washington is interested in regime change in Venezuela.

This will be a government that will seek to downsize a state still plagued with clientelism and endemic corruption. It will cut taxes for the rich and neglect already ailing public services. Public universities will decline and once more become centers of resistance to the regime.

Few have reflected on the affinities between people like Duque and Uribe with Donald J. Trump, or what this will entail for Colombia's international relations in an increasingly fractured world. The United States will not invade Venezuela since its soldiers are already risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it is interested in regime change there. We shall therefore have a bellicose Uribe-Duque administration that will aid in a blockade of our neighbor's economy, and perhaps help topple President Nicolás Maduro. That would mean thousands more Venezuelans fleeing to Colombiaand Brazil; or, another massive humanitarian crisis.
Luckily, there will be a block of 27 senators who will act as opposition. Either way, we will have a rough four years ahead.
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Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

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