Before he was known as the bane of the FARC guerrillas, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had a reputation as a neoliberal apparatchik. Acting as Finance Minister during a 2001 debt crisis, he imposed a budget of “sweat and tears.”
But as president—when he’s not planning bombing raids against Marxist insurgents—Santos has been expanding the state bureaucracy’s size and scope to the extent that many of his former critics in Colombia’s soft-left-dominated media now praise his governing coalition.
Not wishing to disrupt the Latin American practice of generously distributing state-sector posts among supporters, Santos faced the challenge of satisfying the bureaucratic appetites of his “government of national unity,” which consists of all major parties except the far left Polo Democrático. Santos’s coalition rules as a de facto single-party government with no visible opposition.
Since single-party states are, in Evelyn Waugh’s words, “supported by a vast ill-paid bureaucracy whose work is tempered and humanized by corruption,” the first step toward finding suitable employment for thousands of cronies was the creation of three new ministries.
The Ministry of Justice is now carrying out functions previously performed by the Ministry of the Interior, albeit in a new headquarters and under a new minister.
The new Ministry of Work is headed by Rafael Pardo, a social democrat who until recently chaired the Liberal Party, a main pillar of Santos’s coalition. His task will be to “improve labor and union rights” in Colombia, a land where the union presence is so strong that Angelino Garzón, a former general secretary of one of the largest labor unions, is currently serving as Santos’s vice president.
The third new ministry is by far the most bizarre. While George Orwell’s Oceania had the Ministry of Plenty and a single party whose slogan was, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past,” the Colombian version of the Big Brother state contains the Ministry of Social Prosperity, which will soon employ 11,000 bureaucrats in charge of “eliminating extreme poverty.” The ministry includes the Center for Historical Memory, which aims to “investigate, elucidate, and reconstruct historic events.” Meanwhile, the Commission of Truth, apparently founded in place of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, is in charge of “configuring a historical memory.”
Santos has also created a special Commission for Territorial Legislation; four High Councils within the presidency’s Administrative Department; a Presidential Program for the Integral Development of the Afro-Colombian Population and of the Indigenous Population; a Special Administrative Unit for the Restitution of Divested Lands; and an Adaptation Fund to finance reconstruction efforts after natural disasters.
If one wonders how a former finance minister eager to cut public-sector dissipation ended up adding layer after layer to an already towering bureaucratic edifice, the answer is that Santos has always believed in state power’s inherent virtues.
In 1999, he published a book titled The Third Way, the prologue of which was written by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
During his presidential campaign, Santos frequently repeated the Blairite slogan that he would support “the market to the point that it’s possible, the state to the point that it’s necessary.”
While such insipid language may have been comforting to some in the post-Cold War days during which Blair rose to power, the fact remains that after thirteen years of New Labour, Britain was left with a massively expanded state sector and looming debt levels not seen since WWII. After the 2010 general election, Labour’s chief secretary to the Treasury wrote a note to his successor, Lib Dem MP David Laws, stating that “there’s no money left” in the state’s coffers.
Most Colombians are unaware of what awaits them at the end of the Blairite path along which they now tread. Also reminiscent of Britain under Blair are a series of politically correct “progressive” legislation schemes which Santos has either authored or supported.
On August 30th, the Colombian Congress approved a law which penalizes any act of discrimination based “on race, religion, nationality, political ideology or philosophy, sex or sexual orientation,” this in a country where the majority of the population is of mixed race, where there is practically no history of widespread ethnic, nationalist, or religious tensions, where the constitution already protects minorities, and where women form an integral part of the work force.
Those violating the new law, which is based on “sociological foundations” according to the Congressman who drafted it, will face one to three years in prison and will have to pay, in minimum wages, the equivalent of 10 to 15 months’ work in penalties.
While serving time as a guest in a Colombian penitentiary is certainly a good way to establish political connections, one would have expected that the legislative branch’s overpaid members could grant the average citizen new opportunities for advancement through other means than by recycling the drivel produced in North American sociology departments.
Instead of defending free speech, which—mirabile dictu—can lead to some people being offended, Santos unleashed the thought police on the people.
Though its bureaucracy was massive long before Santos came to power, one of Colombia’s redeeming features had been that the multiculturalists had not taken over.
Now, after a generation of academic exchange with the “developed world,” there are no longer individual citizens equal before the law regardless of race and color, but rather myriad special-interest groups patronized with names such as Afro-Colombian and Indigenous. Politicians, meanwhile, frequently begin their inane speeches with the irritating and grammatically incorrect incantation: “colombianas y colombianos.”
While failure to adopt such newspeak can land you in jail, the Colombian mainstream media’s hacks can still refer to North Americans as gringos with impunity.
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