Rising Discontent: Thousands Rally Against Sweeping Changes to Health, Pension, and Labor Systems
On Tuesday, numerous individuals took part in protests in Colombia to express their dissatisfaction with President Gustavo Petro’s government. They were particularly frustrated with the government’s proposed changes to the health and pension systems, as well as labor laws. These protests coincide with a decline in President Petro’s approval ratings and increasing violence between rebel groups in certain parts of the country.
Moreover, the government is currently dealing with a corruption scandal involving two members of President Petro’s inner circle, who allegedly financed his campaign with undeclared donations. Protesters fear that these reforms will set the country back by several decades. President Petro, who was elected a year ago amid large-scale protests against social and economic inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic, had promised to make peace deals with remaining rebel groups and improve access to healthcare, education, and formal employment.
Corruption Scandal and Approval Rating Plunge Deepen Government’s Defensive Stance
However, his party lacked a majority in congress, necessitating alliances with traditional parties on the center and right, which resulted in positions in the Cabinet in exchange for support in congress. However, this coalition has started to fracture due to disagreements over healthcare reform and labor laws. The healthcare reform aims to centralize insurance payments under a government agency, while opponents argue that the government lacks the capacity to handle such a responsibility.
The labor law seeks to make it more difficult for employers to hire workers on temporary contracts, which has raised concerns among businesses. President Petro remains determined to push forward with his reform agenda, claiming it is a popular mandate threatened by Colombia’s economic elite. However, his approval ratings have declined, as some Colombians prioritize security over social and economic reforms.
This decline in approval is reflected in recent polls, which indicate that a majority of Colombians believe the situation is worsening. Political analysts argue that the government’s refusal to make adjustments to its reforms has strained relationships with opposition parties. Additionally, President Petro’s efforts to establish peace with rebel groups have yielded mixed results, with ceasefires falling apart and attacks on civilians continuing.