One Year of the Petro Government in Colombia: What is the Balance?

The first year of the Petro government, which has been called the government of change, has been completed. What changes have been carried out? .

Gustavo Petro

Photo: TW-petrogustavo

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Rodríguez

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Leer en español: Un año del gobierno Petro en Colombia: ¿cuál es el balance?

One year has passed since the first progressive government in Colombia. The Petro government, which has called itself the government of change, has encountered some obstacles this year in carrying out the changes promised in the campaign. However, not all have been losses. The government, in its first year, has made progress on some of its proposals. What are they and what challenges does it face?

A reformist government

From the campaign, Gustavo Petro promised that, if he won, it would be a reformist government. His victory meant an achievement in itself for marginal and ignored sectors by previous governments. So it is that the first government of the left would have to propose a reform agenda, that is, to change its priorities. This shift that distanced itself from traditional politics wanted to focus on the grassroots sectors. But then, how have Gustavo Petro's reforms progress?

The most agile government reform (perhaps because it is also the most urgent due to the fiscal gap) was the tax reform. This was approved in the first legislative period, at the end of 2022. It was headed by the then Minister of Finance, José Antonio Ocampo, who cleverly knew how to negotiate with the country's big businessmen so that the reform could be accepted both by them and by Congress. The tax reform aims to raise close to 20 trillion pesos this year and cover not only the fiscal gap but also finance the rest of the reforms.

On the other hand, pension, labor and health reforms are currently being debated in Congress. The pension issue was perhaps one of the most discussed during the presidential campaign, since it was evident to all the candidates the coverage failures of the current system. However, due to the urgency with which it is needed, it will be the fastest reform process. As for the labor reform, it was put under the scrutiny of public opinion during the first half of the year, since for some it did not consider new forms of work and hiring.

Perhaps the most discussed and questioned of Petro's proposals has been the health reform.

Strategy changes

Health care reform has perhaps been one of the Achilles heels of the Petro government. In April of this year, the president made a drastic change in his cabinet and changed several of his ministers. This was read by some as a break in the government coalition due to disagreements over the health reform.

Regarding this issue, other than pensions, the opposition sectors do not agree that the current system has enough flaws to reform it. The issue of the dissolution of the EPS has caused much controversy and opposition in Congress.

Thus it is that for others, the change of cabinet could also have been read as a change of strategy. Since the portfolios that were quotas of traditional political parties did not give results in Congress (because of the strong opposition that the health reform received), the president decided to exchange them for ministers ideologically closer to him.

And the economy?

Despite the fact that the previous scenario caused great concern (a drastic cabinet change gives a feeling of instability), the country's economy has not collapsed as many predicted. Petro's rise was essentially worrying businessmen and political analysts; since expropriations and capital flight were predicted.

However, this has not been the case and the fiscal deficit has, in effect, been falling. The then minister Ocampo knew how to see the importance of raising the country's investment confidence. However, with his departure from the cabinet, there is still expectation about what will happen to the relatively new minister.

Although inflation remains high, in contrast to the macroeconomic situation, devaluation has eased in recent months, making the Colombian peso perhaps one of the strongest currencies in the region. In any case, it will be necessary to see if, in effect, the collection expectations of the tax reform are met and if this will be enough for what the Government proposes.


Like everyone else, this government has not been safe from scandals. The first occurred earlier this year, when Semana published a complaint from a babysitter who claimed to have been interrogated with a polygraph in the basement of the Palacio de Nariño. The complainant was an employee of Laura Sarabia, chief of staff and right hand of the president, whose house had been the scene of a robbery. This story spread later when the same magazine published some audios of the ambassador in Venezuela and Sarabia's political godfather, Armando Benedetti. In them, the now ex-ambassador insulted his former pupil and threatened to reveal information about the campaign money.

Now, the first year of Petro's government coincides with its second biggest scandal. Earlier this year, Day Vásquez, ex-wife of Nicolás Petro, the president's son, revealed that Nicolás had received money from Samuel Santander Lopesierra, alias "The Marlboro Man." Last week, Nicolás and Day were arrested by the Prosecutor's Office. Hours after the hearing began, Nicolás decided that he would collaborate with justice and has affirmed that, in effect, he himself entered the campaign with money from drug trafficking.

This scandal worries the government and the opposition alike, as it could affect their governability. In addition, it worries those who expected a new way of doing politics from the first left-wing government.


In addition to facing these scandals, the Petro government has two main challenges: total peace and the energy transition. Both are concepts that the government has coined to give a name to the change in priorities that it promises. However, it has not been made clear how they will be carried out.

Regarding total peace, the Government has not been clear with its proposal for execution. Perhaps the most advanced in this aspect are the negotiations with the ELN, but it is not clear if there will be new dialogues with the dissidents of Farc and the new marquetalia. Petro's security policy is still not clear and it is clear that there are disagreements still within the government. There has been talk on occasions of submission to justice for the Clan del Golfo, but this, like other concepts, is still not clear to public opinion.

The energy transition suffers from the same communication challenge. Frequent would have been the contradictions between the statements of the Minister of Mines Irene Vélez and that of the Treasury, José Antonio Ocampo. Now both have been replaced and the expectation continues for an official version of the government on how the energy transition will be executed to protect the Colombian economy and the environment in equal measure.

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