THE GARBAGE COLLECTOR WITH HORSE-DRAWN CART
By Antonio Caballero
This is a translation of a column by Antonio Caballero published in Semana
magazine on May 31, 2008, # 1361
What public confidence can remain in a country where a political hack receives a notary as payment for his vote to
break the Constitution in favor of a President
(Translated by John I Laun, a CSN volunteer translator)
A special courtesy of Semana magazine to CSN
The government of Alvaro Uribe, who was elected and re-elected Presidentto fight against corruption and dirty politics -- or at least promised this, and there were some who believed it-- has turned out to be possibly the dirtiest politician and the most corrupt, and what is still more serious,the most corrupting whom Colombia has had in the last one hundred years. And that is not easy, because the competition is strong.
However, Uribe says that he “persuades, but does not buy consciences.”Iexpress no opinion about consciences,
because everyone knows his own; even ex-President Andres Pastrana deniedthat he had sold his when he became
an enthusiastic, if brief, supporter of Uribe while his term as Ambassador in Washington lasted. But we have seen Uribe buy everything else, many times in public. He has bought elections and re-elections, has bought false bombing attempts, has bought lobbyists for his Free Trade Agreement in the Congress of the United States, has bought inteligence information, has bought severed human hands. I remember
the junk collectors who passed through the streets in Bogota when I was an infant with their horse-drawn wagons shouting “ bottles, trash, paper!-----” Free.
And from the doors of the homes would come out the Yidis and they tossed onto the cart cardboard boxes and old newspapers, burned-out light bulbs, a Teodolindo or two; whatever was not needed in the home.
The trash collectors back then did not pay for what they took; they just took away the trash and the useless things accumulated in the home as a free service (of course that was before Mayor Andres Pastrana discovered the business of privatization of trash collection). Uribe, on the other hand,pays for what he corrupts, and he does so with the resources of the State. He pays with consulates, with contracts for public works, with third television channels. In the communal councils he pays with checks-- I don’t know if
they are postdated-- of the Agrarian Bank or the Bank of Opportunities, which he delivers personally in front of the
cameras. He paid for the vote--or more eloquently still, the absence of the vote against his re-election--ofCongressman Teodolindo Avendano by giving him a notary public.
And a notary is no small thing of little consequence, although it has beennecessary to create many of them to
repay favors received. A notary is not a superficial thing withoutimportance, like, for instance, the radio frequencies
which Samper gave to his journalist friends and which they thereupon resold without any second thoughts to one of
the two magnates of radio and television. No, a notary is nothing less than the guardian of public faith. And what public faith may remain in a country where a corrupt politician receives a notary as part payment for his vote in Congress to break the back of the Constitution in favor of a President and the next day resells it for payments over time of installments of 120 million pesos. You can see that that
Superintendent of Notaries and Registry, Dr. Cuello Baute, compadre or godchild or godparent of President Uribe, who provides
notaries in exchange for cows for his farm, has left a deep impression. What compadres this President of ours
chooses. What notaries he names (some cousins of his). What friends he has.
And they tell us that surveys of public opinion say that 84% of Colombianssupport the President who does
these things, and perhaps for doing them. But I do not think so. I do not think that it has been possible to corrupt
the conscience of the country to such a degree. I believe instead that these surveys were bought.
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