Colombia Update: New Cabinet, Familiar Faces
Nancy Anderson Bolton
Adriana La Rotta
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President-elect IvÃ¡n Duque and his VP Marta LucÃa RamÃrez (AP)July 26, 2018
Since winning Colombiaâs runoff election on June 17, President-elect IvÃ¡n Duque has been swift to assemble his cabinet. Duque, 41, is the countryâs youngest president-elect in history, and observers were watching to see whether he would surround himself with other young technocrats who are relatively new to government or seasoned officials affiliated with past administrations. Of particular interest has been the level of power former President Ãlvaro Uribe might exert during Duqueâs tenure, but his potential influence diminished July 25 when Uribe announced his r esignation from Colombiaâs Senate due to the Supreme Court investigating him for witness tampering and bribery.
So far, Duqueâs cabinet is balanced by members with diverse experience. Alberto Carrasquilla will serve as finance minister, a post he held during Uribeâs first term, while Jonathan MalagÃ³n, Duqueâs pick for housing minister, is a 33-year-old vice president of Asobancaria known for his designation as the countryâs best student and one of Latin Americaâs top 10 young economists.
Duque also avoided some potentially controversial options. Alejandro OrdÃ³Ã±ez, Colombiaâs former attorney general who was removed from his position in 2016, was seen as a possible cabinet pick, but Duque bypassed him. Gender parity is also shaping up to be a hallmark of Duqueâs administration: after running alongside Marta LucÃa RamÃrez, who will be the nationâs first female vice president, the president-elect com mitted to building a cabinet with an equal number of women and men.
Hereâs a look at some of the people who will be part of Duqueâs team. The new president takes office on August 7.
Nancy Patricia GutiÃ©rrez, Minister of the Interior: A specialist in administrative law, GutiÃ©rrez will be the first woman to head the Ministry of the Interior and is also the only woman who has ever been president of both Colombiaâs House of Representatives and Senate. GutiÃ©rrez began her political ascent as mayor of Agua de Dios in 1988, before becoming regional director of Colombiaâs family welfare agency and working for the governor of Cundinamarca as environmental secretary and secretary-general. A cofounder of the Radical Change party, she has aligned herself with Uribe in the past and, since 2014, has served as president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies, known as AsomÃ³vil.
As the government navigates the aftermath of a 52-year civi l conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), GutiÃ©rrez will be charged with the difficult task of developing policies to defend human rights. This has aroused some suspicion, as she was previously investigated for associations with paramilitary actors. Colombiaâs Supreme Court closed the investigation in 2014.
Alberto Carrasquilla, Minister of Finance and Public Credit: Carrasquilla was Duqueâs first cabinet appointee, and his return to the Ministry of Finance was not entirely unexpected. He worked on Duqueâs campaign, and shortly before the election, Duque announced that Carrasquilla would head the economic transition in the event that he won.
In addition to his time in Uribeâs cabinet, Carrasquilla has worked as an economist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)â"as did Duqueâ"and Colombiaâs central bank. Several challenges await him, including the implementation of the president-electâs fiscal and economic reforms, an agenda that includes reforming the tax system, and overhauling the state pension program, which may help improve credit rating agenciesâ projections for the country. In February, Moodyâs changed Colombiaâs outlook from stable to negative.
Aside from his experience in government and banking, Carrasquilla has an academic background. He was dean of the Economics Department at Universidad de los Andes and obtained his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
MarÃa Fernanda SuÃ¡rez LondoÃ±o, Minister of Mines and Energy: On the campaign trail, Duque called for Colombia to further develop its potential as an oil producer. He picked SuÃ¡rez LondoÃ±o to lead the charge.
SuÃ¡rez LondoÃ±o is a 44-year-old executive vice president at Ecopetrol, the nationâs largest oil company. She also held positions with the Ministry of Finance, the Porvenir pension fund, Citibank, the Colombian bank ABN Amro, and Bank of America.
Energy is crucial to Colombiaâs economy. Crude petroleum, coal briquettes, and refined petroleum are among the countryâs top exports, and a drop in oil and gas production has been a factor in the countryâs tepid growth. By the end of 2017, Colombiaâs oil reserves were down to 5.6 years, and Ecopetrolâs were 7.1, compared to an average of 12 years for the worldâs top oil and gas companies.
JosÃ© Manuel Restrepo, Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism: During his time at the IDB, Duque cowrote a book on monetizing Latin American culture. He sees tourismâ"which has grown 300 percent in the last 12 years in Colombiaâ"as a prime tool to achieve this goal. Restrepo, an economist, financial specialist, and rector of Universidad del Rosario in BogotÃ¡, will lead the effort.
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Restrepoâs past experience includes time as rector at Colombiaâs College of Higher Education in Business Administra tion, known as CESA, and rector of the Business University Foundation of BogotÃ¡âs Chamber of Commerce. His government work involved stints overseeing the budget and financial planning in the National Fund for Development Projects and membership in the Ministry of Educationâs National Council for Quality Assurance in Higher Education.
Perhaps as a sign of his desire to encourage visitors, Duque announced Restrepoâs appointment while meeting Colombians who left the country in Florida. In his statement, he highlighted both the economistâs youth and his efforts to form the next generation of young Colombians.
Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Minister of Foreign Relations: On Duqueâs first international trips to the United States and Spain as president-elect, he was accompanied by Holmes Trujillo. Initially one of Duqueâs rivals to represent the Democratic Center party in the 2018 election and Oscar IvÃ¡n Zuluagaâs running mate in the 2014 race, Holme s Trujillo has held an array of postings around the world, beginning in Tokyo and with stops as an ambassador or chief diplomat in various European countries and the Organization of American States (OAS), as well as on a special mission to the UN General Assembly. Holmes Trujillo also served as mayor of Cali, in addition to serving as a delegate to the 1991 National Constituent Assemblythat formed the countryâs current Constitution.
Among Holmes Trujilloâs objectives will be fulfilling Duqueâs desire to pull out of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), addressing crises in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and maintaining a relationship with the United States.
Other cabinet appointments include:
- Guillermo Botero, Minister of Defense
- Juan Pablo Uribe, Minister of Health and Social Protection
- Alicia Arango, Minister of Employment
- Ricardo Lozano, Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development
- G loria MarÃa Borrero, Minister of Justice
- AndrÃ©s Valencia PinzÃ³n, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
- Ãngela MarÃa Orozco, Minister of Transportation
- MarÃa Victoria Angulo, Minister of Education
- Carmen InÃ©s VÃ¡squez, Minister of Culture
- Gloria Alonso, Director of the Department of National Planning
- Francisco Santos, Ambassador to the U.S.