Petro Announces Tax Reform with “Social Sense” for Colombia

Colombian President Gustavo Petro delivers his inaugural address at Plaza Bolivar in Bogota. //Photo: EFE.

The new Colombian President calls for a more equitable distribution of wealth, social peace and protection of the environment.

By EFE / Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – Gustavo Petro was sworn in this Sunday, August 7, as president of Colombia, office that he takes to succeed Ivan Duque, before a cheering crowd in Bogota’s Plaza de Bolivar.

During his inauguration, attended by the King of Spain and a dozen Latin American presidents, Petro announced that his administration will submit to Congress a socially focused tax reform to obtain resources to help the most vulnerable population.

“Equality is possible if we are able to create wealth for all, and if we are able to distribute it more fairly. Therefore, I propose an economy based on production, work, and knowledge. And that is why I propose a tax reform that generates justice,” said the head of state in his inaugural speech.

Petro explained that taking a portion of the wealth of the people who have the most and earn the most, to open the doors of education to all children and youth “should not be seen as punishment or a sacrifice. It is simply the solidarity payment that someone fortunate makes to a society that allows and guarantees his fortune.”

Petro’s finance minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo, is expected to present this Monday to Congress the tax reform that seeks to raise 50 trillion pesos (about 11.543 billion dollars), according to the estimates of the new government’s technical team.

Ocampo has already announced that this reform will focus on the increase of income tax revenue from  those who earn the most and the fight against tax evasion.

In his speech, the president recalled that “10% of the Colombian population has 70% of the wealth,” which he considered “absurd and immoral.”

“Let us not normalize inequality and poverty. Let us not look the other way. Let us not become accomplices. With will, redistribution policies and a program of justice we will make Colombia more egalitarian and with more opportunities for all,” he added.

According to the new president of Colombia, humanity has not advanced by competing but has done so by “helping each other.”

“We will be equal when those who have more when paying taxes do it gladly, with pride, knowing that they help their neighbors, boys, girls, babies, young people, women, to grow up healthy, to think, to live with the plenitude that good nutrition and the education of the brain and soul provides,” he assured.

Likewise, he highlighted that “solidarity is in the tax paid by those who can afford it and in the state spending that goes to those who need it for their childhood, for their youth, for their old age.”

Petro concluded that the taxes “will not be confiscatory, they will simply be fair, in a country that must recognize as an aberration the enormous social inequality in which we live, in a state that must protect the transparency of spending, and in a society that deserves to live in peace.”

The new president also made a call for peace among Colombians, the protection of the Colombian Amazon, Latin American unity and a change in drug fighting policies.

Latin American Unity

Petro assured that “Latin American unity cannot only be rhetorical,” which is why he called for unity for the region to be strong in a “complex world.”

“Today we need to be more together and united than ever. As Simon Bolivar once said: “Uniting will save us, as division will destroy us if it gets in our midst.” Let the division of Latin America end. But Latin American unity cannot be a rhetoric, a mere discourse,” said Petro in his speech.

The Colombian president assured that for Latin America it is “time to leave behind the blocs, groups and the ideological differences to work together.”

“Let us understand once and for all that there is more that unites us than what separates us. And that together we are stronger. Let make a reality the unity that our heroes, such as Bolivar, San Martin, Artigas, Sucre and O’Higgins dreamed of. It is not a utopia, nor is it romanticism,” he added.

Therefore, he said that the region must join its “power of knowledge, economy and life,” because if the countries act together “the voice of Latin America will be heard in the concert of world’s peoples.”

The Colombian president, who is the first leftist president to come to power in the country, pointed out that it is necessary to work on joint Latin American projects such as the connection of all electric energy networks, clean energy sources and the promotion of public oil companies.

Imposition of the presidential sash

The ceremony was filled with a festive atmosphere and a lot of historical symbolism. The president was invested by Senator Maria Jose Pizarro, daughter of Carlos Pizarro, who was Petro’s comrade in the M-19 guerrilla and was assassinated in 1990, when he was a presidential candidate, and the voting intention gave him 60%.

The congresswoman, in tears, put the presidential sash on the new president and gave a hug amidst the ovation of the attendees.

“I promise to God, and I promise the people to faithfully comply with the Constitution and the laws of Colombia,” said Petro as he was sworn in before the president of Congress, Roy Barreras.

After Petro was sworn in, Barreras placed a “dove of peace” on Petro’s lapel, symbolizing one of the main actions he will try to carry out during his government, that of achieving “total peace” in Colombia.

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