COLOMBIA: ONE YEAR UNDER PRESIDENT LLERAS

Created: 8/18/1967

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One Year Under President Lleras

Special Report

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COLOMBIA: ONE YEAR UNDER PRESIDENT LLERAS

President Carlos Lleras Rostrepo came into office in6ave of hope and Most sectors of the population seonod to believe that he would be able to solve many of the political and economic problems that have long plagued Colombia. So far. Congress has obstructed rapid movement on most of his promised reforms, but there Is still reason to believe that Colombia will make acoe much-needed progress under his leadership. Bis government has had some success against the guerrillas, and Lleras himself haseading position in tho move toward Latin American economic integration.

National front

Lleras was elected presidentystem of government, unique to Color-bis, called the National Pront. The system was devised7 by the leaders of the two traditional parties, the Liberals and theto bring an end to the conflict between their followers that had raged throughout tho country

Under the National Front, scheduled to lasthe presidency is alternatedthe Liberals andand all other elective and appointive offices are divided equally between them. Thie haa not, however, stopped political activity. Until theof the two Liboral factions this month, both parties had had offshoots that sometimes opposed the National Front. These groups, plua the National Popular(ANAPO) led by former dictator General Rojas Pinilla, have taken part in elections by

having their members register as either Liberals or Conservatives. They gained enough votes in6 congressional elections to deprive the National Pront of the two-thirds majority required for the passage of legislation.

The opposition parties alsoalf-hearted effort ata candidate in theelections, but Lleras received overercent of the vote, in spite of the apathy evidenced by the small size of the total vote, Lleras Interprets his margin of victoryandate to carry out the social, political, and economic reforms ho promised in his campaign.

Lleras* Early Actions

Carlos Lleras had broadin economics, international affairs, and Colombian politics beforo being inaugurated In the early months of his administration he enjoyedfrom most sectors of the The expectations generated by his campaign promises seemed

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justified by the vigor with which he launched hia administration. Soon after assuming office hesending comprehensive roform legislation to the Congress, and he increased his popularity by the firmness he displayed in handling student disorders and by his astute maneuveringontroversy with the International Monetary Fund that had threatened to shut off most sources ofcapital.

Student discontent andstrikeselatively commonin Colombia, as they are in most Latin American countries, and it was the students who provoked the first test of the new President's will. Lleras successfully deterred anational student strike in August byeries Of decrees severely penalizingstrikers. Inore serious Incident occurred when students at National University in Bogota stoned tho President as he toured the campus with the visiting John D. Rockefeller III. Troops were Immediately called in and the developing riot was firmly put down. Lleras* prompt and declaive actionemporary end to studentand reinforced his popular imagean who could effectively deal with Colombia's problems.

Ironically, the samo type of government reaction todisorders in7 aroused criticism of theand probably cost Lleras some of his popularity. Thesent troops, tanks, and

armored cars into Nationaltoive-day series of increasingly violentby studentspercent increase in bus fares. Although moat Colombians probably sided with the government, lta action was opportunisticallyby the political opposition as oxcassive and brutally executed.

Economic Actions

An entirely different problem faced President Lleras in6 when negotiationsew agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) broke down over tho IMP demandevaluation of Colombian currency. large imports and ain world prices for coffee, Colombia's principal export, had placed excessive pressure onexchange transactions on

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ovember. Although this could have been an unpopular move, he managed to turn it into one that gained wide popular support by placing part of the blame for the situation on the international lenders, accusing them ofon Colombia's economicwith their demandsevaluation.

The economic difficulties led to the most significant innovation that Lleras made during his first year in office, however, when in7 the emergency controls were replacedompletelyforeign trade and exchange system. Two new exchange rates wereapital rate for handling most capitaland the "certificate" rate for handling commodity Although therate is allowed toit Is expected thatew months the two rates will unify at the present capital rateesos per US dollar. The demand for foreign exchange is controlledomplicated system of licensing. The end result of Lleras' economicwas to- give the government more power to regulate the economy and at the same time to meetthe IMP demand for devaluation and thereby qualify for loans from all thelenders.

Difficulties with Congress

Despite Lleras' successes and the widespread popularfor the reforms he had it has become evident that the National Front's failure towo-thirds majority in Congress Is going to make itfor him to deliver on many of his promises.

According to law,amendments must be approvedwo-thirds vote of both the House and Senate in twosessions. President Lleras believes that hisadministrative reforms, reducing the number of congress-emen, and eliminating the two-thirds vote required for passage ofvital to hisprogram to bring progress to Colombia. Congress, however, with its many factions and its desire to retain its power and perpetuate itself, has obstructed the movement of the amendments all along the way. The Senate finally approved the amendments with only moderate changes but the House failed to approve them before the close of the legislativetrict adherence to thewould require starting the entire process again,ooser interpretation may allowand voting to continue in the new legislative session where they left off in the old.

The President has had somehwat more success in obtainingapproval of reforms that could be incorporated into simple legislation. In order tothis procedure, the Congress-afterhe "Saving Clause" of the constitution which allows the two-thirds rule to be temporarily set aside for specified types of including most anticipated economic reform bills. This action, which will be in effect untilnabled theto get approval for some of his important legislative proposals, such as improvement

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of the agrarian reform program, withimple majority, and should allow him to accomplish much more in the coming year.

President Lleras has made several speeches overradio and televisionhis programs andCongress to work more rapidly on his legislative Those talks wereto arouse popular support for his programs and to put pressure on Congress. his popularity has been hurt in recent months by tho enactment of some unpopularand by some presidential decrees, such as the increase in bus fares and the tightening of the income tax law. in addition, pricewereby Colombian standards through Hay but began to rise rapidly ingenerally depressed business conditions aro beginning to disenchant some of his staunch-est supporters.

Insurgency Development5

Sural violence in Colombia did not end completely with the formulation of the National Pront government Roving gangs of bandits continued to plague the countryside and thewas never able to eradicate them completely because of the inaccessibility of the areas where they operated and the ruggedof the terrain.

Gangs that had coalesced into larger bands during thender the better knownsuch as "Tiroame under the influence of theParty of Colombiahese bands were formed into the PCC's guerrilla force, theArmed Porces of(PARC), 6 and nowin the southern departments of Tolima, Huila, Quindio, and Valle del Cauca.

The Army of National(eln) operates in thodepartmentSantander. This guerrilla group is the outgrowth of dissidents from the cities who moved into the countryside and. Joined by groups of peasants, took up anas against the The RLN has received aid from Cuba, but is not under the control of the PCC.

The FARC executed its first major attack on6 with the ambush of an army This action, whichin the death ofoldiers,ong period of relative inactivity by the guerrillas. In7 the BLNajor attackoliceand in the next two months there were several large-scale encounters between the government and guerrillas of both the ELN and the FARC. This promptedthat the ELN and the PARC were coordinating their activities, but later reports indicated that there has been no agreement between the two groups. The fact that the ELN is supported by Cuba andCastro's line works against, an agreement With the PCC and FARC, which are opposed toattempts to control themovement in Latin America.

The government has had some success in recent months in

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the guerrillas. From March toembers of the elk were arrested, and in June,ARC members were Most of those arrested were members of urban support groups for the guerrillas. There has been no major guerrillaby either group since the arrests, but an increase may be stimulated by the firstof the Latin American Solidarity Organization, which has just been held in Havana.

The present level ofactivity does not threaten national political stability. The lack of rural popular support for the government forces, however, raises the question of the army's ability to control the situation if guerrilla activity shouldsignificantly. To counter the upsurge in activity early this year, the government has been augmenting and redeploying its forces, attempting to improve its intelligence capability, and pursuing its civic actionwith greater vigor.

foreign Affairs

President Lleras' greatest success during the first year of his administration has been in foreign affairs. His pastas an internationalhas served at the UN and with other internationalhelped improve Colombia's stature This is especially true in Latin America, where Colombia haseading role in the move toward economic

Less than one month after assuming office, Lleras hosted the "Littleeeting attended by the presidents of Chile and Venezuela and byrepresentatives from Peru and Ecuador. These leaders agreed to closer cooperation and promised to give their support to further Latin American economic integration. This meeting was followed in7 by the "Summit" meeting of Americanat Punta del Este, Uruguay, where economic integrationan agreed goal for Latin At follow-up meetings in Vina del Mar, Chile, and in Quito, Ecuador, representatives of Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, andbegan planningub-regional Andean common market. This grouping is intended to precede the Latin Americanmarket, and its foundersit will enable tho five members to dealosition of equality with the largeof Argentina, Brazil, and Mex ico.

The other major aspect of j Lleras' foreign policyove ; toward expanding relations with the USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe. Lleras willhis strong ties with the US, but he believes that Colombia will benefit from increased trade with the Communist countries. In the past year Colombia established diplomatic relations with it has consular relations with Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Bulgaria, and trade relations with all the East European countries except Albania. Trade with the East European countries has

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increased this yoar (although itmall share oftotal trade) and late inolombian trade missionew trade agreement with East Germany and the USSR.

Outlook

In the next three years of his administration President Lleras will continue tomany of the sameobstruction in Congressontinuance, if not an upsurge, in guerrilla activity. He should, however, be able to get most of hisprogram passed and most of hia constitutional reforms approved.

A partial basis for improved economic performance has been

established, but continuingon foreign exchange reserves; caused principally by slumping coffee prices, will limit the President's ability to reinvigor-ato the economy for at least the next few months. The guerrilla threat can probably be contained, although an appreciable increase of activity or any coordination between the ELN and FARC wouldevere strain on theability to cope with the situation.

On the diplomatic front, Lleras can be expected to follow through on his announced plans to expand relations with thecountries of Eastern Europe, probably including theof diplomatic relations or at least consular relations with the Sovietsktbft)

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