In the midst of a deep reflection, after a few days of recovery and isolation due to COVID-19, Mayor Claudia Lopez made important announcements derived from the social mobilizations taking place in the city, including a radical change in the allocation of the District budget to combat poverty and lack of opportunities.
After two tiring weeks, I have shaken off this COVID-19 virus.
I want to extend my thanks to the medical staff and the Health Secretariat for their care, to all those who very generously wrote me to wish me a speedy recovery, to all my guardian angels who have once again helped me to overcome this difficult ordeal.
Throughout these past few months, I have seen many healthy people contract COVID-19. They manifest few symptoms and pass away in a matter of weeks.
After days of feeling nausea, exhaustion, and lack of energy, is when it was confirmed that I had COVID. I felt the same then as when I was told that I had cancer: a desolation and uncertainty that invades the soul. Have I infected Angelica? How am I going to tell my mom who just got a pacemaker and must avoid shocking news like this? I cannot afford to get sick right now. But there was nothing left to do.
I had to stop, isolate myself and take care of myself. Today I know that fortunately, the symptoms did not get worse, they were not so serious, and staying healthy helped me return to work in no time. The isolation, the mandatory stoppage, helped me to recover from COVID, but it also helped me to distance myself for reflection.
First of all, a few days away helped me understand that contrary to what I saw a month ago, there is no stubborn Union strike in the middle of the third peak of the pandemic. It is not true that they do not understand that we are on the verge of a serious hospital collapse and that the tax reform has already been withdrawn. The one who did not understand was me.
I took advantage of time apart to read, watch and listen, listen to the voice and cries of hundreds of young people in Bogotá and other cities in Colombia. After listening closely, I want to start by extending my apologies to the youth and the citizens for not having understood from the beginning the magnitude of their anguish and claims.
There is no union committee on strike for reform. There is a social outbreak due to the lack of employment and opportunities, there is a generation in rebellion against the abuse of power, there is a deep demand to change history, not just a Law.
There is a forceful change of priorities in the citizens. It is not the case that all of a sudden citizens and young people do not care about their health or contagion from COVID, it is that the deeply disenfranchised and abused youth care more about hunger, unemployment, and not losing what little that they have worked so hard to achieve. That they are not denied the right to a fair claim without risking their lives, the right to have a better future.
Citizens' priorities have changed and so have mine. So must those of society, and of the national government, they must also change. So, I say: "come on, stop reacting to the daily civil disorder as if it were exclusively a problem of disrupted transport services. Instead, we will take care and deal with the social and economic aid that our citizens demand of us, and in particular the youth on the streets."
The public has been talking to us for a month. We are the ones who must take the steps to rebuild trust, offer dialogue and solutions to the crises we are going through.
Let us start with the most important thing. We are going to re-prioritise Bogotá's budget. We are going to change the allocation of two billion pesos from the city budget to re-invest them in an emergency education and employment program for young people and women.
To provide a basic income for all families in extreme poverty; humanitarian care so that no one goes hungry; nutrition and preschool education to take care of every child and enable their mothers to return to work, to go from 20,000 to 50,000 spots to access free higher education for young people.
But also, to invest more in sectors that generate high employment in Bogotá such as the construction of housing, local roads, parks and in sectors such as telecommunications and digital marketing. We will present this plan to change priorities and social rescue in detail tomorrow, Tuesday, and we will call for our City Council to attend extra sessions if need be, to approve it and execute it soon.
Second, on Wednesday, we will deliver the complaints and evidence that we have collected about human rights violations during the protests in Bogotá to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. We will ask for their assistance so that an independent entity can help establish the facts and the channels for redress with the guarantee that this will not happen again.
I thank Human Rights Watch and its director for the Americas, José Miguel Vivanco, who will support the independent task force on this. To the young people, citizens and families attacked in these weeks we must offer the deepest regret, without ifs, ands, buts, or extenuating circumstances. We ask forgiveness for the abuses committed against their legitimate protest.
Third, the employment, income, and opportunities that young people need will not come from state subsidies but private-sector jobs. Companies and young people need each other to survive and move beyond this crisis. Even though we’re still at great risk due to the pandemic, even though the pandemic is not over and we must maintain the highest levels of precaution and biosafety protocols.
We are going to reactivate everything, each economic sector of Bogotá as of June 8. People need to work to get on with their lives. From tomorrow we begin the vaccination of all the public school and kindergarten teachers so that children can go back to school and their parents to work.
On Thursday we will present in detail the biosafety, ventilation, and care protocols with which we will reactivate the economy. The business and commercial fabric of Bogotá is the most powerful force for social and productive inclusion in Colombia and we are going to put it to work, with the utmost care, to its maximum potential.
Finally, an additional thank you. My gratitude to the public and private universities of Bogotá, the Church, and the United Nations Development Program for having agreed to be conveners, organizers, and guarantors of a virtual and face-to-face dialogue platform for the youth of Bogotá.
Here they can build autonomously, independently, and with methodological support their proposals and agendas. They can find channels of dialogue so that they are not only heard but so that their proposals are duly and promptly processed by the different entities to which they correspond. You can count on me personally, and the entire Administration to listen and process what belongs to us.
Let me wrap up with a small piece of advice for our young people. Generation after generation, being heard, respected, and included has not been easy for us. Today the majority of society listens to you, understands you, supports you.
Do not lose that. It is the calm force, not the force of vandalism, it is the organized and peaceful perseverance, and it is the direct representation of your voice that will carry you forward. In the last 30 years, from the Constituent Assembly to the Peace Accords, neither the tax model nor the Police have been reformed.
A progressive and equitable tax model and a civil Police force have not been negotiated with the parties, they were not negotiated in the constituent, they were not negotiated in the peace accords, but these must come to terms with this generation.
These two reforms are essential to fulfill the social contract that will rescue us from this economic crisis and ensure the peaceful coexistence that we have been fighting to achieve since the 1991 Constitution. Take advantage of the platforms for dialogue that you have built these past few weeks, the support that the universities, the church, and the UNDP will provide to ensure that this same year, without fail and without excuses, in Congress or at the polls, you will achieve Police reform, a national plan for the social and economic rescue of youth and their right to be elected representatives of their regions or senators of their country at age 18. It cannot be that at 18 you are old enough to vote, to pay taxes, but not to represent yourself directly in Congress, which is where the inclusion reforms and guarantees that you are demanding are either made or stopped.
Do not delegate your voice and representation to others, earn it and exert it, and do not be trapped by anything less than those three victories: a reform for civil police, a social pact that includes you, and your right to represent yourself directly. Let that be the legacy on which your generation is built. Let that be the legacy of this mobilization.
A hug for everyone."
Full speech by Mayor Claudia López on Monday, May 24 with English subtitles: