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At the best of times, it’s not easy being a politician. In today’s social-media dominated world, our elected leaders are scrutinised like never before.
OK, they willingly sign up for a life in the public eye and benefit from this, so many will say they’re fair game. Yet, the attacks they receive regularly cross the line, entering into their private lives.
López’s lost it
Nonetheless, on occasions, our leaders do things completely out of touch with the people they claim to represent that it only seems right to call this out.
In these pandemic days, as many people’s livelihoods have been mortgaged away due to questionable measures introduced to contain our relatively mild viral enemy, that some politicians fail to show sincere solidarity with those suffering the most is, as far as I’m concerned, unforgivable.
Take — and to use the old joke, do please take her — Bogotá Mayor Claudia López. On the 1st of January, she completed her first year in office.
What does she decide to do to mark the milestone? Why head off on a holiday to Costa Rica.
Now in a normal year, people would be justified to some extent to question a self-proclaimed mayor of the working classes in a city with deep inequality taking a holiday outside the country. With so many beauty spots in Colombia, why the need to go elsewhere?
‘I do actually think López cares, at least as much if not more so than many of Colombia’s other top politicians. Yet perception is key and she has netted a public-relations own goal here.’
Of course, we’re not in normal times. Outside of the millions of Bogotanos who regularly struggle to find the resources to take a holiday from the city, over the last few months those who normally do get away have seen their movements curtailed.
A bad act
To add insult to injury to those most badly hit by coronavirus-containment measures, while Mayor López is nonchalantly trekking around the jungles of Costa Rica, a strict two-week lockdown is reintroduced in three sectors of Bogotá.
That this is announced by some fresh-faced acting mayor who most people hadn’t heard of up until a few days ago just adds to the sense of anger felt amongst the working classes. (It also begs the more general question, why isn’t there an office for vice-mayor, a position that is filled at the same time as the top job, preferably elected on the same ticket as the mayor?)
It would be stretching it to believe that López didn’t know this lockdown was coming as she packed her bags for Costa Rica. Therefore, the shrewder move, to really show she is at one with “her people”, would have been to cancel the holiday. But no, off she went. It smacks of a couldn’t-care-less attitude.
I do actually think López does care, at least as much if not more so than many of Colombia’s other top politicians. Yet perception is key and she has netted a public-relations own goal here.
In reality, however, it won’t amount to much — and this she knows. For those most annoyed right now tend not to vote and her many supporters will most likely just brush it off.
On a broader scale, there’s an old saying around these parts that what works in Dinamarca (Denmark) doesn’t work in Cundinamarca (the department in which Bogotá is located).
Taking that as a guide, lockdowns and stay-at-home orders that may — although it’s far from certain — be effective in more developed nations are highly unlikely to work in an emerging-market country such as Colombia.
President Duque, Mayor López and the acting guy, whatever your name is, you would do well to bear this in mind.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.