"It is time for a national agreement that involves the Congress of the Republic," he said while inaugurating the new legislative session (2023-2024) on the occasion of Independence Day.
During his speech, Petro focused on the global climate crisis, and later addressed the country's needs, including peace, agrarian reform, and the fight against drugs.
"I call upon to reach an agreement on these terms, to make peace a reality, to end the phase of insurgency war, and not to allow the prospering of a third violence that is already here, the violence of illicit economies and armed gangs spreading everywhere," he said.
Petro emphasized the importance of preventing such violence from growing and stated that it can be achieved "through this national agreement for social and environmental justice, which can be condensed in Congress around the reforms that Colombia needs."
However, he refrained from delving into his proposals for changes in the healthcare, pension, and labor systems, which did not pass in the previous legislature and will be up for discussion again today.
Colombia's first left-wing president Gustavo Petro is shaking things up, holding firm on his commitment to the people's mandate. @renaudlambert's piece in @Monde_diplo paints a compelling picture. Don't let elite narratives cloud the transformation: https://t.co/tOGyrF27zN
Petro stated that "the war between the insurgency and the Colombian state has come to an end," although he warned that violence is transitioning into a new phase related to "territorial and wealth control, rather than the quest for power."
Petro praised the bilateral ceasefire reached with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which will come into effect on August 3, as a result of peace negotiations.
He asserted that the initiatives undertaken in the last year have resulted in a substantial decrease in the number of casualties among the Army and the Police, by 60 percent and 55 percent, respectively, compared to the previous year.
Regarding the war on drugs, he mentioned that the growth of coca crops has halted, and drug shipments to the United States have decreased. However, he highlighted a new concern: "there is hunger in coca-growing regions."
He explained that the geography of the drug market has changed, as the U.S. consumption shifted from cocaine to fentanyl. In a way, this change in demand benefits Colombia's peace efforts as the country lacks competitive capacity in the fentanyl market.
A confluence of circumstances in both Colombia and the U.S. may also offer a unique opportunity for drug policy reform
Will Petro be able to take advantage of the moment or will the chance slip?
Petro also advocated for an extensive agrarian reform to propel the country forward and address one of the major problems contributing to violence: land tenure.
"Agrarian reform has shown that Colombia's main problem is land," he said, emphasizing that taking this step would "expand the domestic market, free up the workforce from agriculture, and lay the fundamental conditions for industrialization."
On the economic front, Petro celebrated that Colombia has defeated inflation, which reached over 13 percent in December 2022 and January this year when compared year-on-year. If that trend had continued, it could have reached 25 percent this year.
Petro reiterated the necessity of adopting measures such as energy transition, electrification of urban transportation, and decarbonization of the economy, which would require a shift away from using fossil fuels in agriculture, industry, and tourism.
"What is at stake is not just capitalism, global power, or the existence of specific nations. What is at stake is the existence of all humanity. We are on the brink of the sixth mass extinction on the planet," he warned.