Petro removes 3 ministers amid reform debate

Colombian President Gustavo Petro decided to make three cabinet changes last Monday as he tries to push through ambitious social reforms. Among those leaving is Minister Alejandro Gaviria, one of the strongest critics of the health reform that Congress is getting ready to debate.

The president thanked Gaviria, who headed the Education portfolio, for the services rendered during six months of management, María Isabel Urrutia, as Minister of Sports, and Patricia Ariza, in the Ministry of Culture.

“With their contributions, they have contributed to enriching the debate and initiating the changes for which the country voted,” Petro said in a presidential address accompanied by the rest of his cabinet. And he added: “I invite you to help us build this social pact from wherever you are.”

This is the first change of ministers that Petro has made since he took power in August 2022 as the first left-wing president in the history of Colombia.

Petro appointed sociologist Aurora Vergara Figueroa, currently Vice Minister of Higher Education, to head the Ministry of Education; to the graduate in Physical Education Astrid Bibiana Rodríguez to lead the Ministry of Sports and to the teacher of musicians Ignacio Zorro as Minister in charge of Culture.

Before announcing the changes in the ministries, the president defended the reforms to health, the labor and pension system and assured that his government “is not going to give up” on improving health and providing “fair working conditions” for all Colombians .

Gaviria, although he directed the Education portfolio, has gained special relevance in recent weeks due to his criticism of the health reform, an area in which he is an expert since he directed that ministry from 2012 to 2018.

The government intends to profoundly modify the health system that has been in force in Colombia for 29 years to make it one with less private intermediation and in which the State has greater control of the available resources and the provision of the service.

The health reform is the only one that is fully known and was filed in Congress. In addition to the objections of his opponents, over the weekend a letter was leaked to the press in which the outgoing Minister of Education, the head of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Treasury made criticisms of the reform.

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