The former director of the Citizen Council Observatory and Visible Assembly, Yilber Saavedra, confirms his aspiration to the Mayor of Neiva. He talks about the problems that afflict the city and proposes moving from “cosmetic changes to a transformation.” He says that the Casagua, Géchem and Wilker campaigns “stalled”.
Jesus Antonio Rojas Serrano
As anticipated by LA NACIÓN, the former director of the Citizen Observatory Council and Visible Assembly, Yilber Saavedra, will go for the Neiva Mayor’s Office. He speaks of “going from cosmetic changes to a transformation that implies a new social agreement” for the city and says that he feels “proud” of not being the candidate of “Villalba, Andrade, the González or the Mayor.”
Why did you decide to run for mayor of Neiva?
Jesús Antonio, it is a decision I made at the beginning of this year; Neivana society is tired of bad governments and I understood that collective action is necessary to move from a municipality in chaos to a territory with a future perspective. It has been very valuable to find young people, social leaders, women, businessmen and citizens in general who accompany this proposal that seeks to move from cosmetic changes to a transformation that implies a new social agreement for the municipality.
Specifically, what do you propose to Neivans?
Our goal is to transform the city. We want to lead a process that goes even beyond the regional elections, that implies laying the foundations so that we can collectively define a strategic north according to our role as the capital city of the South Colombian region; the territory is ordered based on life, water and we manage to enhance our capacities to guarantee the right to the city. This challenge has that ‘right to the city’ philosophy where we will generate the conditions for all Neivans to participate and enjoy the benefits of Neiva regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Many agree that insecurity, road deterioration and unemployment are the biggest ‘headaches’ today, is that right? What would you be willing to do?
Of course, Jesús Antonio is like that, they are the most immediate problems of the people, and obviously they are the consequence of some terrible administrations that have prostrated the city through the permanent looting of the treasury. In order to solve these “headaches” comprehensive policies are required; For this case, in terms of security, we propose two strategies: sticking and forcefulness towards multi-crime organizations and opportunities for youth aimed at crime prevention. Regarding road deterioration, we will implement a plan that involves community organizations, for the arrangement of urban and rural roads. We will also implement a strategy for the generation of 5,000 new jobs with the promotion of investment by companies in the BPO&O sector given our advantages in second language programs, software and communications. Special chapter is the field in our opportunity generation proposal.
Regarding insecurity, is it a problem of justice that is letting criminals go free? Or is a greater police presence needed?
Today in Neiva, just by leaving the house or opening the gate, there is a high probability that citizens will be robbed. This year every 90 minutes there is a theft from people. The underlying problem is how we manage to prevent crime, it is clear that justice must act and prosecute criminals, both street criminals and those who govern us. Neiva has a ratio of 180 police officers for every 100,000 inhabitants and according to the UN there should be 300, but the extension of the foot of force is a national issue and it is not so easy, therefore, we must be forceful in intelligence systems towards the criminal gangs; we all know where the ‘pots’ are, but action is never taken. At the same time, we will develop comprehensive policies to guarantee opportunities and scenarios for coexistence.
At what point was Neiva filled with so many holes?
Since the bad government acted indolently to address the road maintenance problem, just to refer to one case: last year only 1,300 million pesos were appropriated for the maintenance and construction of the entire urban and rural road network of Neiva, but 5,600 million were paid in disputed road strategy contracts. Our proposal raises the need to increase the budget for the maintenance of the road network; make an immediate intervention and that the execution be with the community action boards, both urban and rural, which also allows the generation of jobs and revitalization of their economies. We have been following several successful experiences, one of them in Villavicencio where, through solidarity agreements with community boards, it has been possible to reduce costs and serve a greater number of roads. It is time that the presidents of boards and communities stop being seen only for proselytizing groping at election time.
From the Citizen Observatory Council and Visible Assembly you led a crusade against corruption, what actions are you committed to?
The fight against corruption is part of my life project, it is not only the money that is lost or the works that are not carried out, the most serious thing is the time and the opportunities that go away and that prevent Neivanos from progressing. I know the threads of power and the entanglements of these characters. The first day I will issue a decree where I will convene the oversight organizations, academia, and boards to create the state contract supervision committee. With the coordination of Transparency for Colombia and organizations, we will create the office of Transparency for the municipality; We will also expand the standard specifications not only for infrastructure projects but for all the tenders that the Municipal Mayor’s Office carries out. The criteria of merit must be a fundamental part in the hiring of personnel. While this mayor fights with the press because they expose some crooked behavior of his officials, we will create prizes for investigative journalism and incentives to encourage denunciation and social control.
Being Mayor, how would you deal with councillors, of whom we know some condition the approval of projects in exchange for political participation in the municipal cabinet, cash or contracts?
No councilor will have contracts or positions in my government; most are a shameful, rotten cabal. Citizens are tired of their practices, we have the challenge of defeating the majority of the current councilors at the polls. We will have our own Council list with citizens of the best qualities. Regarding the exercise of government, I know the Council and our actions will be based on a new type of governance, with a greater openness to public dialogue and active participation of citizens in the processing of draft agreements; our task is to transform the city and to achieve this we need the transformation of politics, it is precisely what we have done for twelve years, the difference is that now the fight against clientelism will be done directly from the executive.
Regarding your candidacy itself, are you aware that you need scaffolding to reach the Mayor’s Office? What will your strategy be like to win the vote of the Neivans?
Jesús Antonio, our scaffolding is the moral reserve of thousands of citizens who want the true transformation of the city, who are tired of those structures that have failed for decades. The levels of disappointment and rejection towards traditional politics are very high, the opinion vote fortunately for the city of Neiva has already defeated these structures in the last congressional elections, we are optimistic about the role of the citizenry to win the mayoralty and achieve the majority of alternative councillors. Today the panorama presents stagnant mayoral campaigns, with low levels of popularity, without real proposals for intervention, with high levels of mistrust and heirs of family businesses. They fight to be the candidate of Villalba, Andrade, the González or the Mayor, I am proud of not being the candidate of any of them, it is wonderful to be the candidate of the people.
With which political parties or movements have you had rapprochements? Are you going to aspire for the Historical Pact?
I have had dialogue with the alternative sectors of the city of Neiva; I believe that our effort to approach should be with all political expression that assumes practices framed in public ethics and that fights against the corruption regime of political clans, we need to recover decency in politics, be an example in the country. I am going to aspire for a significant movement of citizens called Transformemos, which aims to modify the regional political culture and practices associated with clientelism. We are in the task of forming a great coalition between movements and parties that transform the city.
What do you think of candidates like German Casagua, Jorge Andrés Géchem and Wilker Bautista?
The stagnation of their campaigns is evident and understandable; They clearly represent traditional politicking raw, and that is not the problem, in the end they have always been there, the bad thing is that they are independent when they are not and underestimate the capacity of people. In such a way that denying their clans is worse because they reflect a kind of shameful vote that limits popular growth, that transpires. In the end, they fall victim to their own invention. In their teams I know very valuable and well-intentioned people who have been disappointed in these projects because they see that they embody more of the same, they realize that they could end up being accomplices in what they have rejected and hated so much.