By Jorge Enrique Robledo
All the peoples of the world, not only that of Colombia, are becoming impoverished with free trade. By definition, the city is a strongly segregated cultural fact, with great inequalities, and if urban development is left looser to market forces, it is even more so.
I thank you for allowing me to be here with you today and for giving me the opportunity to speak about the city and the borders, the purpose of this event. And I also appreciate it in another way, because, as said, I have spent a good part of my life as a full-time professor at the National University of Colombia, Manizales campus, and I am very pleased when they invite me to the universities, because finally what I sometimes say is that I am a lost professor in Congress. And believe me, it is much better to be here than there. He told Saúl Rugeles that these university and university professor jobs are the only ones that have been invented that are fairly decent.
The talk is going to be split in two. In the first part, I will make some rough statements about how I understand this issue of globalization, because the idea is that we talk about the specific issue, but in the context of globalization or free trade or neoliberalism, or in the context of the Consensus of Washington, terms that ultimately mean more or less the same thing. So I am going to make a statement about what I think will end up happening in the economy of a country like Colombia. And secondly, also in that context, how I think urban development and architecture are affected, insisting that what ultimately defines the first part. The fate of the city that is going to be built or that is being built in Colombia is greatly affected by this first part of the analysis. It will of course not be the official version, but the vision of a person who contradicts the policies that are being developed.
Relations with the world, yes, but not like this
To avoid confusion, I begin by clarifying that those of us who maintain a fundamental contradiction, antagonistic, I would say, with free trade policies should not be interpreted as people who are opposed to Colombia interacting with the world. This is not what is in dispute. Moreover, in a sense speaking of globalization as a recent phenomenon has an ideological charge, because, strictly speaking, the history of humanity is the history of globalization, in the strict sense of the term. Due to demographic growth itself, from the first human beings, the only thing we have done is to become more and more global. Those who think that it started I don't know when they then suffer great confusion.
We are not opposed to Colombia interacting with the world, that is not the discussion. We have been interacting with the world for five hundred years, to say the least. What we are discussing, and it is a key debate, is how we should relate. A tribe that is in the middle of the Amazon and that has not opened relations with anyone has no reason to discuss this issue. On the other hand, those of us in a world in which we relate in a thousand ways and are going to continue to interact are obliged to discuss in depth about how we think we should relate.
I start from a first question: is there only one way to relate? The world was very global at the time of Spanish colonialism and, in general, of European colonialism, and yet no one here has accused Bolívar or Santander of dinosaurs for claiming that they did not like this globalization. What was the great American Independence debate two hundred years ago? It was to say that the natives of America were not interested in that way of relating to the world. But no one ever raised in those days that the relationship would end. It is the same thing that we are discussing now, how to relate to the world. Is there only one way to relate to the world? Is there a single thought to which we must all submit and whoever does not submit is an enemy of progress, a person who does not understand the realities of the world? Of course not.
I illustrate it in a perhaps simpler or less abstract way. If they tell me that we must import tractors or computers, that we do not produce and that we need for development, I immediately answer, where do we have to sign the yes? But if they tell me that corn must be imported, I reply: they have to explain that to me more slowly. I summarize it this way, relations with the world, yes, business with the world, yes. With the United States included, I must also clarify it, because they say that Senator Robledo does not like the gringos and that is why he does not like the FTAs with the United States. No. We must also interact with the United States and economic agreements can also be signed with the United States. But wich ones? We return to the same point.
The FTA is a specific way of relating to the world, but Brazil does not want to sign it to the gringos, it is not going to sign it, even if someone comes out to argue that Brazil is about to isolate itself. Japan does not have an FTA with the United States, nor does Europe. And then nobody in Europe wants relations with the United States? No, what the Japanese and the Europeans and the Brazilians are saying is that we do want to interact with the United States, but in a way that protects the interests of each of the countries. I summarize it in another way: alliances, international business, yes, but not of mule and rider, and even less so if we are the mule. That simple Remember Stiglitz: it is better to have no treaty than to have a bad treaty. It is better not to do business than to do bad business.
I add that it is not true that these are agreements designed in a logic that respects the interests of the parties. They are not reciprocal benefit agreements, as international business and all businesses should be. They are not even sovereign decisions or established by ourselves. In the first thing that I wrote about these issues back in the nineties, I quoted an illustrious Bumangués, Dr. Abdón Espinosa Valderrama, a person whom no one can criticize for being from the Polo or from the left, who stated: this treaty is an imposition from the World Bank and it's going to ruin our economy.
Yesterday I said to the Minister of Agriculture, in a debate in the Fifth Commission: Minister, it is absurd to import milk when there is a surplus. He replied: those are the WTO agreements. I told you, Minister, why doesn't the State make massive purchases of rice in the domestic market to prevent prices from falling and store it, as before 1990. And you answer me the same thing, the WTO doesn't allow that either. We are talking about a way of relating to the world that is imposed on us from the outside by certain powers that do not use the same type of logic for them, because they have interests different from ours.
When you are told that you have to turn the world into a single global market, what is it ultimately about, what are you telling us? And beware, this point has a charge as strong as an atomic bomb. They want a world at the service of capitals of global magnitude. It is that even the last economic form made in the confines of the Earth that is not put at the service of global capitalism, that is, of monopolies and transnationals, will be persecuted. Even in a lost wasteland of Colombia the transnational company comes to the man who makes kumis with a grinder, parks a refrigerated truck, sells him a packaged kumis and also has a Pokemon on top, which has just taken him out of the competition.
The tragic fate of Veleños sandwiches, I put it as an example in a book, is either being replaced by another type of candy, from Kraft or any other multinational, or being taken over by Kraft or another multinational. The idea of the Veleño sandwich as a business for small or medium-sized entrepreneurs does not fit in neoliberal globalization.
What does this mean? That the differences between countries and between individuals within each country are being exacerbated. Capitalism is a system of inequalities, not a system of solidarity, and what we are talking about is taking monopoly capitalism to the ends of the Earth, which will inexorably exacerbate the differences between countries.
There are countries that began to function almost as colonies, increasingly dominated by the great powers that end up dominating and, particularly, by the United States, especially in the case of Latin America, although elsewhere it may be Japan, or France, or another of the great empires. But in addition, inequalities within each country will be exacerbated. You look at the North American economy and what has happened is that extreme poverty and extreme wealth become increasingly polarized. The American people are also suffering from free trade, like the other peoples of the world. In each country certain minority sectors of their economic oligarchies win and the others lose. The middle classes tend to contract with increasing difficulties to function and survive, one of the most recent phenomena in capitalism. It is not only the popular sectors of Colombia that are impoverished. No, impoverishment is global.
In urban development inequalities are exacerbated
Capitalism, and let's consider it now for the development of the city, tends to exacerbate segregation. The city is by definition a strongly segregated cultural fact, with great inequalities, and if urban development is left looser to market forces, it is even more so. If people become impoverished, they are almost inevitably segregated. If some concentrate more wealth than anyone else, of course this also segregates. In Colombia, and each country must be analyzed separately, we are doing particularly badly in this segregation and extreme inequalities. Colombia is today the country number seven in social inequality in the world. They barely beat us, if this can be called a profit, six. I suppose that if Dr. Uribe is successful in being reelected, we will be left with a gold medal in social inequality.
What is the experience of Colombia? Because here are theories that remain to be seen if they are true. In Colombia we have been in this matter since 1990, almost twenty years, long enough to know what happens with the theories. In 1990, some stopped and said: they are going to destroy the country, Abdón Espinosa among them, I do not quote myself, but Abdón Espinosa, less suspicious.
We said, they are going to destroy Colombia. Well, it's been twenty years, what happened? In 1990 Colombia was already a country subject to the IMF, to the interest of the transnationals, but let's say that we were going there, more or less. I think it is very easy to show, I am not going to stop to give numbers so as not to be long, that the problems of unemployment and poverty have worsened in this period. Employment and the quality of employment have suffered a barbarous deterioration. Colombia is moving with unemployment rates higher than those we had before 1990 and we are experiencing a terrible deterioration in the quality of employment: from 13% of underemployment we have gone to almost 40%, that is, a society dedicated to searching.
And this runs evenly for cities. If you look at the entire first floor of Colombian cities, you will see that it is a large ventorrillo where self-employed workers work, who do not get even the minimum, even if the most enthusiastic call themselves entrepreneurs. I think they are not, even though they have, of course, the honor of feeling like entrepreneurs. This is the harsh reality we are witnessing.
We are in an almost permanent crisis, which we had also announced. The opening of the 1990s, the free trade of the 1990s - I repeat, it is basically the same - and in 1999 the Colombian economy collapsed. We started halfway out in 2002. In 2003 and following years there is significant growth in the economy, but today we are sinking again.
The economic model that is being applied is then a model with relatively short and good times, not great, but let's say there, but strongly concentrated for the benefit of a few. The economy grows 7%, but for whose benefit? And with crisis. Today we are in a crisis. This year it is being said that we are going to grow to zero percent, and that if we add everything up, because if we look at the industry, we are collapsing. In other words, an almost permanent crisis situation and this one now can be quite complicated, because ours, which began in 2007, and the world crisis coincide. We are going for difficult times.
Six characteristics of a plutocratic country
Let's say some characteristics of the country that has been built in the last twenty years. The productive sector is bankrupt, because the country has deindustrialized. A country that was not a paragon of industrial development has lost much, and the little that remains is, in general, the industry of monopolies and transnationals.
The country, and this is almost inconceivable, has lost rural production in enormous proportions, Colombia was practically self-sufficient in agricultural products as of 1990. And last year, the Ministry of Agriculture certified it, there were imports for 9.8 million tons of agricultural products. Unheard. There are six million hectares of land with agricultural vocation, with producers, with water, that we could use for the development of agriculture and we are importing ten million tons of agricultural products.
If you have an economic model that hits the industry and agriculture, you are in the worst of worlds, because everything else lives on that. It is there that wealth is created. The other sectors, in a sense, what they do is move it, speculate with it, so many things that happen, but that is where the foundation of the economy is.
Second characteristic, which affects the city in a very serious matter, the privatizations. This is another paradigm of the moment: everything must be private. They told us that we had to privatize because the state monopoly and state corruption are very bad and we are going to persecute them. And what did they do? That the public monopolies have become private, and the private ones are worse than the public ones, because the public monopoly may have some control. The private monopoly tends by definition to take advantage of the dominant position to fleece the citizen and there is no control that is worth. Do you think that Doña Eva María Uribe controls the public service companies in Colombia? It sounds even funny to believe that an official with a small salary is going to control Telefónica de España or Telmex.
Denationalization of the national economy, another characteristic. Practically all of our major companies have been passed one after another into the hands of foreign capital. We still have some left, but their days are numbered.
The neoliberals argue that it does not matter, that it has been the same, because whoever buys the hydroelectric plant is not going to take it to the United States packed in a cardboard box. They treat us like idiots. Of course, they do not take the electricity companies, but they do take the profits, the wealth that allows them to accumulate and generate more development. What is a more developed country than another? One who has accumulated more wealth in his own territory. It's that easy. Why is the United States more developed than Colombia? Because it has managed to accumulate greater wealth converted into bridges, roads, hospitals, airplanes, factories, buildings.
Can we speak of national sovereignty in a country whose capital passes into the hands of foreign capital? Isn't self-determination the right of Colombians to decide our destiny? But here how, if all the rich in the country are foreigners. They cannot do these challenges to intelligence. Dr. Uribe is there trying to sell the entire Orinoquia, all of it. They even brought Bill Gates, and there the photo appeared in the newspaper, Dr. Uribe showing Gates the Orinoquia. The only national newspaper, in a sense, is from the Spanish capital. Then all the Spanish cocoas met in Madrid and said that President Uribe had to be reelected, obviously, because there is also no privatization that is not done at a lower price.
Country specialization in mining products, fourth characteristic. This is one of the most dramatic and graphic matters to illustrate how we are going backwards. The country is largely surviving by mining, as in the Spanish Crown. Anyone who has studied economics knows the scope of what I am saying. To think that a country can develop if it specializes in the export of raw materials, agricultural and mining, the same as always, is illusory. We raised imports to ten million tons of food and we have not increased agricultural exports at all. Obviously, there is no one to nail one more banana in the world. Rich countries are up to their necks with bananas. Dr. Arias tells us that we are going to make progress exporting cape gooseberries. A neoliberal friend of mine told me: that, if one with the gooseberry is topped with the Milanta, for the sour. Those are the geniuses of the former Minister of Agriculture, who now says he wants to run for President of the Republic.
Low or no taxes, another feature. They tell us that the transnationals cannot be taxed, because then they will not come to save us. The nominal income in Colombia was 38 and they lowered it to 33. And if one is in a free zone it is 15, as in the businesses of the president's children, but if he catches another gabela, it drops to 9 percent. . It is unheard of that in Colombia there are multinationals paying income tax of 9 percent, when the VAT for ordinary people is 16. Do you think that a country can be developed where big capital, the world's rich and multinationals cannot? pay taxes? Because, beware, the taxes they don't pay are charged to others. The State does not do what it should do and in this way there is no development either.
Cheap labor, very cheap, another of the characteristics of the model that is being implemented. Cheap in salaries, in pensions, in severance pay, in health, in times. Woe to that worker who at eight o'clock dares to turn off the machine and leaves. You have to kick him out, because he lacks a sense of belonging to the company. Without cheap labor, there will be no neoliberalism that is worth it. Here they repeat ad nauseam that foreign capital is going to save us and they travel to China, Arabia and everywhere to try to attract it. And that foreign capital does not ask but a single question: how much do I earn there? So, for this foreign capital to come, you have to offer it everything, you have to sell it cheaply the state companies, you have to give it the mines and the mining sector, not charge taxes, guarantee that they will get cheap labor, or else, not coming, because this is fierce competition. All the poor of the world competing to see who sells their country the cheapest. And whoever manages to sell it the cheapest is supposedly the winner.
President Uribe's strategies
In the end what is being set up is a plutocratic regime, and I want to insist that this is very serious for the functioning of the city. The city is, by definition, one would say, almost the most complex work of human beings, because bringing together eight or twenty million people in the same place is a very complicated fact. Plutocracy means government of the rich. Not the one with popular support, but the one with money in charge. And the theory is very simple: the poor will be happy if they make the rich happy. We Colombians will be happy if we first make the gringos happy. Let's dedicate ourselves to making them happy and when they are very happy, some happiness will fall on us. This is the plutocracy, the regime we are under.
We had been talking with Professor Saúl Rugeles that part of the current mess in the debates is that issues that had been clarified in the 18th or 19th century must be put back on the agenda. These plutocratic theories have already been defeated theoretically and practically for a long time. It is not true that if we make them happy, then happiness will fall on us. That was already tried a century ago. And you have to admit to the government of President Uribe that it has a charm, some charm it should have, and that is that you can clearly decipher what you think. Here are others that are more confusing.
First slogan of the current government: investor confidence, which is all that I have been explaining: low salaries, privatizations, bans on foreign capital. President Uribe would be more precise if he said "confidence for certain investors", because to those of DMG, zero investor confidence. Those broke without sorrow or tears. And for small and medium capitals, no investor confidence.
A businessman, a senator, told me, what do I do if the one who takes charge of me in a free zone pays rent of 9 percent and I of 33 and the company is the same, how do I compete. Gasoline wholesalers are dedicated there, as I denounced these days in a debate, to putting out of business the retail distributors, the owners of gas stations or gasoline pumps, which we called before. What is the investor confidence for them? So Uribe promises to make Colombia a country of owners, but he does not tell us how many. Because what happens with neoliberalism is that private property does not grow, but decreases in number of owners.
When Macro or Carrefour or any of these brands are installed here in Bucaramanga, many people smile because they are going to buy ten pesos cheaper. But ask yourself how many merchants went out of business the moment one of these hypermarkets was installed. And what happens to these transnationals when they achieve a monopoly and when they bankrupt their competitors, what happens to prices? Will they stay low? Or, on the contrary, will the multinationals take advantage of the absence of competitors to remove even the shims from the grinding wheels? That is investor confidence.
Second proposal by Dr. Uribe: social cohesion. Or in other words, to charm the poor so that all of them smile, even if they are in misery. "Maluco is also good," they say in Manizales. In Colombia, out of 40 million citizens, there are 20 million in poverty, 8 million in indigence, 30 million in Sisben, all poor and even miserable. And that supposedly you have to smile and all the poor happy. This is what they call social cohesion, a kind of brainwashing, of alienating people so that they live poor but happy. There is no education, there is no employment, there is no health, there are no salaries, there is nothing, but anyway, smile. We must admit to Dr. Uribe that he is a magician without a doubt in that, even though the alms they give to the poor so that they may be happy were not invented by him either. It is a policy of the World Bank. In all countries there are families in action, what happens is that they are called differently.
And what does democratic security consist of? One aspect is that of the fight against the guerrillas, but there are others, and that is that in Colombia it is easier to create a gang of bank robbers than a union, not only because they kill trade unionists, but because the Ministry of social vulnerability it follows them. If the students protest, there are plenty of police tanks. The indigenous people who go out to protest are shot. All this is part of the democratic security to set up this country that they have been setting up. Social cohesion is: if you don't believe me in the carrot, I'll show you the stick.
I summarize what I have said so far. Free trade condemns these countries to brutal social inequality. The contrast between extreme wealth and extreme poverty is enormous, exacerbated. But in free trade there is a worse issue in my opinion, and that is that it robs us of the potential to create wealth. Because you can be poor as a person or as a country, but if you maintain your potential, suddenly one day you solve the problem. But if it is taken away, for example, as the privatization of higher and secondary education and of all kinds advances, what is being done with the poor? Take away the potential to stop being it. If they deindustrialize the country and eliminate a good part of its agricultural production, they leave it without the possibility of scientific and technological development. What they are saying to Colombia is that it will have to remain in underdevelopment forever, even if it has water, land, people, territory. No matter what you have, you can never get out of underdevelopment.
This is not new in the history of empires. The Spanish empire pursued with the army any American who tried to build factories. If someone set up a screwdriver or pliers factory in San Gil, the mayor would come and put him in jail. And the thing was very simple: Mr. de San Gil, if you want a pliers, bring it to me from Spain. Because the Spanish business, in addition to stealing our gold and precious stones, is to sell pliers.
Free trade is the same: it does not allow us to manufacture anything. There is no regulation that explicitly says "it is forbidden to grow wheat and barley in Colombia", but the conditions that they impose on us are such that whoever grows wheat or barley is bankrupt, let alone if they dare to make a cell phone or a television , because there they do take him to the madhouse. That is what the lack of protection of the domestic market and the national economy does, taking away from us Colombians the potential to create wealth. To those who want to study it, I recommend a book by Federico Lizt, one of the fathers of North American capitalism, in his debates with Adam Smith, called the National System of Political Economy, where he details this of potentiality.
And politically, we are facing a process that one can call imperialist recolonization. Our relations with the United States tend to resemble more and more those we had with Spain. The bases is not accidental. They put them in order not to let us sow wheat or barley, in the way we do today. It is a fundamental aspect of politics. They are not inventions of the left. They are realities that are happening.
The urbanism of savage capitalism is going to prevail
Within this general framework, what will end up happening more and more in Colombian cities, what type of urban planning and architecture is being developed? Let's start by clarifying that globalization and free trade are part of capitalism, and in this sense, what is happening in Colombia is not new. It worsens or acquires certain particular facets, but in the end it goes back to the history of the development of a country like this, traditionally with a logic of urban development very wild capitalism.
The intervention of the State, I would think that in all of Latin America, it has not been so rigorous or so serious, I don't know what word to use, as in the United States or in Europe. Here the real estate speculator of urban land has always been hindering the better planning of cities, and the phenomenon has worsened. And it doesn't come from now. If one looks at any block of Bucaramanga or old Ibagué, one can find three or four different norms applied in the same street, norms that largely correspond to the fluctuation of speculation with urban land. For example, where the idea of conceiving the city as a space related to aesthetic arguments is a relatively new thing. What came to us with free trade is therefore not absolutely new, because we continue within the framework of a capitalist economy.
Several characteristics that Colombia is suffering from, such as the strengthening of migratory flows to the cities, partly due to agrarian ruin, come from before, but have been aggravated by crime and rural violence, such a complicated issue. Our cities, many of them, are receiving an immense load of Colombians, which generates a stress on cities that is very complex to manage, as it has been throughout the history of the 20th century, but now worsened, I insist.
It is a rural population that reaches the cities with very low training, but also to some cities in productive crisis, without industrial development, a fact that further complicates this reality. What ends up happening is that the scavenger economy grows, each Colombian struggling to see how to earn a living. I have said that Colombia is the country with the most jugglers in the world, one for each traffic light, and the country with the most graduate students. Everyone here has a postgraduate degree, because they think they need a degree to get a job. This is a country full of deformations of all kinds. But I want to emphasize in one, that for urban development it counts a lot, because it makes things very difficult and impacts a lot, and that is that the entire first floor, the entire urban zócalo, is a small hole.
A second aspect, not strictly new, is that of real estate speculation. Colombia has always been a country of speculators. When I refer to land speculator, I mean that person who makes a profit, not from his work, but from the work of society. What he does is take advantage of a monopoly to collect a kind of toll from society for the right to use the land, not for the activity of an industrialist or a farmer, let's say, but for something else. Lo anterior agravado por un asunto, como me lo explicaba en estos días un empresario de esos emprendedores que compra y compra tierra, y yo le pregunté: por qué compra y compra tierra, y me contestó: porque nada da más que lo que da la tierra.
Uno de los problemas graves de arrebatarnos la potencialidad de crear riqueza en la industria o en el agro o en otros sectores es que especular con el suelo empieza a volverse casi la única actividad rentable para la aplicación del capital. El hecho es de una gravedad inaudita. Colombia está teniendo una de las tierras rurales más caras del mundo. Así, ningún negocio agrícola da, salvo que sea de un mafioso, porque si la tierra vale 20 millones de pesos la hectárea, por decir algo, la vaca tendría que dar, en vez de leche, champaña de primera calidad para que fuera rentable, y esto se vuelve una especie de círculo vicioso que genera una mentalidad profundamente reaccionaria, la del especulador apoltronado viendo a ver cómo influye en las decisiones públicas para que lleguen y le hagan un puente a su finca o le pasen una carretera por no sé dónde, o le cambien una reglamentación para poder ganarse una plata.
Y he visto que el gobierno de Uribe está reviviendo algo que se había quedado más o menos quieto en las ciudades: los grandes proyectos de renovación urbana. A esto hay que echarle ojo. Ahora se inventaron que en Colombia no hay suelo urbano, y como no lo hay, búsquense entonces a un pobre que sea dueño de un lotecito y llamen al DAS para ver cómo lo desalojan. En Manizales están por sacar a 2.700 personas. Su crimen, vivir a cinco cuadras de la Plaza de Bolívar, en la zona más plana de la ciudad, la comuna de San José, doctor Emilio Padilla, usted que la conoce. Y es una gavilla lo que le tienen montado a esa gente y todo a nombre del progreso y del amor y de lo mucho que quiere a los pobres este régimen plutocrático.
Con un desparpajo y un descaro tenaz se ha venido también profundizando la segregación urbana propia del capitalismo. Es un propósito deliberado por hacer ciudades llamadas por ellos con todo desparpajo ciudades para la globalización, para el mercado mundial. Una parte de Bucaramanga, de Manizales o de Bogotá debe parecerse a Miami y el resto, escondámoslo para que nadie lo vea. En Bogotá ya ver un pobre se volvió casi imposible. Si ustedes salen de Bucaramanga, aterrizan en El Dorado y cogen por la avenida treinta hacia el norte, los únicos pobres que verán son los meseros y las empleadas del servicio.
Unas ciudades de tipo enclave colonial, pedacitos de la ciudad de lujo, ostentosos, en acero inoxidable al máximo, en Colombia y en todo el mundo. Todos los pisos enchapados, no sé en México cómo será, pero aquí no puede haber piso al que no le pongan un enchape. Un piso en concreto simple o en un mortero de cemento, ¡qué horror! Se enchapan hasta las vías por donde pasan los buses. Les ponen un enchape de baldosín, pasa un bus de 50 toneladas y destruye el baldosín, pero no importa, tiene que ser enchapado.
Creo que ya están comprando por kilómetros los vidrios templados. Dicen, deme diez kilómetros de vidrio templado. Claro, para que Bogotá se parezca a Miami. Lo que se les olvida es que el ingreso per cápita aquí es de 4 mil dólares y allá es 40 ó 50 mil dólares. Se vive despilfarrando para generar una falsa apariencia de progreso y aquí la gente se termina comiéndose el cuento, particularmente en las facultades de arquitectura, lo digo con todo cariño. Ya no hay un proyecto de arborización de vivienda en Colombia que no sea con palmas, así no den sombra y donde haya 44 grados de temperatura, pero como la palma es la que trae el Autocad, entonces pongan la palma.
Nos estamos gastando años enteros diseñando pisos para dar una falsa apariencia de progreso y si uno no es cuidadoso, se come el cuento de que Colombia está progresando y no nos damos cuenta de que ese progreso es todo importado. Aquí ya no producimos nada, ni los plátanos, creo. Y las zonas paupérrimas cada vez más escondidas.
Quiero llamar la atención sobre lo que está sucediendo: tres de cada diez habitantes del campo, 33 de cada cien, están en la indigencia. Es gente que todas las noches se acuesta a dormir con dolor de estómago, no porque comió mucho, sino porque no comió nada.
Las prostitutas de las zonas pobres de Colombia compran los anticonceptivos de a uno cada día, porque no les alcanza para comprar las 30 pepitas del mes. Y los barrios populares se nos llenaron de tiendas donde a uno le venden de a pastilla de chocolate, de a cucharada de aceite. Aquí hay gentes que a la hora del almuerzo hacen una vaca entre toda la familia, cada quien pone unas monedas y alguien sale a la tienda y compra un huevo, una taza de arroz, una cucharada de aceite y un pedacito de panela y con eso almuerza la familia. Pero eso sí, hay zonas de la ciudad, las llamadas zonas rosas, donde no se ve sino derroche. Tantas cosas buenas que tienen los mejicanos para enseñarnos y, preciso, escogemos lo de las zonas rosas.
Lo de los servicios públicos, parte de la política central, parte de la extorsión, es escalofriante. La gente está dejando de comer para pagar los servicios públicos. La participación en gastos de servicios públicos de las familias es del orden del 30%, altísima. Esas medidas que se están regulando en las ciudades colombianas es una manera del Estado de subsidiar a los pobres para que puedan pagar los servicios públicos. Pero hago otra pregunta de fondo: ¿cómo se planifica una ciudad cuyos servicios públicos son privados y están calculados para el negocio y hay todo un juego de especulación inmobiliaria? Aquí se ha llegado al punto de que las Curadurías Urbanas son privadas. La ciudad es un hecho terriblemente complejo para ponerlo a funcionar todo detrás de la lombriz de la ganancia. Siempre ha sido un lío, insisto, pero cómo puede planificarse así ningún desarrollo urbano.
Otra cosa que se está exacerbando es la producción de vivienda, relacionada con el negocio financiero de la producción de vivienda, de las corporaciones de ahorro y vivienda. Y hay algo que me llama la atención y creo que se le debería echar harto ojo, porque guarda estrecha relación con lo que he dicho de la potencialidad. En Colombia, en el año 1970, en el gobierno de Misael Pastrana, huyéndole a que las importaciones no permitían el desarrollo nacional, se inventaron la estrategia de la construcción, una estrategia fallida pero que tenía cierta racionalidad porque decía: generemos un nicho económico en el cual el capitalismo colombiano pueda desarrollarse en torno a un sector que no compite con las importaciones ni el contrabando.
Por supuesto, no era capaz de desarrollar el país, pero tenía esa racionalidad. Hagamos hartos lavamanos, inodoros, tubos, los ladrillos son de aquí, la tierra también, hay fábricas de cemento, y ahí nos ganamos una plata y le generamos a esto cierta potencialidad de desarrollo. Hoy, uno de los fenómenos que viene presentándose, y aún no lo he estudiado en detalle, es cuánto están pesando los bienes importados en el negocio de la construcción. Es importante, porque tiene que ver con la potencialidad. Aquí nos llenamos de estructuras importadas de acero y de vidrios importados. Hoy gran parte de las instalaciones son importadas, más las cosas viejas importadas de antes. Cuando yo veo esos letreros de Tapetes Bokaras, Tapetes Saharas, persas, que valen no sé cuánto el metro cuadrado, siempre me he hecho la pregunta: ¿Colombia no podrá pasarse la vida sin Bokaras? Aquí hay un hecho económico que se nos olvida y es que cuando Colombia exporta es un milagro.
Aquí lo que se exporta es hambre. Los campesinos cafeteros no exportan café. Lo que exportan es hambre. Si todos esos compatriotas se ganaran el salario mínimo, no podríamos exportar café. Nos están derrotando los campesinos vietnamitas, no porque sean más inteligentes o más trabajadores, sino porque si los nuestros tienen un pregrado en aguantar hambre, los de allá tienen un doctorado. Aquí cogemos esos dolarcitos de las exportaciones y nos los gastamos en whisky de algún color, para poderle subir el precio. Hay whisky de todos los colores, como el arco iris, cada uno más caro que el otro.
El último cambio tiene que ver con la concepción de la política estatal. Aquí sí hay una regresión mayúscula. Aquí tuvimos una entidad, los jóvenes ni deben acordarse, que se llamaba el ICT, Instituto de Crédito Territorial. Se creó por allá en los años treinta. Lo que se soñó, por lo menos en el discurso, era que el Estado produjera vivienda para pobres, pero con una racionalidad de país moderno. El Estado compraba lotes en grande, materiales de construcción en grande, hacía diseños masivos y se hacía vivienda en altura.
Los barrios del ICT, en cierto sentido, modelaban el desarrollo en una forma digamos más o menos civilizada, con mil problemas, claro, pero digamos que civilizada, con el Estado interviniendo en cada parte del proceso para recortar ganancias privadas. Y era así como, un poco en la medida en que había menos ganancias privadas, se lo podía ofrecer a los pobres un tris mejor. Esto daría para una charla entera. Hoy otra vez se impone el capitalismo salvaje. ¿Qué es lo que viene propiciando el Estado? Que unos pocos ganen y especulen con la casa de los pobres. Financiación, las corporaciones de ahorro y vivienda; materiales de construcción, los monopolios; constructores, los monopolistas; servicios públicos, la empresa privada. O sea, todo el mundo cae sobre la casita del pobre. Entonces la casita del pobre lo único que puede es irse reduciendo como una especie de caja de bocadillos de caucho y ya no va en casi nada.
Después, cuando el pobre logra habitar en ella, empieza un proceso de autoconstrucción complicadísimo, dolorosísimo, costosísimo, que deja al país desprotegido en la lógica de la sismorresistencia. Colombia es una bomba de tiempo. El día que en Colombia haya un terremoto que le pegue en grande a una ciudad, aquí va a haber la matanza del siglo. Invito a los arquitectos a ir a las zonas de autoconstrucción y a buscar los hierritos y verán cómo brillan por su ausencia. Todo eso es en lo que hoy estamos. Es la regresión, es echar hacia atrás. Cosas que estaban conocidas se terminan perdiendo.
Y hemos llegado hasta el absurdo. Hace quince días, el ministro de Vivienda me certificó que en Bogotá hay ochenta mil subsidios para vivienda sin reclamar. Porque si la persona quiere el subsidio, entonces le dicen, señor, tiene que demostrar primero que es bien pobre para poder darle el subsidio. El señor muestra que es bien pobre, cosa no muy difícil. Pero después, cuando va a la corporación de ahorro y vivienda, le dicen, aquí lo que tiene que demostrar es que es bien rico, porque aquí los pobres, ni para guachimanes.
Ocurre así como lo digo, tanto que los analistas se inventaron una clasificación: ya se habla de los subsidios adjudicados y los movilizados. Se adjudican, así nadie acceda a ellos. Pero en la estadística sí salen y le sirven al gobierno para sacar pecho. Y los movilizados son del orden de la mitad de los otorgados. Es el absurdo total del sistema, y sin embargo, el gobierno no lo modifica ni interviene el mercado de la tierra. Siguen absolutamente en lo mismo, en cierto sentido porque están felices. Además de otros subterfugios que se han venido inventando, pasaron el número de subsidios de 400 mil a 800 mil del primero al segundo gobierno del presidente Uribe. ¡Cómo! Me puse a mirar, y resulta que se inventaron unos subsidios de 80 mil pesos de legalización de títulos al lado de los de seis y diez millones, sumando papayas con aguacates, como si nada. Y le pregunto al ministro Juan Lozano: y esto, ministro, qué es, y me responde: ¡ay! senador, no nos habíamos dado cuenta. La falta de seriedad y de rigor, total. Le decía en el debate a Juan Lozano: la lógica de ustedes es la de las gallinas que ofrecen poner diez huevos, ponen dos y cacarean cincuenta.
La política de vivienda y el país todo son un desastre, y el desarrollo urbano es un desastre, repito, si uno es capaz de ver más allá de las cosas de relumbrón que nos están mostrando. Las ciudades colombianas siempre han tenido sitios donde las cosas son más o menos civilizadas, pero en eso no está habiendo un avance de fondo. No puede haberlo, porque en esta estructura no es posible.
Hago referencia por último a algo que ya dije en el debate de renovación urbana. Me decía el ministro, senador, es que con la renovación urbana resolvemos el problema social. No, tampoco es así. Ese fue un debate del siglo XIX. Si usted resuelve el problema económico y social, resuelve también el problema urbano, porque atender con seriedad el problema urbano es una tarea que exige grandes recursos, un problema supremamente difícil de resolver.
La vivienda es el bien de consumo más costoso que exige una sociedad. Entonces se necesita una sociedad pujante, rica, desarrollándose en serio, acumulando riqueza, para que pueda generar todo lo necesario, incluidos subsidios inmensos para poder hacer una ciudad más o menos civilizada. Entonces decir que un país que se está hundiendo, el país de la miseria, el de la pobreza, el del subdesarrollo, el del atraso, es el que cuenta con la potencialidad de tener ciudad, no es posible. Va a haber unas islitas, unas lombricitas en el mapa donde los que tenemos algunos centavos dentro del bolsillo medio vivimos. Otros pedazos se ven medio bonitos, pero pregúntense ustedes cómo viven adentro, cómo está viviendo la clase media entre esos apartamentos que son microalcancías donde está prohibido estornudar. Bueno, y hay cada vez viviendas más pequeñas. Esto es parte del truco.
Termino señalando que el país a mi juicio está muy mal y que hay que hacer un esfuerzo de fondo para cambiarlo.
Ponencia del senador Jorge Enrique Robledo en el IV Seminario Internacional de Arquitectura “Ciudad y fronteras”, Universidad Santo Tomás, Bucaramanga, Colombia, 24 de septiembre de 2009.
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