Metropolitan Region: the new debate in the old struggle of Gustavo Petro

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Infobae Colombia spoke with councilman José Cuesta Nova, author of the paper against the draft agreement for Bogotá to enter the city-region promoted by the Mayor Claudia López and the Governor of Cundinamarca, Nicolás García

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Metropolitan Region: the new debate in the old struggle of Gustavo Petro

Gustavo Petro and Councilman José Cuesta

One ​​of the first debates of Gustavo Petroin the Congress of the Republic, as a representative to the Chamber in the 1990s, it was about the business behind the urban expansion of Bogotá – then beyond 180th Street – and the corruption that surrounded the process. One of his advisers was José Cuesta Novoa , who now as a councilor for Colombia Humana in the capital city council, is the rapporteur against the draft agreement of the Metropolitan Region considering that it carries the same story and puts at risk the water sources and agricultural production that feed the capital.

Cuesta Novoa replaced Susana Muhammad when she left the corporation to occupy the position of Minister of the Environment, from where she asked the mayor to withdraw the project to adjust the constitution of the city-region to the environmental policy. However, this week the agreement will be debated in plenary, with majorities in favor, and it could be put to a vote.

The arguments against the Metropolitan Region

The councilor leads the opposition to the project from the Government Commission. His presentation is based on the risk that interconnectivity with the Savannah represents for water sources, due to urban expansion, which could lead to the so-called ' land flipping '; to which another argument is added: the presidential sanction, on November 5, of the Treaty of Escazú.

“The keys appeared to stop the process of formalization and consummation of the figure of the Metropolitan Region. The Escazú agreement became part of the constitutional block, so it is sufficiently clear that this agreement, in the case of Bogotá, violates articles three and seven of Escazú; therefore, it has no, but no, possibility of legal sustenance”, assures Councilman Cuesta.

One of the criticisms of the national government and councilors is citizen participation for the Metropolitan Region, which they consider has not been fulfilled. The Escazú agreement establishes that the processes of intervention and territorial planning and economic development must advance an incident citizen participation that, in Cuesta's opinion, can only be the popular consultation.

Metropolitan Region: the new debate in Gustavo Petro's old struggle

Councillor José Cuesta Novoa

The Bogota – Cundinamarca Metropolitan Region was approved since 2020 when Legislative Act 02 modified the Constitution. In that year, as rapporteur senator, Gustavo Petrotried to file it under the argument that it should be submitted to popular consultation, but a coalition of the Green party, Radical Change and the Democratic Center ended up approving it. In 2021, Law 2199 was issued, which established the operation.

The only thing that remains is for the local councils, such as that of Bogotá, to approve its entry into that region, as will be discussed this week at the city council when a group of councilors from the Green party, the Democratic Pole and Human Colombia will oppose.

A corporate government< /p>

Apart from the requirement of citizen participation, one of the questions in the form of government of the Region, which in the law was defined as a Regional Council made up of the mayors of the associated municipalities, the mayor of Bogotá and the governor of the department. However, the decisions must have the favorable vote of the latter two, which is why the opponents consider that it is not a democratic mechanism for all the territories that make up that entity.

Another criticism is that there is no participation in the Regional Council, as the highest government body, of the indigenous communities that live in the department, as in the case of two of these groups in Soacha that have already filed lawsuits against the organic law. Nor is the participation of environmentalists in decision-making contemplated.

Agricultural soils

The Metropolitan Region establishes that the Regional Council will be in charge of housing policy, prioritizing VIP and VIS, in which the construction of at least one million homes is proposed. For these projects, soils that are currently of priority agricultural use would be used. In addition, the region must promote metropolitan mobility and the supply of public services.

“There are basically two conditions that favor massive urban expansion processes: road connectivity, every time a road is opened to interconnect a virgin territory with a metropolis, the condition that favors the process of massive urbanization is immediately created. The other process that enables urban expansion on virgin territories is exactly the construction of the infrastructures that allow the provision of the set of public services, fundamentally water and electricity, to be advanced,” Cuesta pointed out.

This situation, on the one hand, could end up burying the agricultural land that currently generates food and livelihoods for peasants in the city's savannah. On the other hand, it creates the risk of turning over the land by large businessmen who acquire rural land which, when entering areas of interest for urban projects, multiply its value.

Region Metropolitana: the new debate in the old struggle of Gustavo Petro

Enactment of the Metropolitan Region Law. In the photo: Iván Duque, Claudia López, Minister of the Interior Daniel Palacios and the Governor of Cundinamarca Nicolás García

The function will be in charge of the Regional Council, which although it will have to formulate policies for the protection of land of agricultural and forestry value, it will also be in charge of regulating the instruments for land management aimed at social and priority housing.

“Bogotá may have all the financial muscle, Cundinamarca does not even have a territory, but that is not why we have to impose sustainable development routes on the territory, because we depend for security and food sovereignty purposes on those agrological soils, because there we effectively have the fundamental aquifer recharge zones for the region,” added Cuesta.

The new taxes

According to Cuesta, the taxation of Cundinamarca residents and citizens could be increased by up to 5% in the Metropolitan Region, due to the fact that a regional contribution to valuation is contemplated, which would not go through the City Council, as well as they will be able to define surcharges on the taxes defined by the member municipalities.

If Bogotá does not enter the Metropolitan Region, the project would not be viable and would remain on paper, although the majority seem to be in favor in the Council. However, from the national government party they consider that the entire legal scaffolding must be reformed from the Legislative Act to correct what they consider risky in the construction of the city region, changes that involve the Congress of the Republic.

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