Colombian cooperativism in state of alert
In recent weeks cooperativism in Colombia has had to confront various attacks from official sources. Whilst article 69 of the National Development Plan (PND), which would have opened the door to allowing health cooperatives to be turned into private profit-making companies, was ultimately cut out on 6th May, only a few days later the Government set alarm bells ringing again. It announced an extension of its takeover of SaludCoop – a cooperative that is owned by 23 cooperatives and solidarity sector entities, which the government took over four years ago – specifying as a condition for resolving the situation “that of not giving back ownership to its ‘former’ owners”. This would presuppose a process of expropriation that ought to be preceded by a court ruling, which does not exist.
20 May 2015
Although the article in question specifically referred to the case of SaludCoop, senators agreed that it would open the door so that “further down the line it could be extended to include other health cooperatives and even cooperatives in other sectors”, and the article was cut out. Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo, of the Polo Democrático party, stated in the Senate that article 69 of the Plan “opens the door to all health cooperatives being turned into vulgar private businesses”. Senator Álvaro Uribe, leader of the Centro Democrático party’s representation in the Senate, demanded that the surpluses of the cooperative movement “remain within the cooperative movement”.
The Colombian cooperative movement had gathered 6800 signatures in only a matter of days from people expressing their rejection of this article of the PND. CICOPA added its voice to this call, and sent a letter to the Colombian Government. “A ruling such as this infringes upon the very nature of a cooperative, and constitutes a negative precedent for the Colombian cooperative sector. In addition to putting at risk the ownership of those already in existence, it discourages the creation of new organisations whose ownership and wealth are social, collective and solidary, because in future they could be turned into commercial enterprises motivated by profit”, said Manuel Mariscal, president of CICOPA.
Given the Colombian Government’s commitment to achieving piece and working towards equality, CICOPA also asked that consideration be given in the National Development Plan (PND) to promoting producers’ cooperatives , in both rural and urban areas, because this was not included in the bill.
All is not won
On 15th May the Government, extending its takeover of SaludCoop by eight months, announced that during this timeframe the situation of SaludCoop would be resolved, having as a condition “that of not giving back ownership to its ‘former’ owners”. This would presuppose a process of expropriation that ought to be preceded by a court ruling, which does not exist. In light of this announcement, Ascoop (The Colombian Association of Cooperatives) sent a letter to the Minister for Health and Social Welfare asking that he meet with union representatives so that they can explain the cooperative sector’s proposal to him. This proposal recommends a restructure of how the cooperative operates, and a return to normality for it, whilst respecting both the laws that govern the health system in Colombia and the constitutional mandate to promote, protect and strengthen associative and solidary forms of ownership, “in order to guarantee that a quality and sustainable service continues to be provided to the almost seven million members.”
The letter also expresses the movement’s deep concern over statements made by Norman Julio Muñoz, the National Health Superintendent, which show an ignorance of “the basic principles of the cooperative model, and which do not fit with facts and official documents that support the current situation of the cooperative”.