Sunday, June 15, 2014

Colombia's election: Santos wins

Colombia held the second and final round of their Presidential elections Sunday. The two main candidates were the incumbent, Juan Manuel Santos of the Unidad Nacional and Oscar Iván Zuluaga of the Centro Democrático. Santos won, and Zuluaga has conceded. (Juan Manuel Santos, reelegido Presidente de la República EFE/El Espectador 15.06.2014; Óscar Iván Zuluaga reconoce la victoria legítima de Santos El Tiempo 15.06.2014; Helen Murphy and Peter Murphy, Colombia's Santos wins re-election, to push on with peace talks 06/15/2014)

A 3-0 victory against Greece in the World Cup on Saturday made people feel good. What effect it may have had on the election is probably impossible to say. (En la víspera de elecciones, todo es fútbol en Colombia EFP/El Espectador 14.06.2014)

The overwhelming issue has been the peace talks Santos has initiated with the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) guerrillas to end a decades-long guerrilla war. Zuluaga has been highly critical of the talks. (Vicenç Fisas, La paz como estrategia electoral El Espectador 14.06.2014) The talks are popular enough that Zuluaga isn't opposing them outright at the moment, though he did earlier. Now he's proposing new conditions that would likely torpedo the talks.

Since the first round of the Presidential elections, the FARC agreed to expand the themes of the talks to include restitution for victims and also declared a cease-fire until the elections. In addition, Santos recently announced that his government has been in exploratory talks with another guerrilla group, the ERP (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo). Fisas writes:

En cualquier caso, Colombia tiene una oportunidad de oro para terminar con 50 años de enfrentamiento con las guerrillas. Eso no comportará la paz de manera inmediata, pero se habrán sentado las bases para reforzar el papel del Estado y la oposición para transformar al país desde la democracia.

[In any case, Colombia has a golden opportunity to end 50 years of confrontation with the guerrillas. This will not bring peace in an immediate way, but it will have established the bases to reinforce the role of the state and the opposition to transform the country in the direction of democracy.]
One effect Colombia's World Cup match may have had on the ERP is that one of their commanders, Alfredo Hernández, was captured because he defied the organization's own security guidelines to install a satellite antenna at his place in the jungle so he could watch the World Cup! ("Mocho", el guerrillero capturado porque no quería perderse el Mundial infobae 14.06.2014; El guerrillero del Eln que cayó por la 'fiebre' mundialista El Tiempo 13.06.2014)

In a larger ideological sense, Santos seems to be center-right, while Zuluaga is a reactionary, at best.

A pre-election editorial by the British Observer warns, Colombia: only a Juan Manuel Santos victory offers prospect of peace 06/14/2014:

Who wins politically in Colombia this time around matters more than usual, and not just to Colombians. Since first attaining the presidency in 2010, Santos has pinned his reputation on ending the 50-year-long war with the ruthless cadres of the Marxist-oriented Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc). This struggle is said to have claimed more than 250,000 lives and displaced more than 5 million people. At its height, it involved 20,000 guerrillas, the Colombian army, the notorious druglords of the Cali and Medellin cartels, US armed forces pursuing America's extra-territorial "war on drugs', leftwing regional leaders such as the late Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, the worst kind of paramilitary death squads, and the denial of effective democratic choices to an impoverished, largely rural population.

The peace process championed by Santos since November 2012, the most promising of four such efforts since 1964, represents Colombia's best chance yet to break this domestic cycle of despair and destruction while showing a way forward for the region as a whole.
The editorial describes Zuluaga's politics this way:

By way of reply, Zuluaga offers only hatred, distrust and apathy. A former small-town mayor, Zuluaga studied at Exeter University before eventually rising to the position of finance minister under Colombia's former rightwing president, Alvaro Uribe Vélez, the man most closely associated with the worst excesses of the Bush administration's "war on drugs".

Colombia writer Héctor Abad, also in the Observer, writes in Colombia's freedoms are threatened by a campaign of far-right lies 06/14/2014, pointing to pre-election polls showing Zuluaga leading:

His campaign, deceitful but effective, will bring the far right to power in Colombia, actively assisted by the utopian, Chavist left – represented by the bard William Ospina – and assisted (through blank votes) by the Maoist left, represented by senator Jorge Enrique Robledo. Zuluaga is Uribe's puppet in much the same way that Dimitri Medvedev was Vladimir Putin's when he placed Medvedev in the Kremlin while he (briefly) stood down.
I'm not familiar enough with Colombian politics to know whether Zuluaga is a "puppet" of Uribe or not. But he's backed by Uribe and advocates for the uribismo type of politics. Abad also notes that Zuluaga and his supporters are referred to as "zorros," foxes, by their critics.

Abad charges that Zuluaga and Uribe "represent the worst of the Antioquia region: key drivers of the convivir, the government-sanctioned auto-defence groups of the 1990s, beneficiaries of the drug traffickers who raised the prices of their land, and landowners who sympathised with the convivir groups."


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