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Colombia: Elections Usher in a New Era

Jun 23, 2022

Umm Muhammed Umar

In Colombia the elections to select a new president, at the weekend, had been a race that seemingly defied expectations. Polls placed the two candidates, former rebel member and leftist, Gustavo Petro, and the conservative outsider Rodolpho Hernandez, neck and neck. Ultimately, Petro won the race. Radio Islam spoke to academic, Professor Scott Lucas.

Prof Lucas said that Hernadez, the defeated challenger, had been a political outsider, who had run on an anti-corruption platform. However, the person who won, Gustavo Petro, was also a political outsider, but from the left. This was significant as Colombia has had right wing governments for decades. Prof Lucas said Colombia has had a history of violence. He said, “We know about the violence in terms of the battles with the drug cartels there, but we also had the violence of the state versus the rebels.” Gustavo Petro, the man who ultimately won by 52% to 48%, is a former rebel. He was a member of the M-19 group, until 1999. Prof Lucas said, “here we are, more than 30 years later, and the former rebel is now the next President of Colombia”.

Regarding US – Colombia ties, Prof Lucas said that for decades the US had supported governments in Colombia. The American effort was supposedly to provide security assistance to defeat the drug cartels, but resulted in them propping up governments which could be “abusive of rights and arguably abusive of their own citizens, to the point of extrajudicial judicial killing(s)”. He said that he hoped that Columbia’s future would not be determined by Washington.

Prof Lucas said that Colombia had for so long has been mired in violence, but that in 2016, there was a historic accord between the government and the main rebel group, FARC, which had been fighting 50 years. He said, “In fact, we’re still in the middle of implementing that process, and it has not been fully implemented. So, I think one of the tasks for Petro will be indeed to continue the discussions with FARC to reverse completely away from the violence that had marked Colombia up till the 2016 settlement.”

There was tension, prior to the elections, due to death threats, scandals, fraud claims and so forth. There were also tensions regarding whether the election would be free and fair. However, Prof Lucas said it had largely been free from intimidation, even though there had been some reports of violence that had taken place. Nevertheless, Colombia’s election had been democratic. Prof Lucas highlighted, “And now the even harder part comes, and that is to have governance in Colombia, which is not just simply left versus right, but where all Colombians can have a country which moves away from so much of the economic, (and) political violence and difficulties, that marked it in recent history.”

 

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