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Sat Jun 9, 2018, 03:15 PM

Fake News and political establishment leading Colombia back to war

Joe Cederwall Friday, 8 June 2018, 2:35 pm
Article: Joseph Cederwall

On June 17th Colombia votes in the final runoff round in one of its most pivotal and closely fought Presidential elections in decades. The two remaining candidates are starkly polarised, as are the potential outcomes for Colombia and the entire Latin American region. The candidates are charismatic, anti-establishment and anti-corruption, leftist candidate Gustavo Petro and Ivan Duque, ordained political heir of former hard-right President Álvaro Uribe Vélez (now under investigation by the Supreme Court over his alleged role in war crimes committed by a paramilitary death squad.

Petro has laid bare Colombia’s failed democracy in this campaign by agressively highlighting revelations over vote rigging, corruption, U.S. Clientelism and the massive extent of the State’s involvement in atrocities committed by the paramilitaries responsible for the vast majority of bloodshed the long running civil war. Meanwhile, the fragile peace accord between the Government and the FARC guerrilla group is on the verge of collapse amidst poor delivery on transitional justice promises and corruption allegations. Uribe, Duque and other right-wing politicians have perpetuated a concerted misinformation campaign around the perceived ‘leniency’ of the peace deal with the help of a compliant mainstream media to bolster support. The media has also helped their cause by portraying Petro as a communist and raising the spectre of Colombia becoming the next Venezuela.

This all masks the horrible truth that in fact, a victory for Duque will be catastrophic for the peace and progress of Colombia. This would effectively cease any further investigation into issues of corruption or Uribe and other leading politicians’ involvement in the paramilitary movement. It would also allow the continuation of the unchecked expansion of the use of paramilitaries as a tool of neoliberal economic exploitation in Colombia that occurred under Uribe’s rule. However, it is looking increasingly as if this is what will happen, as Centrist politicians (including current President and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Juan Manuel Santos) have refused to support Petro’s bid, leaving him isolated and effectively gifting Duque the presidency.

A Fragile Peace

With 49 million people, Colombia is the third-most populous country in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. However, due to its central geographical position, and leading role in the ‘Bolivarian’ independence struggle against Spanish rule, Colombia has traditionally held a historical leadership position in Latin America. However, for the last century, the United States and a small Colombian elite have manipulated the course of politics through a long rein of militaristic right-wing government and a protracted low-intensity civil war. Colombia’s over half-century long civil war between various socialist guerilla groups and the government has claimed at least 220,000 lives, displaced nearly six million people, and resulted in 27,000 kidnappings and 25,000 disappearances.


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