Latam Review

The election of Iván Duque

Jose Luis Ramirez Bohorquez[1]

Thatiane Faria Oliveira Moreira[2]

Iván Duque, a conservative who viscerally opposes the peace accord firmed in 2016, took the largest share of the votes in the latest Colombia´s election (August, 2018),  after a long and divisive campaign that was often based in the controversial peace process with leftist rebels (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – FARC). His vanquished opponent, Bogotá’s former mayor Gustavo Petro defends the peace process.

Duque has the backing of several industry leaders and, perhaps most importantly, of the ex-president Alvaro Uribe, who is still an immensely powerful figure in Colombian politic scene. Duque rebuffed suggestions that Uribe would govern through him, but it was clear during the election that the close relationship between the men helped Duque get many of the votes.

Uribe, who dealt severe military blows to the Farc during his tenure from 2002 to 2010, led the campaign against the peace deal in referendum of the 2016.  And, many who voted the deal down after a referendum in 2016 gave their votes to Duque.

It is also important to remember that while Uribe was president, a state intelligence agency was shut down after he used it to spy on the opposition leaders, journalists and members of the Supreme Court. Moreover, his military campaign against the rebels was marked by grave human rights abuses. Both of Uribe and Duque denied the charge and accused Petro of being the real threat to democracy.

According to the Colombia president, the peace accord was too lenient on drug traffickers. Meanwhile, even if he has expressed doubts about the peace deal agreed, he has not asked to overturn it. He has, though, suggested some modifications, however what concerns the politics analysts is the extend and consequences of these modifications. Many now worry about the fate of the fragile peace deal signed with the Farc in 2016, which formally ended 52 years of civil war that left 220,000 dead and seven million displaced.

The popularity of the Colombian´s president decreased two months after the election, due to the issues in the security, education, health and economic areas, as well as the inability to combat the corruption. The students headed the first demonstration against Duque´s government, they required more funds for education and solution to the Odebrecht corruption scandal.

Others issues have shaken the first semester Duque´s government, as: the rural violence caused mostly by organized crime (groups composed by FARC´s dissidents who do not support the peace agreement of the 2016); the end of the negotiations with the Nation Liberation Army – ELN, a revolutionary left-wing armed group involved in the continuing Colombian armed conflict; the national and international pressure given the increase in the coca´s cultivation, what pose the question about the chemical’s fumigation in the coca cultivation’s area and the severe health problems that it causes. This fumigation procedure was interrupted in the Juan Manuel Santos government, but the extremely right of the Uribe´s support group and the United States government defend the return of this method. There is still the problem about the millions of the Venezuela’s refugees which seek a better quality of life in Colombia.

Duque’s job will be build bridges between Colombians divided on ideology and the peace process. Furthermore, Colombia moved also toward others set of questions: How should the country tackle the corruption scandals that have hit Colombia, along with other countries in the region? What should be done about the rising number of Venezuelan refugees ? What must be done about rising coca production? The Colombia president has still not managed to respond these questions.

[1] Jose Luis Ramirez Bohorquez is a Colombian engineer, he has been pursuing his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering in the University of Campinas. During the first semester of 2019, he works as a researcher at KU Leuven University.

[2] Thatiane Moreira is Brazilian, she completed a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at University of Campinas and now she studies Political Science in the same university.  During the first semester of 2019, she is an exchange student at Université Libre de Bruxelles.

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