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Peace, drugs and corruption at the heart of the presidential elections in Colombia

Ⓒ AFP/Archivos – Raul ARBOLEDA – | Textile workers supporting the presidential candidate of the right-wing Democratic Center, Iván Duque, at a rally in Bogotá on May 3, 2018.

Colombia is preparing for a decisive presidential election. The scourges of drug trafficking, corruption and inequality are added to the need to consolidate a still fragile peace despite the historic agreement with the FARC.

The violence of the armed groups that dispute the control of former fiefdoms of the former Communist Party, particularly at the borders of the country, and the insecurity in the cities also mark the first round of the election, which will be held on May 27.

– Implement peace –

“Once the conflict is over, we Colombians have before us the enormous challenge of building peace,” reiterated President Juan Manuel Santos, who by law will leave power in August after eight years in office.

Nobel Peace Prize 2016, Santos was the artisan of the agreement signed that year with the then Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

But his efforts to end the last armed conflict in America are not reflected in his popularity, which according to surveys is less than 20%.

Born in 1964 of a peasant insurrection that demanded greater distribution of land, which was the most powerful rebel group in the continent disarmed and became a political party last year.

The implementation of the pact – questioned by ex-guerrillas who accuse state violations – will be one of the main tasks of the next government.

“The new president of Colombia will face the decision of whether to implement the agreement as it is or modify it,” Cristian Rojas, director of the Political Science Program at the University of La Sabana, told AFP.

Ⓒ AFP – Anella RETA – | Presidential elections in Colombia

However, the structural points of the pact can hardly be changed.

Among the six candidates in contention, attorney Iván Duque, 41, who promises to reform the peace agreement, figures as a favorite under the colors of the right-wing Democratic Center (CD), the influential senator and former president Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010). .

The CD considers that the agreement guarantees “impunity” to those responsible for serious crimes. The community first warned with “tearing up” the pact, but then called to reform it.

A possible mandate from Duque “would be problematic” to promote the “structural” changes agreed in the agreement, which includes electoral and agrarian reforms to combat inequality, said Yann Basset, director of the Observatory of Political Representation of the Universidad del Rosario.

– Inequality –

Colombia has been torn apart by a fratricidal war that, in half a century, has confronted guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and state agents, leaving more than eight million victims among the dead, disappeared and displaced.

Rich in minerals, biodiversity and precious stones, Colombia is also one of the most unequal countries on the continent, surpassed only by Haiti and Honduras.

Poverty impacts 17% of the 49 million inhabitants, with peaks of 36.6% in the most isolated regions, particularly in rural areas, according to official figures.

Ⓒ AFP/Archivos – Raul ARBOLEDA – | Ex-guerrilla Gustavo Petro, aspires to the presidency of Colombia for the Colombia Humana movement.

The fight against inequality is one of the banners of the ex-mayor of Bogotá, ex-guerrilla Gustavo Petro, of the Colombia Humana movement, second in the 10-point poll of Duque.

Neither of them seems to have the capacity to exceed 50% of the votes to win in the first round. They would have to face, then, a ballot on June 17.

Behind are the former mayor of Medellín, Sergio Fajardo (12%, center), former vice-president Germán Vargas (7.5%, center-right) and ex-peace negotiator Humberto de la Calle (2.5%, center-left).

The possibility of power of the left is a novelty in a country historically governed by the right. But the trend can change. “There is a lot of volatility in the preferences,” warns Basset.

For the expert, the rise of the left, visible in the legislative elections of March, is due to the fact that “the guerrilla today is not so scary.”

The FARC had 0.5% of the total of the parliamentary votes, although the pact guarantees them ten seats.

– Corruption and drug trafficking –

Colombia is ranked 96th in Transparency International’s corruption perception ranking, which measures 180 countries.

In addition to irregularities in the delivery of public tenders, the country was shaken by the global corruption scheme of Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

The firm acknowledged having delivered 11.1 million dollars in bribes in Colombia. The prosecution evaluates them in more than 27.7 million.

Ⓒ AFP/Archivos – JOAQUIN SARMIENTO – | Colombian presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo (c) speaks with supporters on a street in Medellin, Colombia, on April 30, 2018.

In the elections, “there is also a climate of discontent with the political class, with many corruption issues in the last two years,” Basset said.

But corruption is not only linked to the functioning of the state. Since the 1980s, Colombia has been on the world radar for drug trafficking.

Despite a fight to the death against drug trafficking, the country continues to be the world’s leading producer of cocaine, a market that disputes with blood and fire dissidents of the FARC, criminal gangs and the National Liberation Army (ELN), recognized by the government as the last rebel group.

“Today, drug trafficking continues to be the main threat to peace,” warned Santos on April 24, who hopes to sign an agreement with the ELN similar to that of the FARC to silence the conflict completely.

For the analyst Juan Cárdenas, the next president will have a “very strong challenge” related to territorial control.

For this the State must recover the monopoly of force and make “institutional presence” in a country with a complex geography, he added.

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