Remi Piet — Director of the Resources/Infrastructure practice at Americas Market Intelligence—recently wrote an analysis of the upcoming presidential elections in Colombia for TRT World. It covers the various candidates from across the spectrum and the key challenge facing all of them: the FARC negoations.
Here’s a quick excerpt:
The recent ballots in Argentina and Chile were the first of a wave of elections throughout Latin America. In the coming months, the populations of Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela will have the opportunity to renew the leadership of their country, although elections in Caracas will be a mockery of democracy now that Maduro has banned opposition parties from participation.
After the victories of Mauricio Macri (Argentina) and Sebastian Pinera (Chile), several observers are prompt to underline a perceived swing of the continenttowards right wing liberal governments. However, this year is likely to rebalance the continental political exchequer with conservative incumbents often facing uphill battles for reelection and left wing parties favoured in polls in Mexico or Brazil.
The first of those elections, in Colombia, does not however follow the traditional left-right opposition lines.
A year after current President Juan Manuel Santos ended more than half a century of conflict and three years of negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), candidates running for the Colombian elections in May are mostly being judged on their position towards a peace agreement that still deeply divides the country.
Santos cannot run again and his popularity in any case has hit staggering lowssince the failed referendum of October 2016. His record is plagued by disappointment from peace advocates and hostility from a large part of the population whose nerves are still raw about a conflict that killed more than 220,000 Colombians.
The debate over the negotiations with the FARC has hogged all the energy of an administration which failed to address the economy’s glaring needs for reform. As a result, Colombia – traditionally one of the most dynamic economies of the continent – has performed poorly over the last few years.
The territories abandoned by the FARC have been taken over by other violent actors, whether a guerilla movement such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) or by delinquent groups associated with external criminal networks – notably Mexican – and related to drug trafficking.
To complete the picture, Colombian politics are sequenced by regular corruption scandals. Much like its neighbours Peru, Brazil and Ecuador, the Colombian political elite has been caught red-handed in the Odebrecht corruption scandal with President Santos having to publicly apologize for bribes and the illegal financing of his 2010 campaign.
In such a deleterious political climate, more than 30 politicians hunted signatures and patronage to build a potential presidential runs.
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