Sunday, March 9, 2014

And The Winner Is...Alvaro Uribe

A campaign poster for a candidate for the Camara, along Calle 26 in Bogotá.
The return of ex-Pres. Alvaro Uribe to political power (he never left politics) in today's congressional elections probably won't sink the peace negotiations with the FARC guerrillas, but it could complicate things. Uribe's newborn Centro Democratico party finished second in the Senate with 14.4% percent of the vote - just one percent behind Uribe's old party La U.

A mural in Bogotá memorializes the Union Patriotica party,
thousands of whose leaders were assassinated during
the 1980s and '90s. The party was recently refouned. 
Uribe has been a furious opponent of the talks, which he claims amount to giving impunity to the guerrillas, who have committed innumerable severe human rights violations. As a senator and leader of one of Congress's largest political forces, Uribe will have a much more powerful voice. Two of the issues yet to be resolved in the Havana peace talks are how to end the guerrillas' participation in narcotrafficking and whether the guerrillas will receive political representation. As president, Uribe waged war on the guerrillas and aggressively eradicated drug crops. As a senator, he will surely oppose negotiated settlements on either of those issues.

Semana magazine doubts that Uribe's forces will be able to block the peace process. But that doesn't take into account the dynamic of popular opinion, which might turn against the negotiations. The new parliament will make the peace process more complex.

'Firm hand, big heart.' A billboard in Bogotá for
Alvaro Uribe's Centro Democratico Party. 
Today's vote also showed that Colombia remains a very conservative nation. In the Senate, the three largest vote winners and four of the five biggest parties are conservative. And the fourth place finisher, el Partido Liberal, isn't very liberal anymore. In the Camara, or House of Representatives, La U party came in first as well, the Liberals finished second and the Partido Conservador finished third. Uribe's Centro Democratico won only 5.5% of votes among Camara candidates, a respectable showing for a new party.

As for the far-left parties, the Polo Democratico received 1-7% of votes in the Camara and even less in the Senado. The reborn Union Patriotica got even less.

And MIRA, the evangelical Christian party which has been mired in scandal and legal problems, received fewer than 5% of the votes, meaning that it loses its representation in the Senate.

As for the presidential election coming up in May, today's vote doesn't change much - if only because Uribe's Centro Democratico Party's candidate has no charisma.

The Green Alliance, with its confused ideology, elected ex-Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa as its presidential candidate, setting him up for yet another doomed campaign.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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