Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Price of Democracy

Humberto de la Calle celebrates victory.
The Partido Liberal, once one of the Colombia's two dominant political parties but now a minor player, held its presidential primary. Only 2% of eligible voters, and a far smaller proportion of Colombian citizens, participated in the election, which cost the nation 40 billion pesos, as well as subjecting the whole country to a dry Sunday and depriving tourists of public museums.

2% of the electorate participated.
But out of this exercise in democracy - which might have been better and more cheaply carried out by a phone survey or an internet vote - came the Liberal's presidential candidate, Humberto de la Calle, who defeated Minister of the Interior Juan Fernando Cristo. De la Calle headed the government delegation at the peace negotiations with the FARC guerrillas in Havana, Cuba, and would be a fitting succesor to Pres. Santos, who has made peace the centerpiece of his government.

Colombians will almost certainly face a choice between de la Calle and an anti-treaty candidate chosen by  ex-Pres. Uribe. The vote will become a referendum on the peace treaty.

If by next year, Colombians have accepted the peace agreement and want to move forward, then de la Calle will likely be the next president. But in the era of Brexit and Trump, there's no telling what might happen. The peace deal, after all, was narrowly defeated in a plebiscite.

It won't happen this time: A mural advertises the candidacy of Interior Ministry Juan Fernando Cristo.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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