Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Decadence of the Liberal Party

Liberal candidate Humberto
de la Calle: A good man,
but a bad campaigner.
During much of Colombia's history, the Partido Liberal was one of two dominant forces - along with the Partido Conservador - in Colombian politics. The Liberals produced some 30 presidents and helped introduce peace treaties with guerrilla groups, the secularization of the country and expanded rights for women and minorities.

The Liberals dominated the presidency after the end of Frente Nacional in 1974, electing 5 of the country's 7 presidents.

However, the presidency of Ernesto Samper (1994-8), whose campaign was financed by drug cartels, tainted the party (and by the same token, his succesor Conservative Andrés Pastrana's failed peace talks with the FARC guerrillas threw the Conservatives into disrepute). The 2002 election of Pres. Alvaro Uribe, who started his political career as a Liberal, moved far to the right, and won the presidency as an independent, drained both major traditional parties of relevance.

The Liberals' lack of ideological consistency may also weaken it. The party houses both far-leftists
such as e-senator Piedad Cordoba, who evidently sympathizes with both the FARC guerrillas and the government of Venezuela, and conservative evangelicals.

In this latest presidential campaign the Liberals made the mistake of choosing as their standard bearer Humberto De La Calle, who led the government negotiating team in peace talks with the FARC guerrillas. But De La Calle's candidacy never took off, receiving only 2% of the vote. And neither did the Liberals enter into a coalition with the only viable centrist candidate, ex-Medellin Mayor Sergio Fajardo.
The Liberal Party endorses Ivan Duque, right-wing opponent of the peace deal.
Finally, after choosing a pro-peace candidate in the first round, in the presidential campaign's second round the Liberals endorsed Ivan Duque, the political heir of ex-President Alvaro Uribe, furious critic of the peace negotiations. A voter could be forgiven for wondering what the Liberals stand for -if anything.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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