Colombia Held Normal and Peaceful Elections: A Hopeful Tale for your Neighbors

Colombian candidates used to run on platforms like their right to live peacefully. Now they campaigned debating on climate change and other normal topics of modern democracies. Yes, we are a little jealous.

Photo: Revista El Congreso

Our Executive Editor and resident cachaco wrote a piece about the Colombian Congress elections from last Sunday. In their view, Colombia is becoming one of those boring democracies where people talk about mundane problems rather than immediate existential risks.

Candidates talked about mining rights, water management, fracking, oil-industry regulation, and even climate change, the same kinds of problems voters face in France, or North Dakota, or Chile, or anywhere else that’s reasonably democratic and peaceful.

The foreign headlines had it exactly backward. This was the first Colombian election in an exceptionally long time not dominated by FARC. For decades, Colombian politics had centered obsessively around the issue of what to do with the Marxist rural army funded by drugs; war and peace were the bread and butter of political debate. In the new political reality, candidates still talk about public safety, but they mean petty crime and street violence, not guerrilla warfare.

Wow, you really gotta give it to the Hermana República: their progress in curbing violence is worthy of admiration, and I only hope we can follow their example someday.

“Kiddo, look. There are countries where a single guy tells everyone what to do. Not here. Here, we all decide. This is called ‘democracy.’

I had the privilege of watching this election personally. A friend took me to the polls, and the process stroke me as “excesivamente normal”. This is how I imagine Venezuela’s 1998 election went down (I was a little kid) — cheerful crowds going to decent voting centers and police officers checking cédulas, as opposed to national guards toting machine guns.

After speaking with Colombians on the ground, though, I would caution against Quico’s optimism. Voters were still unnerved by the looming threat of Marxism — as they should. No more rebel controlled territory? Tell that to the ELN and to my friend who went to Chocó (I haven’t heard from him in weeks). Weak FARC turnout? Yeah, but what about the textbook populist candidate that deflects questions about his Venezuelan role model with talks about climate change?

It does look like Colombians aren’t easily fooled. I heard a dad give a lesson to his bored 6-year-old: “Kiddo, look. There are countries where a single guy tells everyone what to do. Not here. Here, we all decide. This is called ‘democracy.’ That’s why we came here, to vote, to decide what Colombia will be.”

I almost burst into tears.

We at Caracas Chronicles long for days when, like Colombians, we can have elections centered around reforming the healthcare system, the environment and corruption, not defending some bullshit “legacy”, defeating imaginary enemies or deepening the state paternalism.

May we someday join you, hermanos colombianos, in the traditions of “boring” democracies. Cheers to that.