A large analysis on the political Situation in Colombia with a focus on the role of the Left in the forefront of the presidential elections 2018.
1) THE LATIN AMERICAN CONTEXT
As is well known, the regional political context is complex and rather difficult with the left having registered several serious setbacks. The end of the civilian/military dictatorships of the 70s were followed by a counter-offensive from Washington and its local right wing allies, and this time in the form of soft institutional Coup d’Etat (Golpe) , utilizing judicial power, mass media and sectors of the parliaments. The first to succumb was Honduras (2009), followed by the “golpe express” in Paraguay (2012), the overthrow of the legitimate Brazilian President, Dilma Roussef in 2016, and then, last November, the disputed election in Honduras (2017).
Thus the current scenario is characterized by right wing governments in Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Colombia, and Costa Rica where neoliberal presidents have won elections or taken over through “soft golpe”. Their agenda is clearly neo-liberal in favour of multinationals, inter/national land grabbing and financial capital.
The new international situation determined by the advent of the Trump administration, has also accentuated problems for the leftist, nationalistic, progressive forces of Latin America which had been in government since 2008 (parliamentary Chavez victory in Venezuela).
.Although mistakes have certainly been made and there are many issues that the left must address urgently, in order to adequately extend the legitimate interest of the majorities, this is a long process and not achievable overnight. Nor is it defined merely by the electoral process. It is an ongoing struggle, in which lessons must be learned from experience, building on the positive elements and correcting the negative.
2) INTRODUCTION TO NATIONAL CONTEXT
The Republic of Colombia is located in the northwestern region of South America, and its form of government is presidential. It is organized politically in 32 departments, and the Capital District of Bogota, seat of the national government.
The country covers an area of 1, 141,748 km², making it the twenty-sixth largest country in the world and the seventh largest in America. It claims as its territorial sea the area up to 12 nautical miles from the coast, maintaining a border dispute with Venezuela and Nicaragua. It borders to the East with Venezuela and Brazil, to the South with Peru and Ecuador and to the Northwest with Panama. It is the only nation in South America that has coasts on both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, through the Caribbean Sea.
With an estimated population of 49 million, it is the twenty-eighth most populated country in the world, and it is also the second Spanish speaking nation, after Mexico. It has a multicultural population, the result of the mingling (mestizaje) among Europeans, “indigenous” people and Africans, with minorities of “indigenous” and Afro-descendants. The Colombian Caribbean has a significant number of people of Middle Eastern origin. .
According to CIA official figures , Colombia’s nominal GDP is the fourth largest in Latin America and ranks 28th worldwide. But, as is often the case, despite GDP numbers, the reality is quite different. Colombia is one of the most unequal countries in the world: there are 20 million poor and 8 million indigents, more than half of the population is barely surviving. Violence has been the main means of capitalistic accumulation in Colombian history and the systematic impoverishment of the majority for the benefit of a handful, using violent repression and State terrorism against those who resist, is the origin of the social and armed conflict.
Colombia, one of the most violent and turbulent countries in the region, is in the midst of a perennial political, economic and social crisis involving the State institutions, political parties and Trade Unions, with very little possibility of deep change in the short term, given the absence of any mass pressure or even a peace movement . This lack of opposition can be explained by the strategy of fear, a new targeted elimination of human rights defenders, environmentalists and social and political leaders. In this way the “establishment” power brokers who have historically governed the country are able to maintain their tight grip on the nation, relatively unchallenged.
However, according to the cruelly ironic 41th Gallup Global Yearly Survey published by Gallup International, Colombia is the second happiest country in the world. Extreme self-defence mechanisms are employed to deny reality. People only see what supposedly makes them happy, like “Miss beauty” competitions, football matches and misogynistic, racist and homophobic comedy programs such as Happy Saturdays (Sábados Felices), which has been on air relentlessly and successfully for 45 years.
Such daily alienation has contributed to the majority of the population being more concerned about the “Venezuela threat” and the “danger of Castro-Chavismo” rather than their own life conditions. Venezuelan situation became the center of the electoral campaign (and not only).
At the same time, no one could seriously deny the general state of corruption, the accelerating loss of credibility of the current regime, the narcos presence and its extended criminal power, the insecurity, both in towns and the countryside. The permanent threats and killing of social leaders all over the country, the dangers inherent in non-compliance and the concrete risk of failure of the peace agreements with the FARC with possible implications also for the ELN as to what could be expected from their peace negotiation, are extremely important factors, in a context of widespread poverty, and destruction of the environment, natural resources and the basic means of survival.
Thus, in the last 3 decades the different governments have obeyed the neo liberal dictates of the Washington Consensus: without questioning. On one hand, low salaries, social cuts, asset stripping and privatization of State enterprises, of common goods and public wealth, on the other, increased foreign investment in the extractive sector (“the mining locomotive”), tax cuts for big capital and multinationals.
At a cultural level the ruling right-wing power block is profoundly conservative and nostalgic for an idealised past, upholding traditional catholic Christian values, albeit with pre-modern somewhat archaic traits. The defence of the heterosexual and monogamous family is paramount, and rights to a wide range of family groups and sexual diversity are denied.
3) SOME ECONOMIC FIGURES
According to an interesting CIA analysis, “Colombia heavily depends on energy and mining exports, making it vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices. Colombia is Latin America’s fourth largest oil producer and the world’s fourth largest coal producer, third largest coffee exporter, and second largest cut flowers exporter. Colombia’s economic development is hampered by inadequate infrastructure, poverty, narcotrafficking, and an uncertain security situation, in addition to dependence on primary commodities.
Colombia’s economy slowed in 2017 because of falling global oil prices and lower oil production due to insurgent attacks on pipeline infrastructure. Although real GDP growth averaged 4.7% during the past decade, it fell to an estimated 1.8% in 2017. Declining oil prices also have contributed to reduced government revenues. In 2016, oil revenue dropped below 4% of the federal budget and likely remained below 4% in 2017. A Western credit rating agency in December 2017 downgraded Colombia’s sovereign credit rating to BBB-, because of weaker-than-expected growth and increasing external debt. Colombia has struggled to address local referendums against foreign investment, which have slowed its expansion, especially in the oil and mining sectors. Colombia’s FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) declined by 3% to $10.2 billion between January and September 2017.
Colombia has signed or is negotiating Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with more than a dozen countries ; the US-Colombia FTA went into effect in May 2012. Colombia is a founding member of the Pacific Alliance, a regional trade block formed in 2012 by Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru to promote regional trade and economic integration. The Colombian government took steps in 2017 to address several bilateral trade irritants with the US, including those on truck scrappage, distilled spirits, pharmaceuticals, ethanol imports, and labour rights. Colombia hopes to accede to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)” .
According to unofficial, independent sources the analysis of the dynamics of the Colombian economy during 2017 includes the following variables: product (GDP), unemployment, inflation and exports. In general, the results are not good, and 2017 ended badly.
3.1) Dynamics of GDP
The latest gross domestic product data published by the Dane  corresponds to the third quarter of 2017. In this period the GDP increased by 2 %. Compared to the third quarter of the previous 7 years, that of 2017 presented the second lowest growth rate, after the 2016 rate of 1.2 %.
In the third quarter of 2010 the GDP growth rate was 3.4 %, in 2011 it was 7.9, in 2012 it was 2.6, in 2013 it was 6.1, in 2014 it was 3,9 and in 2015 just 3.3 %.
The behavior of the economy during 2017 was very mediocre and was below the projections that the government had initially made. The most dynamic sectors were agriculture, finance and the construction of civil works.
The agricultural sector recovered thanks to the devaluation of the peso. As the value of the dollar increased, the importation of food became more expensive, and this stimulated domestic production. The coffee sector has been subjected to a notorious intensification process.
Banks and financial intermediaries have done well. In large part because the interest rate they charge is still very high. The Bank of the Republic lowered the reference rate to 4.75 % year. However, banks continue to lend at high rates. The interest reductions made by the Bank of the Republic are not passed on to the customers of the banks, because they continue to offer relatively expensive loans. Credit cards, for example, charge an interest rate close to 30 % per year, at the limit of usury.
If the profits of the banks increase, the GDP increases but, at the same time, families and companies that are in debt must reduce consumption and investment, and this has a negative effect on GDP.
In other words, the profits of the financial sector are not necessarily good for the economy as a whole.
If banks tighten a lot, in the short term they obtain high profits, but over time the defaulting portfolio begins to rise, and debtors cannot pay. Obviously, this situation is not good for banks either.
The construction of civil works has also contributed to growth, with public investment playing a fundamental role and making evident the need for State intervention to initiate economic activity.
Inflation in December 2017 was 4.09 %, lower than in 2015, which was 5.75 %. Inflation fell especially because the cost of food declined, due to an increase in domestic food production. Thanks to this increased supply, between 2016 and 2017 food inflation fell from 7.22 % to 1.92 %, and since food has such a high weight (29 %) in the consumer price index (CPI), if food inflation goes down, general inflation also decreases.
In November 2017, unemployment was 8.4 %, the highest rate in the last 4 years. The fall in production is reflected in a higher unemployment rate. This is a central issue of economic policy.
The Colombian economy is increasingly anchored in the primary sector and this re-primarization is well reflected in the composition of exports. The main exports are: coffee, oil, gold, flowers and bananas, with manufacturing exports occupying a very secondary place. This re-primarization of the national economy well expresses the failure of the mining-energy bonanza, since the mechanisms were not created that would allow the conversion of surpluses into sustainable industrial and agricultural processes. The excessive dependence on primary products makes the structure of the Colombian economy very fragile .
3.5) Change of productive model
In a recent article in El Tiempo, the current member of the Board of Directors of the Bank of the Republic, José Antonio Ocampo, former Minister of Finance and Agriculture, former Director of CEPAL, former Director of Fedesarrollo, etc., said bluntly that “Oil is not the future ». The aim is to modify the national development model, giving priority to genuinely productive sectors, those that generate more value and not those that only imply extractive activities that deplete non-renewable resources and generate contradictions with the basic needs of the people and with the environment. It is also a change of model that implies investing in the reduction of inequality with respect to the participation of the poorest sectors in the national product and income.
4) ELECTION AND FARC-EP PEACE PROCESS
The FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army) began as a Marxist guerrilla movement in 1960s advocating peasant access to land. It has gained support of peasants and activists mainly (but not just) in rural areas over the past decades. More than 50 years of war, 11 attempted peace processes, 260,000 thousand deaths, 45.000 desaparecidos, around 6.000.000 persons displaced (inside and outside), have driven the quest for a political solution to war, which has been a FARC goal for a long time.
The last Colombian peace process between the Colombia Government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC-EP put an end to the 52-year-old conflict (at least that with FARC-EP). Negotiations formally began in September 2012, and mainly took place in Cuba. Negotiators announced a final agreement on August 24, 2016 .
However, the referendum to ratify the deal (on October 2, 2016) ended with 50.2% of voters against the agreement and 49.8% in favour. Afterwards, the Colombian government and the FARC signed a revised peace deal on November 24 and sent it to Congress for ratification. Both houses of Congress ratified the modified peace accord on November 29-30, 2016 . The weakness of the Santos government, ending its term in 2018, is a factor operating against the wishes for a just peace, democratic openings, political participation and protection of the right of life, which a large part of the Colombian population desires.
His most intransigent class allies, unhappy with Santos’ goal of disarming the FARC and demobilizing them for minimal concessions, have attacked what remains of the agreements with the aim of destroying them completely. Some see this as a preference by some sections of the dominant block of power for a return to the old bloody ways and the old strategy of fear.
Finally, the daily and systematic murder of social leaders is perhaps the worst signal on the horizon that this time too it will not be possible to build a true, firm, stable and lasting peace. Quite the opposite.
Meanwhile the former guerrilla group has dissolved and created their own party, Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons, (FARC) which will stand at the next political and presidential elections.
Playing the role of international observers are former presidents, Felipe Gonzalez (Spain) and José ‘Pepe’ Mujica (Uruguay). The implementation of the agreement is far from over. Unfortunately, in various areas (of the country) the winds of peace are not blowing yet.
5) PEACE TALKS BETWEEN COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT AND ELN
After the historic peace agreements with FARC-EP, the other historic Colombian organization in arms for almost 60 years, the ELN (National Liberation Army – second guerrilla group) carried out a process of Dialogue with the Colombian Government.
With an eye on the next election, President Santos’ administration is weighing up the future of peace talks with the ELN, which has formally participated in dialogue with the government for almost a year in Quito, thanks to the consent of the Ecuadorian government. Both parties agreed to a ceasefire (known as the “Bilateral, Temporary and National Ceasefire Agreement“) last October, but it came to an end in the beginning of January.
There has been a major setback in the negotiations between the ELN and the Colombian government, with the government withdrawing its representative. While this note is being written, ELN is meeting with Gustavo Bell, chief of the government delegation, to define a bilateral ceasefire. Bell has been sent to Quito by President Santos, due to Colombian and international pressure, including that of the UN to re-stablish peace talks.
The Archbishop of Cali, Colombia also urged the ELN and the government to resume talks and come to a ceasefire accord. Monseñor Darío de Jesús Monsalve stated his hope “that the parties would welcome a third party, which could well be the Church and the Holy See, or one of the countries that accompany the Quito Roundtable, to agree that a will be returned and maintained ceasefire, giving opportunity and word to the new government team “.
FARC leaders and the United Nations have also been vocal in saying that the negotiations should continue.
FARC expressed their disappointment with Santos’ decision to withdraw his chief negotiator, Gustavo Bell, from the fifth round of peace talks with ELN. But in the “Quito Roundtable”, according to FARC leader Timochenko, “FARC does not have any assigned role, beyond demonstrating their own experience. The issue of the ceasefire and armed actions, was always there, due to the influence of misinformation or manipulation of information to generate public opinion. But no event is bigger than what it means to build peace”.
A few weeks ago, Santos said, “we’re more than ready to extend the ceasefire with the ELN and negotiate the conditions for a new ceasefire”. ELN members have said they “aren’t giving up on peace,” but have sharply criticized the government for not keeping up on its end of the deal to protect social leaders and activists in the rural regions that the Marxist guerrilla group had protected before its disarmament in September.
6) DRUG AND PEACE PROCESS
Drug production and drug trafficking (mainly cocaine and more recently heroin) have played a major role in Colombian history and power relations. Some talk about a Narco-State, due to the penetration of the different cartels in economic and political life.
According to the Transnational Institute, “there is no doubt that the peace accord marks an extremely significant historical moment and has raised genuine hopes for reducing the endemic human rights violations, violence, and conflict in Colombia. Moreover, the peace accord is built on two important pillars: community participation and the transformation of rural economies, recognizing that poverty, social exclusion, and violence are what have fuelled the spread of coca cultivation across the country. The accord aspires to “construct a stable and long-lasting peace,” which requires a solution of equitable rural development in some of the most abandoned regions of the country .
Although the “Agreement for Stable and Lasting Peace”, operations are being carried out by force, State agents act in disregard of national and regional agreements, also failing to comply with the comprehensive program of voluntary substitution of crops for illicit use, and violating the precautionary principle and prevention of forced displacement in the framework of human rights and IHL (Derecho Internacional Humanitario), where the National Army has been involved, in addition to the National Police. Organizations defending human rights report that good faith is being violated, together with the guarantees of permanence in the territory of these communities. The orders to indiscriminately eradicate their coca leaf crops, which impact on other food crops and their own belongings, are presented as arbitrary and violating the agreements. In addition, this process, which affects the peasants concretely, has been carried out without consultation with the guarantor organizations of points 1 and 4, of the National and Regional Agreements, without the national government and the national and departmental entities having complied and adjusted the schedules in terms of execution and assistance with productive projects, without contracting the professional and technical support for the integral proposals of seed renewal, as well as the little or no adaptation of infrastructure such as electrification and tertiary roads.
Small-scale farmers participating in Colombia’s voluntary eradication programme, following the peace agreement, continue to be gunned down or threatened in their rural communities, particularly those located in the Cordoba and Antioquia departments.
On the other hand, it’s interesting to stress that big international pharmaceutical companies have shown their interest in marijuana processing for legal use, permitted by recent changes in local legislation. Large portions of land are used for marijuana production, both legal and illegal plantations.
7) POLITICAL, PRESIDENTIAL AND TRADE UNION ELECTIONS
2018 is a year of electoral processes. Not just the Congress and Presidency of the Republic, but also the direction of the most important trade unions have to be renewed.
It’s important to emphasize that western political categories (right, centre, left) do not have a great deal of meaning in the Colombian context, which is dominated by territorial powers, feudal and criminal alliances, and personal clientelism. Evangelical Churches are exercising an increasing influence on large sections of the population, not just in the rural areas. They play a powerful political role as was evident during the peace referendum campaign which they opposed strongly due to its “gender ideology”. They promoted demonstrations arguing they would not allow “our children to be transformed in homosexuals”.
The ruling class and corrupt politicians have been managing the country for more than 200 years without finding a solution. There is an urgent necessity to open spaces to build a government committed to peace and to the welfare of the majority.
Colombia has a presidential government and the continuity of peace agreements will depend on who wins the presidency. It has a traditional abstentionist rate of around 60%. Bogota alone, today has a potential vote of 36,011,052 and thus represents the most important electoral centre in the country.
According to Electoral Observatory Mission (a Colombian platform of civil society organizations) there is a great risk of major fraud in many municipalities, (especially those dominated by the extreme right-wing) in which there are thousands of new electoral enrolments of new voters, and it appears, more people registered to vote than inhabitants.
Colombia has two upcoming elections:
A) Political election will be held on the 11th of March
B) Presidential election on the 27th of May (with very probable ballotage on the 17th of June)
A) Political election
The Senate has 102 seats and the low chamber 166. The political spectrum in Colombia is very fragmented and personalistic, with various attempts at unification of political forces being unsuccessful. However, an increase of the centre-right and right-wing votes is expected (Cambio Democratico, U Party, Liberal Party, Conservative Party)
On the left, and centre-left, the divisions will make it harder even to reach the 3% minimum threshold required to elect representatives. The left and progressive sectors are scattered in numerous lists: Alianza Verde (Green Alliance), Polo Democratico Alternativo-PDA (Democratic Alternative Pole), Lista de la Decencia (List of Decency), and FARC. The latter aims to increase their representation, presently consisting in five representatives (on the base of peace agreement). They have been working on the political campaign (previously impossible), to be able to present their proposals. While we write, their campaign has been suspended because of the murders of almost 40 FARC members.
B) Presidential election
Being a presidential system, government definition depends on the outcome of the presidential election.
For the first time in Colombian history a new phenomenon has occurred: there are more candidates endorsed by signatures than those endorsed by political parties. Of the total of 13 candidates who aspire to reach the Casa de Nariño, eight have the endorsement of the collected signatures. The National Registry of Civil Status reported that it allowed the signatures of Germán Vargas Lleras, Carlos Caicedo, Alejandro Ordóñez, Piedad Córdoba, Sergio Fajardo, Juan Carlos Pinzón, Gustavo Petro and Marta Lucía Ramírez, which allows their application.
On the other hand, there are five candidates who are backed by political parties: Humberto De la Calle (Partido Liberal), Clara Lopez (Independent Social Alliance – ASI), Iván Duque (Democratic Center) and Rodrigo Londoño (Alternative Revolutionary Force of the Common- FARC).
On Monday 22nd of January, the time for the coalition registration expired.
B.1) Right-wing coalition
The right-wing coalition has not yet decided on their candidate and how to elect him. The most reactionary fraction of the power block represented by the Uribismo and two conservative splinter groups, is aiming at an amalgamation of the right-wing populist project in a single entity to win the Presidency in the first round.
The extreme right-wing former president Álvaro Uribe candidate is Iván Duque (currently at 8.4 % in the polls), supported by Centro Democratico (Democratic Centre). A product of political marketing based on the ethos of “change”, Duque is a candidate coming from the ranks of Santismo (he was an advisor to Juan Manuel Santos in the Ministry of Finance), and has exploited his technocrat profile (he was a consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank), as well as being close to the business sector. He also boasts a family tradition linked to the Liberal Party (he is the son of ex-governor and former Antioquia minister, Iván Duque Escobar).
At present he is pointing out the following programmatic areas: security and justice, austerity in the administration of the State and “dynamic economy” with rationalization of public expenditure. In addition, like his mentor, he has carried out actions against the Venezuelan government, denouncing it before the International Criminal Court in 2017, with the support of several congressmen, something that allowed him to take advantage of the peak period of protests in the neighboring country to gain media coverage.
The other former president Andrés Pastrana has his own candidate, Marta Lucía Ramírez (currently at 8.7 %, and increasing in rural areas where the Conservative Party has its social base). In 2014 elections she obtained 2 million votes.
A third candidate is former General Attorney, Alejandro Ordóñez. Known for his right-wing extremist positions, he is the weakest of the three, and has never obtained the official support of either of the two former presidents and has the open opposition of Andres Pastrana.
This coalition hopes to benefit from the area that voted NO to the Havana peace agreement and its implementation. However, this area is not united yet.
B.2) The “Centre”
The key figure in the centre is Germán Vargas Lleras, Santos former Vice President, now running as leader of Cambio Radical. The evangelical church Misión Carismática Internacional is likely to support him, as it already did in the past. Vargas Lleras distanced himself from the referendum on the FARC peace agreement and from Santos. Polls currently give him 12%, but he is strongly criticised as an opportunist from both sides. His electoral base is in rural areas and the Caribbean zones.
In the “centre” we can also place Humberto de la Calle Lombana (chief government negotiator with FARC) supported by the Liberal Party. His campaigning program is based on the phrase “in favour of the poor”. According to current polls he has 9.1 % support. He nominated Clara Lopez, who left Polo Democratico Alternativo to join the Santos Government as his choice of vice-president.
The “center-left” platform “Coalición Colombia” presented the former Antioquia department Governor, and former mayor of Medellín, Sergio Fajardo, who is leading the polls with 18.7%. The coalition is made up of the Compromiso Ciudadano (Citizen Commitment), led by Fajardo, Alianza Verde (Green Alliance) and by Jorge Robledo, of the Polo Democrático Alternativo (PDA-Moir). He has been very cautious not to enter in bi-polarization (neither with Uribismo, nor with Santos), with a relative neutrality towards peace agreements, and an anti-corruption discourse. He tries to unify the center, and reassure the electorate, citing reconciliation, citizen security, respect for victims, recognition of the riches of Colombia, education, protection of the environment and the inclusion of the voices of women and ethnic communities, as central to his program.
However, as Bloomberg has pointed out, in 2015, after four years in charge of the Government of Antioquia, the debt of that department had doubled in comparison to that when he took office. Bloomberg adds that the region was in “red balance” in fiscal indicators, for the first time in its history it obtained a negative rating from Fitch Ratings and the National Planning Department lowered its fiscal sustainability classification.
The economic and taxes programs published by Germán Vargas Lleras, Iván Duque, De la Calle (and very similar to that of Fajardo), are in favour of the rich (given that they produce wealth and create employment). The first three clearly promote lower taxation and advantages for big economic groups.
B.3) Centre-left, “Progressive” and Left forces.
The left as an ideological, political, electoral and social field (in Colombia and the contemporary world) is much more plural than the old simplifications between “old and communist” and “new” and “post-material”. However, the extensive consultation between progressive and left sectors only succeeded in engaging two candidates – Gustavo Petro (former mare of Bogotá, then elected with 32% support), and Carlos Caicedo (former mare of Santa Marta) – and the decision of the UP, MAIS, Colombia Humana and Fuerza Ciudadana. It was not able to reach unity.
The result has been that “progressive” and left sectors are scattered in three lists: Polo Democratico Alternativo-PDA (Democratic Alternative Pole), Lista de la Decencia (List of Decency), FARC (Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Common) and an independent candidate (Piedad Cordoba).
The internal competition is thought to be between Gustavo Petro and Carlos Caicedo. This coalition has its main electoral base in Bogotà and on the Atlantic Coast. It represents some of the sectors in favour of the peace process, and an partial alternative to the historical parties of the oligarchy and its traditional bi-partisan model (Conservative and Liberal), now in evident crisis. This centre-left coalition has decided that the candidate will be elected in an inter-party consultation on the 11th of March.
Decency List (Lista de la Decencia): is a coalition between UP (Unión Patriótica), MAIS, Colombia Humana and “Opción es Clara”, with whom PDA and Green Alliance did not want to form a coalition to be able to pass 3% and form a parliamentary group. Aida Avella (UP) is the best known figure of the list whose programme is based on: a) an economy that privileges the productive apparatus and reduces poverty and social inequality; b) profound social reforms that guarantee a social protection for all Colombians, especially the rural population; c) free public higher education, quality public health and a revolution in science and technology; d) fight against corruption; e) prepare the country to face climate change, protect nature and promote clean energies; f) regional autonomy and efficiency of the State; g) comply with the Peace Agreements.
Rodrigo Londoño, alias “Timoleón Jiménez”, is the FARC independent candidate. The new party Farc (quite low in the electoral polls with around 2.1 %) presents the highest authority of the party, Rodrigo Londoño, FARC-Ep commander in chief as its presidential candidate. Londoño declared his support in the ballotage to the candidate in favour of the peace process and their vice-President candidate will be Imelda Daza.
The former senator Piedad Córdoba, leader of Citizen Power (Poder Ciudadano) movement, is an independent candidate. She said she is not interested in making alliances with other political groups. “What we want is to strategically put together a program taking into account the expectations of Colombian people, the entrepreneurs, the afro-descendants, the indigenous people, the common people”. She is in favour of a fair tax policy, oriented to high-level financial activities and extractive profits, supports the implementation of peace agreement with FARC and the dialogue process with ELN. Her score in the polls is quite low (2.2 %).
To conclude, although some candidates are in favour of the peace process, they are divided in different lists and no one will have a chance to really compete and win. It is highly probable that two right-wing presidential candidates will compete in the run off.
B. 4) Trade Unions elections
The union landscape is similar to that of national politics. The CUT, Fecode (Teacher’s Union), the USO (Oil sector) have to elect their new leaderships, after the political elections. Some of the current seven or more registered unions are in the hands of businessmen who follow their own interests and use the workers as a source of their enrichment. Others base their livelihood on the union bureaucracy and also further their own personal interests to the detriment of the collectivity, resisting the possibility of being displaced by those who do try to act in defense of the workers. Others act like real leaders, but see their actions hindered by the differences between class sectors. It is unfortunate that 24,000,000 Colombian workers have not been able to reach minimum agreements to defend their interests.
8) US GUIDELINES: PARAMILITARY STRATEGY AT THE SERVICE OF BIG CAPITAL
More human rights activists and social leaders were assassinated in Colombia than in any other country in 2017. There is great concern that history could repeat itself and anxiety to prevent a recurrence of something like the genocide against the Patriotic Union  .
With a great dose of optimism, FARC says that “this is another historical moment, with a different correlation of forces, there is a process, let’s say, of moving forward with great deal of support from the international community, also support from sectors within the country, and this is the historical difference”.
The agreement contemplates the spaces and the necessary guarantees to avoid these sorts of events, including the will to guarantee the physical security not only of former combatants, but also of the community and civilian population. This is an area where the international community can help a lot given the attempt of the right-wing to sabotage the process.
While President Santos continues to be applauded in numerous international meetings for the disarmament of the last active guerrillas in Latin America, everyday all over Colombia, despite these bombastic celebrations of pacification, women, peasants, unionists, students are kidnapped or murdered in their own communities.
Colombian military forces have been trained by the USA in counterinsurgency doctrine and the concept of “inside enemy” (enemigo interno) is still guiding the actions of the Colombian army. There are thousands of cases testifying paramilitarism as a State policy, and the joint action between the Army and the paramilitaries  .
State terrorism is employed to produce paralysis of social struggle and to produce massive displacement in favour of big capital; half of the Colombian territory is exploited in concession to mining multinationals. The strategy of people displacement has also been used to empty the field of the social base of the insurgency.
An estimated 170 Colombian social leaders and human rights defenders were killed in 2017, one every 2 days (up from 117 in 2016), according to the Institute of Studies for Peace Development (Indepaz), a Colombian non-governmental organization. The rise in homicides is over two main conflicts: access to land (and cultivation of illicit crops) and natural resources. The report indicated that the murders are highly localized in five regional departments: Nariño (28), Antioquia (23), Valle (14) and Choco (12). And in recent years, there have been 32 assassinations alone in the community of San Jose de Apartado, Cauca, located in Antioquia. When we write, in January 2018 alone, 28 social leaders have been killed.
Colombia is the second country in the world for murders of environmental activists, and 80% of human rights violations and 87% of forced displacements of the population were in those regions in which multinationals companies have their mining sites. 78% of the attacks against unionists were in the mining sector . Some of the multinationals include: BHP Billiton, Glencore Xstrata, AngloGold, Drummond, Gold Fields, OXY, BP, Repsol and others, which in Colombia divert rivers, poison waters, bomb mountains, displace entire communities, finance paramilitaries for unionist extermination. The multinationals have the assistance of army battalions to impose their facilities (example Battalion 18 serving the OXY), commit genocide and ecocide.
Thousands of children die annually from hunger, despite the immense wealth of the country.
One of the best known cases concerns the El Cerrejon coal mine. This coal mine, the largest “open cut” one in the world, uses some 35,000 liters of water a day, affects the lives of the indigenous people, depriving them of the only water source they had and causing numerous deaths among the population.
According to Armando Valbuena, traditional authority of the Wayúu, around 14,000 children of this indigenous community have died of starvation and “the mortality rate is not decreasing. The territory occupied by the Wayúu, in the north of the country has no real security or Colombian State presence. While members of the community are dying of thirst and hunger, scarce government aid does not reach the indigenous people because of corruption” .
Another example of how the State in Colombia is willing to do everything to serve Big Capital, are the “false positives” (falsos positivos): they are murders of civilians perpetrated by the army, which then presents their corpses as “guerrillas killed in combat”. These corpses are used in psychological warfare: the media permanently exhibit them as “deterrence for terror”. At least 5,700 of these murders have been documented (the victims include several children): it is a common practice of the Colombian Army, which has continued for a long time, as reported by CINEP .
Most of the killings are committed in areas previously controlled by the FARC-EP. As the FARC-EP has disarmed and left these territories, right wing paramilitary groups (“criminal gangs” as the government now call them), such as the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, (AGC), have taken over filling the vacuum. They are inciting violence and the killings have increased. The AGC is also the armed branch of the country’s most notorious organized narco crime ring, the “Gulf Clan”.
The government created the National Protection Unity (UNP), after the historic agreement, for defence against threats and killings of social rights leaders in Colombia. However, there’s no effective State response. The government did announce that, in order to protect social leaders, it would send out 63,000 of its own military soldiers to patrol 67 municipalities and 595 hamlets of the most affected areas, under Plan Uris.
Luis Carlos Villegas of Colombia’s Department of Defense said the killings are “personal”, motivated by “love affairs” and therefore, are not “systematic” to the political situation, even if they are “absolutely unacceptable”.
Meanwhile, unfortunately the reality is quite tragic: 338 municipalities register the presence of paramilitary groups, who are still allowed to move freely around while expanding their control over more territories, drug plantations, trade routes and natural resources. All this occurs under the eyes of corrupt politicians, police and the army in the name of peace. Social leaders who stand in their way are quickly exterminated while impunity is the rule: rarely is anyone ever persecuted for their crimes.
The situation is so worrying that, at the beginning of 2018, the UN General Secretary, António Guterres, alerted the Security Council about the situation in those areas of Colombia. The Un Security Council has a civilian and military presence to follow the implementation of the peace agreement. And the situation is a great worry also for the EU Special Envoy the for Peace in Colombia, Irish Eamon Gilmore. However the end of the murder depends on the end of paramilitarism.
The problem of the land must be solved to ensure that war does not return. Land distribution has been the fuel of the declared and undeclared wars that Colombia has lived for more than two hundred years. Land ownership in Colombia is still the cause of most of the problems, 70% of it has no titles, the owners are in possession of that land by violence, blood and lead.
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 In the last 50 years, repeated attempts to find a negotiated settlement through formal peace talks between the government and the FARC have all been unsuccessful. Prior to the current peace process, the most recent attempt at peace talks was the “Caguàn peace process” (1990-1992) under the government of President Andrés Pastrana, who had conceded a demilitarized zone to the FARC to facilitate peace talks within Colombian territory. Although the peace process continued for almost three years, no kind of agreement was reached between the two sides. Pastrana formally broke off all talks and ordered the military to retake control of the demilitarized zone on February 20, 2002, a few months before presidential elections. The paralyzed peace process coincided with an escalation of the conflict, with the rapid numerical and geographic expansion of right wing paramilitary groups such as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) who opposed the government’s negotiations with the FARC. The 1998–2002 period was one of the most violent periods in recent Colombian history, with the national homicide rate increasing from 58.92 (1998) to 69.69 per 100,000 inhabitants (2002). Together with USA backed “Plan Colombia” (formally a “war on drugs”), popular frustration and disillusion with the peace process led to the election of Alvaro Uribe in May 2002, on a hawk platform opposing any future dialogue. As president, Uribe formalized these views in his policy of so-called “democratic security” (seguridad democrática), which redefined the conflict against the left-wing guerrillas as a war against terrorism and drug trafficking and vowed to “implacably punishment”, dismantle left-wing armed organizations and reassert the State’s presence throughout the territory. As companion policies, Uribe adopted several individual and collective demobilization programs, promising pardons to paramilitary groups for political crimes and humanitarian assistance to those who submitted to its conditions. These decrees and laws, alongside the contentious Justice and Peace Law (2005), formed the legal basis for the demobilization of some paramilitary groups between 2003 and 2006.
 In 1985, Colombia’s leftist guerrillas FARC-EP founded the Unión Patriótica (Patriotic Union), a big-tent democratic socialist party that served as the movement’s legal political arm. Born out of peace negotiations between then-president Belisario Betancur and the rebels, the Patriotic Union quickly gained traction among the country’s impoverished masses. The party embodied the hope that Colombia could break with its violence-plagued past and achieve change for the poor through the electoral process. But the peace agreement with the right-wing Conservative Party administration quickly became a political death trap. During Colombia’s 1986 elections, the Patriotic Union’s won a number of posts and its presidential candidate Jaime Pardo Leal won 4.54 percent of the vote. This was a historic achievement for an openly-socialist political party in Colombia, where the Liberal and Conservative parties have historically dominated. That’s when things turned ugly.
Through clandestine operations such as “Plan Esmeralda” and “Plan Red Dance,” state forces and paramilitaries worked to eliminate the growing power of the Patriotic Union. In 1988, the party announced that over 500 members, including its founders, had been assassinated. By 1990, an estimated 2,500 members had been murdered, and by 2017 almost 5,000.
The murder of Bernardo Jaramillo is but one episode in the larger tragedy that was the systematic campaign of assassination and terror against supporters of the Patriotic Union party, known as the UP. Jaramillo wasn’t even the first UP presidential candidate killed. Jaramillo took over the leadership of the party from Jaime Pardo Leal, the UP candidate for the 1986 elections, who was murdered in 1987. In total 21 lawmakers, 70 local councillors, 11 mayors and no less than 5,000 supporters were killed in what was deemed a political genocide.
 Operación militar ‘Génesis’: http://www.ddhh-colombia.org/html/noticias%20ddhh/a%F1osimpunidad31082011.pdf
CIDH, Operación Génesis http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=133265
 Boletín Informativo No.18 de PBI Colombia, Noviembre de 2011