Colombia - Election - 2018

Colombia's May 2018 presidential election comes amid grave discrepancies between rhetoric and reality. Despite the signing of peace accords between former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, guerrillas and the government, at least 110 social leaders and human rights defenders have been killed in Colombia this year. In fact, as of November 2017, at least 27 former FARC combatants and 11 FARC family members have been killed.

Coca crop production in areas once controlled by the FARC has also increased and peace negotiations with the country's second-largest revolutionary group, the National Liberation Army, ELN, have been put at risk due to the government's reneging on the “rules and commitments signed" in the bilateral ceasefire, according to the insurgent group.

Santos’ legacy is a fragile one. His peace process is very behind schedule, and many Colombians who were hoping for a quick, noticeable "peace dividend" are disappointed. The political involvement of former guerrillas, and the comparatively mild penalties imposed by the transitional justice system are highly controversial, and the opposition has no qualms in spreading terrible rumors.

The parliamentary elections in March 2018 may shift the balance of power, making the peace process more difficult, or perhaps even reversing it. Santos cannot stand again in the presidential election in May 2018; there will have to be a run-off to decide who will follow him. The populist polemic against the peace agreement will certainly determine the election, and it remains to be seen to what extent Santos' successor will want to, or be able to, implement the agreement.

Odebrecht has also veered its taint onto the country's political spectrum. In August, Colombian Senator, Bernardo Miguel Elias, was arrested outside of his Bogota apartment on charges that he had received bribes from Brazil's engineering and construction giant at the center of a global graft scandal.

Colombia's Attorney General, Nestor Humberto Martinez, said that government officials received US$27 million in Odebrecht bribes as the company sought to secure a road-building contract, according to Reuters.

The 2017 mass strike organized by the people of Choco state and the city of Buenaventura brought to light the pittance in public investment in traditional African-descendent and Indigenous communities. These are just some of the pressing issues that the next Colombian presidential hopeful will have to address to occupy the Palacio de Nariño next year.

Humberto de la Calle, chief government negotiator who helped seal the FARC peace agreement, has announced, “I want to be president." Having defeated Juan Fernando Cristo in the internal consultation by 40,881 votes, according to Colombia Reports, de la Calle will run as a Liberal Party candidate.

In June 2017, Colombia's most prominent human rights activist, former Senator Piedad Cordoba, officially announced her plans to run for president and has begun the process of collecting signatures to launch her campaign. "I announce to the country that I am going to be a candidate and I will be president of Colombia in 2018," Cordoba wrote on her official Twitter account.

In an interview with El Colombiano, the Afro-Colombian lawyer said she will focus on tackling social inequality and fighting corruption. “The majority of citizens no longer feel represented by the old politics that neither talks about their problems nor resolves them," she noted. “It is time to team up with society. The election of 2018 will endorse a demand for change." A renowned figure in the country and region, Cordoba is a long-time peace activist who has worked with human rights organizations on sociopolitical issues.

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