Thursday, January 20

Presidential Elections: The terrible pre-electoral year in Colombia | Opinion

Family and friends carry the coffin of Juan David Muñoz, a protester who died during the protests against the government of Iván Duque, in Cali, on June 20.
Family and friends carry the coffin of Juan David Muñoz, a protester who died during the protests against the government of Iván Duque, in Cali, on June 20.PAOLA MAFLA / AFP

In Colombia it seems like a tradition and the year 2021 was no exception: violence processes politics or, in other words, violence is another form of political competition. Almost all analysts had predicted, 2021 being a pre-election year would be quite violent. Also, many agreed that from the second semester the situation would be even more complicated. And everything seems to indicate that they were not wrong.

The month of June began with dramatic levels of violence throughout the country: a car bomb in a military garrison in Cúcuta, assassinations of social leaders, an attack on President Iván Duque when the helicopter in which he was traveling was shot. With each passing day the situation seems to get worse. For example, in the last hours there were several massacres in the country. One, to the south, in the department of Caquetá. Another, to the north, in the department of César. And in the middle of this they assassinated a former combatant of the extinct FARC guerrilla. This occurs when you live in panic generated by the dismemberment and beheadings that occurred last week in the department of Valle del Cauca.

The question that surrounds citizens and experts is whether there is a connection between all these acts of violence, or how much they have to do with the demonstrations that broke out in the country two months ago. The answer is not simple, research will determine that. However, the impact is devastating and there are parts of the country that are full of panic. Although the last word will be the investigations, many believe that this does have to do with the demonstrations and the national strike, therefore there is fear in many sectors of society to continue with the mobilizations.

Everything seems to indicate that this second semester of 2021, and at least the first semester of 2022, will be passed through blood. As is known, Colombia is just over eight months before the elections to the Congress of the Republic and the primaries or inter-party consultations, and less than a year before the first and second presidential rounds that will take place in May and June 2022. The greatest fears about the levels of violence fall on three aspects.

On the one hand, the victimization of social leaders. A tragedy of many years in Colombia that has not been stopped. Basically, according to social organizations, every four days a social leader is murdered in Colombia. In electoral times the situation is dramatic. The second aspect is the terrorist attacks with the aim of sowing chaos and making fear a political instrument. The issue at this point is that, in Colombia, during the Iván Duque administration, there is a generalized picture of deterioration in security that includes the strengthening of the dissidents of the former FARC guerrilla, the ELN guerrilla and the paramilitary groups such as the Clan del Golfo. There are areas of the country where growth is literally exponential. All this, in the middle of a boom of illegal economies.

The third point is the fear that selective violence will begin against the protesters and the people who participated in the national strike. This is not yet clear, but there are phenomena of hit-and-run paramilitarism in cities like Cali and Pereira that suggest that this scenario is not far off. This could be stopped, but it depends on the prosecution of these people. However, despite the videos of civilians next to police shooting at protesters, impunity is total. In short, it is a picture of deterioration in security, in the midst of incredible levels of impunity and, above all, in a pre-electoral year.

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