Colombia

Santos y Zuluaga: Tan cerca y tan lejos

June 13, 2014

by Jenny Manrique

En un verdadero pulso de poder se han convertido las últimas semanas de campaña a la presidencia en Colombia. Nunca en la historia reciente hubo tantas denuncias tan graves sobre financiación e infiltración de las campañas, y nunca tampoco el país había estado tan polarizado entre dos fuerzas de derecha. Nunca se agitaron con tal vehemencia dos fantasmas para asustar al electorado: el supuesto castro-chavismo que podría encarnar el presidente que busca su reelección, Juan Manuel Santos, y el regreso al autoritarismo de Álvaro Uribe que podría encarnar su candidato del Centro Democrático, Óscar Iván Zuluaga.

En el medio de esas extremas, cuñas publicitarias sobre la guerra buscan poner a los mismos militares contra el gobierno que se atrevió a negociar con las Farc, connotados columnistas  y hasta empresarios piden rodear el proceso de paz, y una buena parte de la prensa nacional está a favor de Santos, mientras la regional coqueteándole a Zuluaga.

Encuestas que un día dan como ganador a Santos y otro a Zuluaga solo permiten concluir que habrá un empate técnico—y que el término “final de infarto” tan mentado en deportes y en política aplica perfectamente a lo que se vivirá este domingo en las urnas.

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Tags: Colombia, Colombian Elections, Óscar Iván Zuluaga, Juan Manuel Santos

Elections in Colombia: A Divided House

May 30, 2014

by Francisco Miranda Hamburger

The first round of presidential elections in Colombia, held on May 25, did not surprise anyone. The uribista candidate, Óscar Iván Zuluaga, won with 29.2 percent of the vote over incumbent president Juan Manuel Santos, who won a disappointing 25.6 percent of the vote. The remaining votes were split between the three other major candidates: the conservative Marta Lucía Ramírez (15.5 percent), the leftist Clara López (15.2 percent) and the Green Alliance’s Enrique Peñalosa (8.2 percent).

A record six percent of voters submitted blank ballots. Sixty percent of the population able to vote did not attend to the polls. Since no single contender received more than 50 percent of the vote, the two candidates who received the most votes, Zuluaga and Santos, will face each other in a runoff on June 15.

These results confirmed the momentum gained by the opposition, led by former president and senator-elect Álvaro Uribe—and the stagnation of President Santos’ popular support. In the March 9 congressional election, Uribe’s newly-created party, the Centro Democrático, won 20 seats in the senate, including one for Uribe himself.

Zuluaga’s lead in the first round of voting is, in fact, a triumph for Uribe. Without even being on the ballot, Colombia’s presidential elections have revolved around former president Uribe and his ideas.

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Tags: Colombia, 2014 Presidential Election, Alvaro Uribe

Ballotage por la paz

May 29, 2014

by Jenny Manrique

Miedo. Una simple lectura—que no pretende ser estadística—de las redes sociales, tras el resultado electoral del pasado domingo en Colombia, me arrojó innumerables veces esa palabra. Colombianos indignados y connotados columnistas la usaron para manifestar lo que sienten frente al escenario que el 40% de los votantes del país nos dejó para segunda vuelta: otra elección entre representantes de la misma oligarquía de siempre, el presidente en ejercicio, Juan Manuel Santos y el candidato del Centro Democrático uribista, Óscar Iván Zuluaga.

Una elección entre la ultraderecha y la centroderecha, entre la guerra y la paz, entre los amigos y enemigos del ex presidente y flamante senador Álvaro Uribe, quien es sin duda no solo el gran elector de la jornada sino el gran protagonista de la política colombiana de los últimos 12 años.

Es así como el epílogo de la carrera electoral a la que llegó Colombia el domingo, y que hasta hace apenas un mes parecía ser liderada por la anunciada reelección de Santos (difícilmente un mandatario no es reelecto; Lula, Evo, y Correa son ejemplos) estuvo marcado por la abstención y el miedo.

Ya no es el miedo a salir a votar o a ser amenazado si no se vota por el candidato respaldado por los violentos; paradójicamente, fue una de las jornadas electorales más tranquilas, gracias a la tregua pactada con las FARC y el ELN desde La Habana. Es el miedo a que ese proceso de paz se rompa, o a que por seguir avanzando en la idea de diversos sectores del país de que es conversando y no a bala que la guerra se acaba, los guerrilleros salgan impunes de sus crímenes o venga a Colombia el “castro-chavismo.

El miedo a que las FARC se “adueñen” del país fue el discurso ventilado sin cesar desde la campaña de Zuluaga (es decir, la de Uribe). El ganador de primera vuelta con el 29,26%, 3.759.862 votos, ya anunció que rompería el proceso de paz si gana la segunda. Un mensaje que siempre cala porque es más fácil vender el discurso de seguridad que el de la paz, y porque sobre el segundo, difuso y complejo, se ha especulado mucho desde que se iniciaron las conversaciones en La Habana. El elector común no tiene información sobre lo que se está pactando en Cuba o tal vez simplemente no le interesa. Tampoco ha habido suficiente pedagogía.

Si bien muchos en Colombia queremos la paz, la complejidad de discutir políticas como la agraria, la antidroga o la participación política de los alzados en armas no pasa por el análisis del electorado. Que eso le signifique seguridad en el mediano y largo plazo, no es algo que el ciudadano digiera la hora de ir a la urnas.

Si es en cambio de expresa preocupación para partidos políticos, intelectuales y medios de comunicación que han hablado en los últimos días de hacer un frente por la paz para rodear el proceso. Esto es, votar por Santos. Aún sus más enconados opositores—como su contendor del 2010, Antanas Mockus; la ex candidata del Polo Democrático Alternativo (un partido de la izquierda), Clara López (que obtuvo en la primera vuelta el nada despreciable número de 1.957.626 votos); y el alcalde de Bogotá, Gustavo Petro—hoy hacen campaña pública para rodear el proceso. Dentro de los movimientos de izquierda y de organizaciones de derechos humanos que tienen sentidas diferencias con Santos por haber manejado con desatino las protestas y demandas de sectores campesinos, hay un debate interno por tener que elegir el mal menos peor con tal de no dejar que la ultraderecha se tome el país, con todo lo que eso significa: falsos positivos, avance del paramilitarismo y más guerra.

Así las cosas y a sabiendas de que los conservadores se irán con Zuluaga (es decir con Uribe), lo que representa los 1.995.628 votos que obtuvo Marta Lucía Ramírez, aún falta saber que pasará con los votos de Enrique Peñalosa (1.065.111, correspondientes al 8,29 por ciento) y con la también histórica cifra de voto en blanco que alcanzó el 6%. De las alianzas y de lo que pase en las siguientes dos semanas y media de campaña, depende el futuro del país. Zuluaga se ha mostrado inmune e impune a los escándalos: ni un hacker entregándole información confidencial sobre La Habana lograron desbancarlo del primer lugar.

Las FARC, que cumplieron 50 años de fundadas este 27 de mayo y quienes fueron factor de peso electoral en su momento (eligieron a Pastrana y a Uribe por razones totalmente opuestas) prefirieron callar hasta segunda vuelta. El país también les pide un gesto generoso de paz que devuelva la confianza de que el proceso vale la pena, que extiendan la tregua y avancen en pactos. Aunque es el tema que por décadas ha trasnochado a Colombia, este 15 de junio más que nunca es el ballotage (segunda ronda) por la paz. Y contra el miedo.

Tags: Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, FARC

History Ready to Repeat Itself? Context for Colombia’s Presidential Election

May 24, 2014

by Ramón Campos Iriarte

It has been a surprising trend that, for the past several years, a number of Latin American countries have voted into power democratically elected left-wing governments of some kind—whereas Colombia has steered toward governments from the right of the political spectrum.

Even in countries in the region where right-wing presidents continue to hold office, like Mexico or Paraguay, there is still a strong Left that disputes elections and gets a considerable amount of legislators elected in the polls. In Colombia, on the other hand, political power has been largely split—at least in the last two decades—between different factions of the conservative Right.

Meanwhile, the emaciated democratic Left is crippled by internal rivalries (like in the case of the Polo Democrático), and has been targeted by death squads whenever it manages to approach a position of real power (like the widespread assassination of Unión Patriótica leaders and of demobilized M-19 fighters-turned-politicians in the 1980s and 90s).

Colombia’s current political trends can be explained by history. Historically, Colombia has been a geographically divided country since colonial times. After independence, no political party managed to unify the different territories that constituted the nation, and instead, the country was governed by strong regional socio-political dynamics.

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Tags: Colombia, Scandals, Presidential Election

Camino a la presidencia: la pelea de la derecha en Colombia

May 22, 2014

by María Alejandra Mosquera

Tradicionalmente, las elecciones presidenciales en Colombia se han caracterizado por sus escándalos de corrupción, filtración de dineros del narcotráfico, y compra desmedida de votos. Lejos de romper con esta penosa tradición, la actual carrera presidencial pasará a la historia, por sumar a este prontuario el espionaje, la polarización, los insultos y acusaciones, y la falta de propuestas serias.

A pesar de contar con la presencia de varios candidatos con ideologías diversas, las elecciones presidenciales del 2014 parecen enfrentar únicamente a dos de ellos, provenientes de la misma corriente política: Óscar Iván Zuluaga, del Uribe Centro Democrático (partido creado por el ex presidente Álvaro Uribe) y Juan Manuel Santos, del Partido de la U. (movimiento político creado por el mismo presidente. El afán por obtener la presidencia ha llevado a algunos  miembros de estos dos grupos a cometer actos de dudosa profesionalidad y a rayar en la ilegalidad.

Por una parte, al Centro Democrático se le han comprobado vínculos con  Andrés Sepúlveda, a quién a su vez se le investiga por interceptaciones ilegales de las comunicaciones del Presidente Santos y del equipo de negociadores del proceso de paz, que en la actualidad sostienen el gobierno y las FARC en La Habana, Cuba. Adicionalmente, un sector importante de las fuerzas militares colombianas ha mostrado abiertamente su simpatía con el movimiento político de Uribe. Esta lealtad quedó en evidencia con una polémica filtración de coordenadas geográficas de operativos secretos de inteligencia al ex-presidente, quien de inmediato las publicó en Twitter, sin reparo por los riesgos evidentes de seguridad para los involucrados en dichas misiones.

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Tags: Colombia, Colombian Elections

Additional Reforms Needed in Colombian Mining Sector

May 13, 2014

by Kai Whiting

Exportation in Colombia has been, and remains, a significant driving factor for large-scale mineral exploration, extraction and production by multinational corporations. According to the Banco de la República, the Colombian mining sector contributed to a record high proportion of the country’s total exports in 2011 and 2012, at 71 percent.

Fossil fuels especially constituted an integral component of mining sector production, with oil and coal representing 70 percent and 20 percent of production, respectively. A 2011 report produced by Carolynna Arce, deputy director of the Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos (National Hydrocarbon Agency), reported that Colombia received an estimated $4 billion in foreign direct investment in the oil and gas sector in 2010. This could explain why, earlier this year, Colombia Reports ran the headline that “66% of Colombians think mining is positive for the country.”

Such optimism arguably overlooks various Colombian mining scandals, such as the illegal assignment of mining titles in National Parks by Ingeominas that surfaced in 2011. That aside, ABColombia, The Guardian, Peace Brigade International and Guillermo Rudas of Colombia’s Universidad Javeriana all vocally highlighted the tax breaks enjoyed by multinational mining companies in Colombia.    

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Tags: Colombia, mining royalties, Transparency

Colombian Group Accused of Spying on Peace Talks

May 7, 2014

by AQ Online

The Colombian attorney general’s office announced yesterday that authorities have arrested a hacker suspected of spying on communications belonging to the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) as they conduct peace talks in Havana.

Andrés Sepúlveda was arrested in a raid on a Bogotá office for allegedly running an illegal spying ring. Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre said that Sepúlveda’s operation was selling information to a third party in an attempt to “sabotage, interfere and affect the peace process in Havana.” Investigators believe that President Juan Manuel Santos’ emails may have been intercepted.

Sepúlveda is linked to the political campaign of Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the Centro Democrático (Democratic Center) candidate who is running against Santos in Colombia’s May 25 presidential election. Zuluaga acknowledged yesterday that Sepúlveda has been providing social network and security services for his campaign since February, but insisted that the spying ring had nothing to do with his campaign.

A prior spying scandal unveiled in February also targeted the peace talks in Havana, but Montealegre said that the latest scandal was not linked to Operation “Andrómeda,” in which members of the Colombian military set up a special intelligence unit to spy on the government, the FARC, and journalists’ communications.

The raid comes days after Santos’ chief campaign strategist, J. J. Rendon, resigned amid allegations that he received $12 million from drug kingpins in exchange for mediating a negotiated surrender.

Tags: Colombia, Peace Talks, FARC, President Juan Manuel Santos

Colombia’s Economic Success Story

April 11, 2014

by Christian Gómez, Jr.

Upcoming presidential elections and ongoing peace negotiations demonstrate Colombia’s consolidation of rule and law and democracy.

President Juan Manuel Santos is seeking re-election, and free and fair elections have been a mainstay in the country since 1957—one of the longest stretches in Latin America. Moreover, the peace process, underway since October 2012, is a notable program which has attracted the attention and support of the international community.

Yet while the exercise of democracy and the progress towards a lasting peace are clearly some of the main stories in Colombia, they have overshadowed the country’s economic performance during the past decade. According to Capital Economics, a London-based economic research group, Colombia has surpassed Argentina to become the third-largest economy in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico.

Colombia has enjoyed stable GDP growth (estimated at between 4 and 5 percent in 2014), diversification of exports, strong fiscal position, and lower unemployment. Poverty has declined with it, and a strong middle class has emerged. Colombia’s economic growth is notable in a country that is climbing out of an internal armed conflict.

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Tags: Colombia, Colombian economy

Colombian Oil: Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

April 4, 2014

by Kai Whiting

With production rates continuing at their current level Colombia will run out of oil within 6.9 years unless new, major oil fields are found. As of 2013, the country had 2.3 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves, ranking fifth after Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, and Argentina in total reserves in South America.

Most of these reserves are allocated to the export market, which is currently the fourth most significant in Latin America. Export growth has been nothing short of staggering in the last nine years and since 2004 Colombia has fed its oil exports by increasing production by 79 percent (equivalent to 400 thousand barrels per day).

This year’s target is 1.2 million barrels per day and will again predominately feed into the export market–a fact supported by the production-to-(national) consumption ratio published by The Oil & Gas Journal last year, which indicates that for every 3.31 barrels produced, only one stays in Colombia.

Unlike Venezuela—which, even at a production rate of 2.7 million barrels per day, has enough oil to last for more than 250 years, according to the June 2013 BP Statistical Review of World Energy - Colombia’s current level of export surplus means that its oil wells will run dry in only six years. If daily production increases to the target of 1.2 million barrels with current reserves—as predicted by Ecopetrol, the largest oil company in Colombia—then six years will be more like five and half. Furthermore, the Colombian government’s mining and energy planning unit, the Unidad de Planeamiento Minero Energético (Mining Energy Planning Unit—UPME), states that Colombia will be a net oil importer within two election campaigns.

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Tags: Colombia, oil, Energy Resources

FARC Says Petro’s Removal Will Affect Peace Process

March 21, 2014

by AQ Online

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) condemned the removal of leftist Mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro from office Thursday, saying it will have a negative impact on the peace negotiations. 

Last December, Petro, a  former member of the demobilized guerrilla group Movimiento 19 de Abril (19th of April Movement—M-19), was removed as mayor and banned from holding office for 15 years by Colombian Attorney General Alejandro Ordoñez, for alleged mismanagement of the garbage collection system. A backlash of protests and lawsuits filed by Petro's supporters suspended his removal until Wednesday, when the Council of State reviewed and rejected the lawsuits and President Juan Manuel Santos approved Petro’s removal.

Iván Márquez, the FARC’s second in command, said that the decision to oust Petro affects the trust that has been built between the FARC and the government throughout the peace talks, and casts doubt on the promise of political participation for demobilized guerrillas.

Petro accused Santos of staging a coup on the city and showing his inability to achieve peace.  Márquez stated that it will be impossible to achieve an agreement with the Colombian government  if it continues to make decisions that undermine Colombian democracy, like the forced removal of a popularly elected official. “We can very respectfully say that the mafia of the right has taken the power,” Márquez added.

Rafael Pardo Rueda, Minister of Labor of Bogotá, was appointed as interim mayor of the capital on Thursday afternoon until new mayoral elections take place in June.

Tags: Gustavo Petro, Colombia, FARC

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