A post-election depression is something minority voters get after elections confirm that for the coming four years they will have to resign themselves to having a leader they never wanted. Colombia’s pending election depressed somewhat prematurely.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
US Republicans had this feeling most recently after President Barack Obama was reelected in 2012.
Those opposing Obama’s reelection had strong feelings of frustration and impotence. When you care about a country, it hurts to feel that for the coming four years it will be led by a person who is not representing anyone’s interests and is most likely to do harm to the country and its people.
I’m not unfamiliar to post-election depressions. Also back in my home country, the Netherlands, I was a political oddball with a minority opinion. But the weird thing is that this time in Colombia, the losers’ depression hit me even before the elections took place, and not just me. While the actual poll is not until next week.
The depression came last week when the realization hit that the elections are going to be won by either President Juan Manuel Santos or former President Alvaro Uribe’s puppet Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, which — for those unfamiliar with Colombian politics — is like choosing between Obama and Joe Biden. (Sorry Democrats)
Ending the elections before holding them
Until last week, Colombia had a set of very decent election candidates, allowing voters a variety of options from all political colors to pick their favorites.
There was Marta Lucia Ramirez, a true fiscal conservative with extensive executive experience; there was Clara Lopez, a clean-record socialist with an equally impressive track record as executive; and there was Enrique Peñalosa, another proven leader ideal for those who don’t like tilting either to the left or right.
Of course Santos and Zuluaga took part, but they were in fact the least fit because of a three-page list of past political sins due to their apparent corrupt nature.
For a few weeks, Colombia seemed to have a choice about where they wanted to take the country, which political ideology to follow, which solutions to the ongoing problems to support.
However, each of the three highly qualified candidates virtually got kicked out of the race after the spin doctors behind the Santos and Zuluaga campaigns began pushing revelations of the cesspool of corruption of the other’s campaigns, basically exposing what we already knew; that both candidates are thoroughly corrupt cynics with no interest in improving the well-being of Colombians.
No scandal = no media exposure
The first to have his corrupt ways exposed was the incumbent president; His main political strategist was forced to resign after media were leaked a 2010 document signed by Colombia’s most important narcos proposing to surrender and dismantle their drug routes. According to “Comba,” one of the founders of the Rastrojos drug trafficking organization, Spin doctor Juan Jose Rendon even received a $12 million gift to make sure the proposal would be taken seriously by the president. Exit Rendon. Not exit Santos because the president claimed to never have benefited from the corruption of the man he himself hired.
However, the president’s Venezuelan spin doctor refused to be removed from the electoral battleground without detonating a dirty bomb of his own; The day after Rendon’s resignation, the Prosecutor General – appointed by Santos personally – revealed that a member of the Zuluaga campaign team had been spying on ongoing peace talks with the FARC and “probably” the president himself. This scandal cost the head of Zuluaga’s campaign manager who had been actively involved in trying to provide national media with illegally obtained information. It didn’t cost Zuluaga’s head because, even though he admitted having visited the arrested hacker in the wiretap office, the candidate said not to be aware of the illegal activities of his own team.
Both politicians, as you probably agree with me, prove unequivocally to unable to manage campaign teams properly, which would make them entirely unfit to run an entire country, wouldn’t you think?
The most corrupt would be the last to resign, wouldn’t they?
So, you’d think that scandals involving drug money donations and illegally spying on crucial peace talks are more than enough to disqualify a candidate. And you are right. In a respectable democracy, such candidates would immediately be removed from the electoral cycle if they lacked the dignity and respect to voluntarily retreat.
Instead of doing the right thing and resign, the two candidates decided to make the elections about how evil the other guy is, carefully feeding the media details and unfounded accusations regarding the alleged assholability of the other guy.
Both Santos and Zuluaga proved to be such cynical banana republicans that they converted their bickering into the monopolized topic of the elections, effectively blowing all other candidates off the center stage. Peñalosa, Ramirez and Lopez all saw their electoral support vaporize as they virtually disappeared from the news following the scandals.
At the same time, Colombia’s bankrupt and corruption-infested healthcare system, the country’s record unemployment rate, a failing education system, a dysfunctional justice system, widespread political corruption, human rights violations and a rural population in revolt over chronic state neglect, were suspended from the electoral debate possibly until after the elections.
Instead, the news was monopolized by Santos and Zuluaga who – now receiving absolute media attention — paradoxically consolidated their position in the polls as the unchallenged competitors in the second round simply by throwing mud.
You are now free to choose between A and A
Sadly, the elections are over a week before they are actually held. Colombia will either have to endure Santos or Zuluaga, leaving the Colombian electorate without options, but the following imposed presidential possibilities:
- Never took political responsibility for the 4,000 civilians who were assassinated by the military to increase its apparent effectiveness while Santos was Minister of Defense. Instead, he successfully ran for president in 2010.
- Promised to reform higher education after massive student strikes in 2011, but hasn’t done anything since.
- Has pushed to keep the Colombian population out of peace talks with the FARC.
- Promised to curb corruption in 2010, but hasn’t done anything since.
- Promised to improve the rural economy in 2013, but hasn’t done anything since.
- Promised to pay teachers $40 billion in unpaid wages and pensions, but hasn’t done anything since.
- Promised to reform the healthcare system since forever, but hasn’t. In fact, the situation deteriorated to the point where people die inside hospital waiting rooms.
- Has become infamous for gathering political support by bribing lawmakers and local government officials. Santos considers this normal, by the way.
- Teamed up with Citizens’ Option (Opcion Ciudadana), arguably the most corrupt party in Colombia as it was founded by convicted politicians with ties to drug traffickers and surprisingly entered Congress in March elections through apparent massive vote-buying practices in the north.
- Was the subject of a criminal investigation in regards to his alleged ties to paramilitary death squads. The status of this investigation in entirely unclear at the moment. He could even be absolved, nobody knows.
- Actually, belongs to a party that had no problem proposing three primary candidates with pending criminal investigations. One of the candidates was even sent to jail while on campaign.
- Wants to have Alvaro Uribe as a shadow president, comparable to Medvedev and Putin in Russia. This is obviously not how democracies are supposed to work, but what do you expect from the ex-president who got his congressional support in 2002 and 2006 through widespread voter intimidation by paramilitary death squads and was reelected in 2006 thanks to the proven bribery of congressmen. Uribe, by the way, also was the one who in 2005 reformed the justice system that consequently clogged. The former President was also the one to introduce the intermediary companies in health care that have since stolen billions of dollars in health care funds. At least three of his personally appointed security / intelligence chiefs are in prison for ties to drug trafficking paramilitary organizations.
No solutions, just dirt
In regards to these candidates’ economic or social policies, the differences are trivial if not entirely the same. Nobody knows, because nobody has made any concrete proposals on how to tackle unemployment, health care, labor conditions, issues that make either a happy or a miserable Colombian.
Santos promised a 20-point government plan that never came. (Instead, the incumbent president came with the same five proposals as four years ago that he apparently forgot to follow-up on in his first term.)
Zuluaga’s plans were lazily copy-pasted from his puppet master Alvaro Uribe’s 2002 election proposals. Sadly, these 2002 promises also proved false as none of the promises related to poverty reduction, access to health care and education improvement were ever kept.
Worse even, Uribe’s dictatorial tendencies led to an almost entire collapse of Colombia’s democratic institutions, forced the US to cut necessary funding and ruined relations with crucial trade partners in the region. During Uribe’s two terms, the state committed more human rights violations than rebel groups FARC and ELN combined.
Uribe’s clearly evident ties to Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel and his alleged ties to the paramilitary AUC have not been properly investigated, partly because Uribe paralyzed the justice system with incoherent reform implemented the same year he struck a deal with the paramilitaries.
Elections degenerated to a redundant formality
The fact that Santos and Zuluaga — rather than any of the actually serious candidates — are now almost certain to be screwing up this country more than they already have made these elections a redundant formality. The elections simply don’t matter anymore. The Colombian electorate is left without a choice.
Either way we will get a cynic for president who sees no moral issue in killing thousands of Colombians, displacing hundreds of thousands, stealing tens of millions of tax payers’ money or perpetuate the suffering of the approximately 60% of the population that is either earning $300 a month or is living below the poverty line. There is no way either of these politicians are going to adopt policies to improve the lives of the people, and both have the bad habit of becoming very violent when the people demand something in return for their tax money.
The Colombian people still have the chance to elect a dignified leader, a man or woman who can lead this country to a better future with less war, less poverty and less corruption, a man or woman who can proudly represent Colombia abroad, a man or woman whose policies do not only benefit Colombia’s corrupt upper crust.
But let’s be honest, everybody knows this is not going to happen, not this year. We’re just going to have to continue paying our tithes to financially support the corrupt, neu-feudal ruling class.
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