Since it became clear that Colombia’s president Álvaro Uribe cannot be reelected for a second time, elections for presidency have become exciting. It is not at all certain that his heir Juan Manuel Santos is going to win. All kinds of explanations can be given for this, but one is the Green Wave.
Traditionally Colombia’s political spectre has been dominated by two political parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals. Since mr. Uribe came to power this has changed. He was an independent candidate who took a distance from the Liberal party, his nest. While he was governing the country, a new party was formed, the U Party. Ideologically it’s very close to the Conservatives. The Conservatives until now have always supported mr. Uribe and have been part of the government coalition. For the presidential elections on 30 May however, they have their own candidate: Noemí Sanín. Mr. Santos is being accused of robbing Conservative votes for his cause and indeed several important Conservatives have announced they will support him. He is leading the polls, but he cannot sit back and relax.
Since elections for Congress on the 14th of March a new phenomenon has invaded Colombian politics. Los verdes (The Greens) won 5 seats in Congress and Bogotá’s former mayor Antanas Mockus was elected the Greens’ presidential candidate. Where other parties had quarreled about their candidacy, the Greens had shown remarkably united. Choice was between three former mayors of Bogotá: Antanas Mockus, Luis Eduardo (Lucho) Garzón and Enrique Peñalosa. The three never quarreled (at least not in public) and always supported eachother. While others were dedicted to their political games, the Greens quietly and perseverantly worked on the growth of their new party.
Now it appears that it works. Antanas Mockus more than Juan Manuel Santos is rising in the polls. He has told radiostation Caracol that he will win the elections in the first round. Very audacious for the ever cautious and moderate Mockus. What’s happening?
During the Uribe era Colombia has been spell bound by mr. Uribe’s politics of seguridad democrática: increasing the country’s security by keeping military pressure on guerrilla groups like the FARC high and fighting new or still existing paramilitary groups and drugs gangs. The president is stilling stressing that his successor has to maintain these politics. Otherwise the FARC will strengthen again, he says. But it seems that mr. Uribe isn’t aware that the spell is being demolished gradually. His government has been accused of illegal wire tappings, persecuting political opponents and nepotism, etc.
Another spell is captivating Colombia and that is honesty. That is the Green Party’s mantra. Many Colombians deeply distrust politics. For them it is the same as politiquería: playing political games; nepotism; corruption. When Álvaro Uribe told Antanas Mockus he wouldn’t be able to maintain democratic security, mr. Mockus answered that mr. Uribe could keep his democratic security to himself. His own slogan is democratic legality.
With his democratic legality mr. Mockus has succeeded in winning a lot of support. Young people, people who usually don’t vote, even right wing people, who have voted for mr. Uribe in the past. He has become a phenomenon. Critics say he is too academic and too vague. For the peasants in the countryside he is not understandable, they say. That must be true, because for academics it is also hard sometimes to understand mr. Mockus’s reasoning. I interviewed him two times and I could hear my brains working while I was listening to him.
The question is if mr. Mockus is the best candidate. He certainly has strong elements in his program: fighting corruption, making people pay taxes, the importance of education. Other candidates, like Liberal Rafael Pardo, have at least as good programs, and are more able to express clearly their ideas. Their handicap is that they belong to the parties which have committed their politiquería for years and years.
Mr. Mockus’s strength is that he represents the eagerness for change, he is almost an Obama. Especially Colombia’s well educated middle class is fed up with corruption, nepotism and all other bad sides of politics. They are the university educated people who don’t belong to Colombia’s powerful families that have always ruled the country. They are a growing part of the population. Let’s see if they are able to really break the country’s seguridad democrática spell.
Tags: Antanas Mockus, Colombia, Conservatives, Enrique Peñalosa, FARC, Green Wave, Juan Manuel Santos, Liberal Party, Lucho Garzón, Noemí Sanín, Obama, politiquería, Rafael Pardo, seguridad democrática, U Party, Uribe, wiretapping