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Voting Instead of Protesting. Colombians are Demanding Change in Traditional Politics.

Maria Paula Unigarro Alba

Posted on October 28, 2019 12:17

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Several social protests have been taking place in Latin America during the past weeks. Haiti, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile are some of the countries where thousands have demanded equality, dignity and respect for democracy. Amid such movements, many Colombians have questioned why there is no manifestation in the country. Moreover, there is a widespread meme that says that while all neighbor countries have wakened up, Colombia is sitting at the edge of the bed watching its slippers.

Fortunately, and surprisingly, regional elections held yesterday proved that this is not the case. Colombians voted for mayors, state governors and local assemblies. Even though in some regions traditional politicians kept their power, in general terms, traditional parties that base their operations on patronage practices lost several seats in local assemblies. Furthermore, many capital cities chose independent candidates that represent fresh movements that defend anti-corruption ideals.

Some of the results that are worth highlighting are the following:

  • Claudia Lopez was elected Mayor of Bogota. It is the first time a woman is voted for this charge (also a declared homosexual). Beyond her gender identity, in her case it is remarkable that she does not belong to any political clan. She comes from a middle-income family and has build her political career based on her own merits.
  • Medellin chose Daniel Quintero Calle as its Mayor, an independent candidate with no relation to major political groups. His proposal is to close inequity gaps and to create generous public institutions that serve citizens to achieve their dreams.
  • Cartagena is a city characterized by high levels of corruption. It has had more than 11 mayors in 6 years, one after another removed of charge due to irregularities in the administration of public resources. Yesterday, William Dau was elected Mayor. He defeated William Garcia Tirado, who was the more likely candidate to take office due to his close relations to traditional political groups. Dau’s main promise is to fight corruption in the city.

Additionally, Julian Conrado, former FARC member, was elected mayor of Turbaco. Although this election may be condemned by many, in the end, it is precisely the main objective of the peace accord signed with this guerrilla: having them defending ideas in the political scenario without the use of weapons. It is undeniably a gain for democracy and peace in the country.

These results show that Colombians have awakened. There is a huge movement of citizens tired of corruption and traditional powers governing for their own benefit at the expense of the majorities’ well-being. Many are not willing to keep polarization between right and left, which only benefits corrupt leaders and political forces seeking to return to war in the country. Today, Colombians are demanding that governors respond to the most basic principle: to manage public resources honestly and for the benefit of citizenry.

There may not be large protests on the streets, but these elections clearly demonstrate that Colombians demand governments capable and willing to address their needs.

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Source: NYT
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