Colombia has been infamously plagued with terrorism and narco-warfare by consequence of different socialistic guerillas in the country; and these guerillas have been strengthened through autocratic regimes taking office through fair elections and turning the government into something that best suits them and their interests. To understand how legitimate presidents have abused their democratic powers, allowing democratic norms to dissipate, it is important to have a brief knowledge of the past twenty years in Colombian politics.
Alvaro Uribe, elected as president in 2002, was one of Colombia’s presidents who, among many other things, eradicated some of the problems Colombia was having with its most widely known guerrilla group, Las FARC. He is known for using radical measures to eradicate members of Las FARC and carry out rescue missions for those kidnapped by them as well. Although his approval ratings during his presidency were unparalleled, reaching 91% after successfully carrying out one of his rescue missions, many people disagree with his methods of confronting these issues, claiming that they were too brutal, violent, and that many innocent people died in the process.
After Uribe’s successful presidency, Juan Manuel Santos, the previous Minister of National Defense, ran for presidency and was voted into office in 2010. Santos is most known for his questionable peace negotiation between his administration and Las FARC. Comparably to Uribe, Santos wanted to do something to eliminate the fear and insecurities felt by the population of Colombia towards Las FARC. These negotiations began in 2012 in Havana, Cuba and were carried out for four years. In 2016 Santos blatantly disregarded the will of the people during a controversial plebiscite he held in which he asked the country simply: “Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace?” Even though the results were narrow, the No vote won with 50.22% of the votes, compared to the 49.78% that the Yes vote received. Santos, after losing the plebiscite and admitting that the No votes won, still went ahead and paid for top members of Las FARC to travel to and congregate in Cuba to sign the agreement, which promised primarily a cease-fire from the guerrilla group, universal education from preschool through secondary school, and improvement of infrastructure among other things. Another key part of this agreement was that members of the guerilla group Las FARC, who were guilty of crimes, murders, terrorism attacks, kidnappings, and other atrocities were guaranteed undisputed seats in Colombia’s congress, meaning that no one could vote them out of those seats.
Whether the agreement was democratic or not is not what is being analyzed in this post, but rather the abuse of the democratic process that was exhibited by Santos’ actions while trying to bring the agreement to fruition. He held a plebiscite and claimed that he was going to uphold the results, which would have been the democratic thing to do, and he did not. Instead, he found a loophole and claimed that the rural populations of the country were not represented accurately in the plebiscite, therefore allowing him to “crunch the numbers” and come up with a nonexistent majority. In the agreement, he gave congressional seats to members of a guerrilla group, which in itself should be unconstitutional, but when you add that these seats are guaranteed and undisputed for the next four years and that these people served no consequences following their illegal actions, it really highlights how much power Santos allowed himself to take as president. Uribe’s disdain towards the whole deal can be seen in this article written by a reported in Bogota, the capital of Colombia. From the class readings and what we have talked about thus far, it is clear that this is an entrenchment of the democratic norms upheld by standing democracies, and that Santo’s exhibited no forbearance of power during his time in office.
 Redaccion, “Colombia: Gano El ‘No’ En El Pleciscito Por Los Acuerdos De Paz Con Las FARC.” BBC News Mundo, BBC, 2 Oct. 2016, www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-37537187.
 Board, The Editorial. “Colombia’s Peace Is Too Precious to Abandon.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 May 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/05/23/opinion/colombia-peace-agreement.html.
 “Colombia’s Santos Urges Peace as FARC Take Seats in Congress.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 21 July 2018, www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-politics/colombias-santos-urges-peace-as-farc-take-seats-in-congress-idUSKBN1KA2UU.
I think mentioning President Uribe’s past involvement with the FARC is critical to understanding this issue. Some skip straight to Santos’s involvement with the peace negotiations and deal, but seem to overlook the fact that Uribe had a large part the Colombian governments relationship with the FARC. Uribe is now in parliament while Duque is president; do you believe this is making it harder for peace negations to continue with the FARC?
I think this article presented an interesting situation between respecting the democratic process and achieving important political goals such as peace. Given the violent past of FARC, it would seem like generating a peace deal would have the upmost importance among the Columbian population. The failure of the referendum placed the president in a difficult position as he sought to follow his predecessor’s footsteps in limiting the threat of FARC, but he lacked the permission of the public. While his act of executive aggrandizement may have had noble cause, it may cause more damage to Columbian politics in the long run. Columbian presidents in the future may use his excuse of data discrepancies to push forward with unpopular policies. Also, this overstep of his duty may also set another dangerous precedent. The president in the future may continue to overwrite the will of the people using the excuse of keeping the peace. This is dangerous given the potential political conflict between those against giving FARC political power and those for it. Hopefully in the future, the president will stay within his limits and respect the will of his people.