The Republic of Colombia has a history riddled with conflict, violence, and injustices. Throughout the last two centuries, they’ve fallen from democracy and made their way back on multiple occasions. However, when is it too far gone to fix? Is the nation’s motto, “Liberty and Order” still within reach, or is it just an empty promise?
In the past few years alone, Colombia has gone through a series of ups and downs pertaining to its democracy and overall freedom. Since the 2018 election of current President Ivan Duque Marquez, it has been anything but smooth sailing. Despite his popularity in the early days of his presidency, Duque is currently the least popular president in Colombia’s recent history. Even in light of suspicions that he rigged the election, he maintained likability for a solid year into his term. He was applauded by Colombian citizens as well as human rights organizations for his immigration policies and how he handed the Venezuelan refugee crisis, but that quickly was deemed irrelevant as he began to abuse his power.
In November of 2019, mass protests broke out throughout the nation and lasted until February of 2020. These protests came about in response to government corruption, police brutality, income inequality, and Duque’s proposed economic policies. In 2018, Colombia was declared the 99th most corrupt country in the world by the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. Additionally, rumors were going around that Duque had austerity measures planned, though he denied this, further angering leftist groups in particular given Colombia’s severe wealth gap. Duque’s opposition to the Colombian Peace Process was also subject to criticism, specifically from human rights organizations that previously had supported him.
Again in April 2021, protests emerged after Duque proposed tax increases and the privatization of healthcare in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, the average Colombian earns less than $90 USD a month, and this tax increase would only worsen the preexisting poverty in Colombia. Despite efforts by the Colombian government to revoke protest permits and enforce a 1:30 PM curfew, the demonstrations happened and resulted in Duque withdrawing both proposals, though he reinforced that he believed they were necessary upon revoking them.
In present day, President Duque is under investigation for his role in rigging the 2018 election after audio tapes proving his guilt were leaked. However, until if and when the investigation is complete and he is found guilty, he is still in office with the same powers as before. If a man that is likely guilty of rigging an election that put him in his current office can still serve while being investigated for it, how will any change come about? There are no consequences for Colombian government officials, it seems. At least, not really that is. Historically, no Colombian president has been impeached, though President Ernesto Samper nearly was in 1996. Colombia’s presidential policies make it extremely difficult for impeachment to occur, leaving very little room for democracy once an election has been decided.
With Duque’s presidency not ending anytime in the near future and a government structure that makes it just short of impossible to hold leader’s accountable, what is left to do? Is Colombia doomed? Will it ever see democracy again?
Realistically, this could very well be the beginning of Colombia losing its democracy and freedom once and for all. Given that it’s a real possibility, this is not a natter that should be taken lightly, even if it may appear to be not so bad in comparison to other nations. With that said, Colombians still have time to get back on track, but it isn’t entirely up to them. For real, long lasting change to happen they are likely going to need international help and interference from other nations with strong democracies. If not, it wouldn’t be impossible to solve, but it would take every last resource they have to get it done.
The Republic of Colombia’s history is just as rich and inspiring as it is complicated and erratic. Colombia has been a country of Liberty and order, and it can be again, but right now could be the last chance they have to work towards it again; once and for all.