It is not uncommon in Colombia; in fact it is almost customary, for high leaders to find themselves involved in corrupted and immoral acts. It is not new for politicians to use the state for personal gain, or that infrastructural works like Transmilenio and Mio (Massive Public Transport Systems in Bogota and Cali) take months longer than expected.
It is not new for public institutions to be used by contractors as tools to accumulate wealth, to hear news about a group of individuals in the military forces unmasked as accomplices of a criminal scheme, for teachers to go on strike about their wages and not the quality of education imparted to thousands of students, or for a certain apathy towards the elections that climbs up to almost 50% of the population, etc.
The current situation is not precisely new, it is something that has been growing for decades; the only element that has changed is the incredible cynicism on the politicians’ part; you could almost say it is similar to that of the colonial days. Those in power have always been in power. Nepotism, corruption and favoritism act like a cancer, feasting on the country’s pride, self-respect and potential. Decisions are made on a daily basis without public consent or a single care for the consequences. This has happened for so long that it is normal for the government to rob us “in broad day light”, and for us to only react by bowing our heads and whispering quietly: “Here we go again…”
The deplorable combination of apathy and lack of knowledge from the population, who don’t have sense of ownership for the country and have no sympathy for its directives pushes people to give away their beliefs for a plate of Lechona (typical Colombian cuisine holiday dish), a t-shirt, or for what the media says is good. All this is made increasingly difficult when there is no such thing as a choice when it comes to the supply of information and when the hand of politics, darkening the panorama, covers the media and blindfolds citizens at will.
A clear case is the stigmatisation suffered by the Democratic Party during the years of government of president Alvaro Uribe Velez, which made it look simply like the public speakers for the “terrible” guerrilla; whilst it is true the dangerous subversive group has a dedicated eye for drug trafficking, kidnapping and violence, it is important to learn about its origins.
The F.A.R.C. (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) were born as a way to counter a government that attempted to eradicate the farmers’ self-defence movement by military means; it was officially named FARC as a reaction to the assassination of former presidential candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, and it opposed the government’s oppression that also intended to expropriate the farmers’ lands.
Back in those days, there was no Democratic movement, no indigenous political movement, and just like nowadays there was no respect for the farmers’ opinion. Alternative options to the Liberal and Conservative parties were non-existent, and the National Front was calling the shots. Said parties took turns in power, overshadowing any other set of ideals, giving birth to armed political movements which demanded a say in the way things were run. Take as an example M-19 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/19th_of_April_Movement) and its influence in the constitution of 1991, which though modified and twisted over the years for the accommodation and benefit of the current puppeteer is considered one of the best in Latin America.
That is why in the blur that is this country’s memory, the right is associated with the little good that can be saved and the left is associated with subversive groups and guerrillas, yet we are being ruled by a right handed paramilitary friendly political front. “Confuse and Reign” should be this country’s motto I think, given that regardless of how much is said, for how long the struggle continues or how deep down the country seems to be burying itself, there is always a fight for power where the contenders do not distinguish who is who as long as they get what they want.
The reality of Colombian politics is a detrimental succession from its history. We can count on our government to use the media to play make-believe with the public about its good intentions and results. Meanwhile, back at the dimly lit offices, bets are placed on how long it takes for them to suck the country dry of resources and for society to fall into chaos creating the perfect alibi. Not too long ago, for example, Rafael Garcia, ex-director of the D.A.S. (Administrative Department of Security) who was processed and jailed confessed that ex-president Alvaro Uribe had knowledge of the overseas cocaine deliveries and the meetings held with paramilitary directives. This of course was not blown up to the proportion it should have been; no, it was delivered to the lowest public rating newscaster (CM&), who also unveiled that the unemployment rate and human rights transgression had reached new heights.
Then we have our current president, Dr. Juan Manuel Santos, who many think of as a disciple and follower of Alvaro Uribe’s. He ironically promotes education when his predecessor’s campaign (Uribe’s) focused in the conflict, barricading the doors leading to the education of the less favoured sector by cutting back the budget for public universities. It is hypocritical of them to talk about employment and opportunities, when the only numbers that went up were the ones indicating the amount of street merchants, people begging for coins on buses, and temporary or clandestine work where no social benefits are granted and no legally appropriate wages are paid.
The worse part is that these workers have to endure it for decades on end to qualify for a pension; given the legal pensioners age keeps augmenting with the passing of every government without any kind of incentive to alleviate or compensate the waste of time and back breaking effort. They probably wonder what would have become of them if the situation had not been so harsh, and they could have afforded the time and financial means to build a career.
An interesting innovation of this period would be the complications building up with neighbouring countries due to the platonic S&M relationship dynamic established between the U.S. and Colombian governments over the years. Today’s government prides on this alliance, supporting position promoting illegal invasions under the “Fight against terrorism” flag in other countries. Thus, instead of solving internal, losing the support from fellow South American nations, that in my opinion would prove useful if the continent ever desires to escape its third world status.
To make a long story short, it all comes down to social conscience, to self-respect and the acknowledgement that it is impunity which makes our political system a useless and outdated one. Creating a wild jungle ambiance, where no rules seem to apply and 90% of those who “make it” in this individual war and gathered as much wealth and social status as they can, have embraced their shameless and daring selves; a bit like the passengers of a sinking ship taking everything they can with them before it goes with the vessel, with the remarkable difference of this ship’s captain(s) not going down with it, but having another five star liner picking him/them up 10 minutes after escaping the sinister the crime scene unscathed.
Andres David Muñoz was born and raised in Cali, Colombia. At age 17 he moved to Melbourne, Australia where he worked and studied for 5 years. Andres is a Freelance Graphic Designer, engaged, fan of all thing arts and music, ambitious, eager to learn, gamer, reader, amateur writer/poet. One day he hopes to wake up on a Sunday in my own elegant yet quirky house, knowing how to play the violin, how to speak French, Italian and Japanese, and making conference calls to his own advertising agency so then he can relax and enjoy a good imported Colombian coffee with his partner.