[Marxism] Elections in Colombia, reformatted

Anthony Boynton northbogota at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 30 15:23:03 MDT 2007

Elections in Colombia

Last Saturday elections were held throughout Colombia for
Departmental Governors and legislatures, Mayors, City Councils and
other local offices. (National elections will be held in 2008 for
legislative positions, and for president and legislative positions in

Outwardly little changed in these elections, but they consolidated
the growth of the Polo Democratico Alternativa, and revealed the
current state of crisis of the organized political factions of the
Colombian ruling class.

The most important news is the election of Samuel Moreno, candidate
of the Polo Democratico Alternativa, as the next Mayor of Bogotá. The
Polo is a party which began as a sort of united electoral front of
the parliamentary left. This means its main components include the
unions, the former M-19 guerrilla movement and ANAPO, the Colombian
Communist Party, assorted remnants of Maoism and Trotskyism, and a
trend which split from the social democratic wing of the Liberal

With a population of about 8,000,000 people Bogotá contains nearly
20% of Colombia's people.

Although Moreno is known as a leader of the left wing of the Polo,
his election campaign was decidedly moderate. He is for building a
subway, against privatizing public schools, and for continuing the
neighborhood kitchen programs of outgoing mayor Eduardo (Lucho)

His main opponent, former mayor Enrique Peñalosa, was endorsed by all
of the Uribista parties, plus the Liberal Party. Peñalosa was against
building a subway and for extending the publicly subsidized privately
owned mass transit system called "Transmilenio", for privatizing
public education (and anything else) and silent about the community
kitchen program.

(an interesting footnote is that both Moreno and Peñalosa are US
citizens. Moreño has a Masters degree from Harvard.)

Moreno received more than 900,000 votes or about 44% of the vote.
Peñalosa received a little more than 500,000 votes, about 28% of the
vote. Turnout was unexpectedly high, despite a day long downpour
which flooded parts of the city. The vote was far more lopsidedly in
favor of Moreno than any of the polls predicated.

Despite Moreno's victory, the Polo did not gain control of the city
council. Uribista parties have a majority of one vote on the new
council, and the Polo is a minority of 11 out of 37 seats. For the
Polo to pass any resolutions it will have to make deals with the
Liberal Party and dissident Uribistas.

Making things more difficult for Moreno to carry out his modest
agenda is the public animosity of President Uribe. Traditionally the
sitting President is barred from campaigning in Colombian elections.
Traditionally the president invites the newly elected Mayor of Bogotá
to a meeting the day after the election. Uribe broke both of these
traditions, campaigning for Peñalosa, and refusing to invite Moreno
to meet. (Uribe did not break these traditions when Lucho Garzon was

Despite these difficulties for the Polo, it is clear that it has
emerged as the largest, most cohesive, and politically dominant party
in the capital of Colombia – a major feat when one considers the
bloodbath against the Union Patriotica just two decades ago.

However, the Polo has not yet found a way to emerge as a truly
national party. It won the governorship of one department, where one
former M-19 leader, Antonio Navarro Wolf was elected. Navarro Wolf
comes from a traditionally important family in that department, and
was previously Mayor of its most important city. In the rest of the
country the Polo is a small minority party, outpolled by the two new
Uribista Parties – the "Partido de la U" and "Cambio Radical", the
traditional Liberal and Conservative Parties, and the two parties
with open links to the paramilitaries Convergencia Ciudadana and Alas
Equipo. (The results in Cali are not yet clear, but it appears that
the Polo may have suffered a setback in that city, the only city
besides Bogotá where it had established an important presence.)

Outside of Bogotá the Liberal and Conservative Parties, which seemed
to be on the verge of extinction, made a comeback of sorts,
consolidating regional political machines and control in departments
which had been taken over by rival political machines in the four new
Uribista parties.

Also outside of Bogotá the two principal Uribista parties have been
fighting what comes close to a small scale internal civil war for
control of towns in the northern Para militarized part of Colombia.
One of these parties, "Cambio Radical" is the personal political
machine of Senator Vargas Lleras, heir of former President Vargas
Lleras, and wannabe heir of Uribe. The other is the "Partido de la U"
the personal political machine of the Santos family which owns the
most important newspaper in the country and much of the rest of the
news media. Two Santos cousins are part of Uribe Velez's government,
Vice President and Defense Minister. Both are also ambitious to be
Uribe's political heir.

In towns throughout the north there have been mass protests against
voter fraud directed by one of these parties against the other (which
is the offended party differs from town to town).

Tied to these protests is the fall of some of the political machines
of political leaders now in jail for their ties to paramilitary
organizations. Throughout the north all of the Uribista machines are
tied to paramilitaries, given their internal fight over fraud the
character of infighting between paramilitary groups – possibly for
control of drug transportation routes in the region.

Also far outside of Bogotá there was some election related violence,
including attacks attributed to the FARC on towns in Tolima. However,
this year's level of election violence has been lower than at any
time in memory, according to all accounts I have heard and read.

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