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The results of the first round of the Colombian presidential elections on May 27 showed the firmness of the political empire founded by Álvaro Uribe, now represented by Iván Duque.
They also showed the emerging strength of an independent Left led by Gustavo Petro, who stands for the intellectual and political legacy of democratic socialism.
These two stories were reflected in the results, which a divided country produced – although the balance tilts slightly more to the Right.
Changing president means a new timetable for implementing what was negotiated in Havana and perhaps even some setbacks regarding certain processes and guarantees of compliance.
According to the National Civil Registry Electoral Organization, out of a total of 36.783.940 people who were qualified to vote, 19.636.714 went to the polls - just a little more than half.
Iván Duque ended up with 39.14% of the votes, followed by Gustavo Petro with 25.08%, and Sergio Fajardo with 23.73%. Candidates Germán Vargas Lleras and Humberto De La Calle got, respectively, 7.28% and 2.06%.
At regional level, things went like this: the department of Antioquia could have chosen Iván Duque as president in the first round, since he won more than 50% of the votes there - unsurprisingly.
Gustavo Petro, however, snatched Córdoba from Álvaro Uribe’s party, Democratic Centre, which had been reigning in the region for a long time.
But despite the fact that he is a former mayor of the city, the Human Colombia candidate lost in Bogotá to former mayor of Medellín and former governor of Antioquia, Sergio Fajardo. The Liberal Party candidate, Humberto De La Calle, went into debt for failing to reach the minimum percentage of votes (4%) to qualify for the public financing of the campaign.
The results have left many doubts and some concerns in different sectors of Colombian society. One of the questions which has undoubtedly been generating much distress is what will happen with the Peace Agreements and their implementation.
Changing president means a new timetable for implementing what was negotiated in Havana and perhaps even some setbacks regarding certain processes and guarantees of compliance. Everything depends on who gets elected on June 17.
Gustavo Petro sees peace as a social pact; he demands that the FARC comply with the agreement; he tells the ELN that they have only two options left: "being part of the agreement, or keeping to the battlefields.
If the latter, they will be fought by the State"; his program includes taking care of the victims of the conflict in health, education and housing, as part of the necessary restoration of their rights; he is also proposing to create a tax for unproductive rural land and to open the option of buying, distributing and assigning land to the victims of the conflict.
Iván Duque campaigned for the No vote at the plebiscite on the Peace Agreements; for him, some points of what was agreed in Havana represent a threat to the country’s institutions and he has said that he is willing to change them; he wants eradication of illicit crops to be mandatory; he proposes to reform the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), which it considers "a monument to the impunity of the FARC”; he does not accept any negotiation with the ELN, and leaves them with the only option of laying down their arms and accepting their prison sentences.
Ricardo Esquivia is a spokesperson for the Montes de María Regional Peacebuilding Space, a network made up of several civil society organizations from the Montes de María region which symbolically signed the first peace agreement on March 15, 2016:
"On the one hand we have Duque, who is saying that the Agreements need to be modified. He represents that group of people who are not very happy with them.
On the other side we have Petro, who has not said that he disagrees with the Agreements, but who has not committed himself fully either. I think that given the situation in which the process is right now with the current government, a situation where the Agreements have not been fully complied with, either of the two candidates, if he makes it, will not strengthen the process much - and the process will most probably continue to face difficulties.
But the important thing is that, little by little, communities are realizing that this is not actually the State or the governments’ agreements, but theirs, and that they are the ones that must move forward. "
"I think that Duque's side offers less security, because he represents the No and he is thinking of making amendments to the Agreements. Petro, at least, does not attack them. So, clearly, Duque's position is more unfavourable than Petro’s."
"I am not really fond of extremes, of either one thing or the other, but one has to make a decision here: everyone must think which candidate favours the Agreements most."
"I believe that the current government is unsettled. It wanted to ensure disarmament rather than a peace process. It felt very safe throughout the disarmament process, but not with regards to the rest.
There are not enough resources or sufficient policies on the one hand, and there are doubts and legal questions on the other, all of which are holding back compliance with the Agreements.
And although legal tools actually exist, the problem is that social change is not something that can be made by law. If civil society learns to use these tools, it could determine the way in which officials use them.
Most people put a great deal of interest in actions by the State, and commit themselves to caudillos, and believe that things can be resolved by them, but they are missing the fact that the power to change things actually lies in civil society. "
"What will happen with the Agreements does not depend so much on the incoming president but, mostly, on what the establishment and the officials think."
"It worries me that the State in general has not understood the importance of the Agreements for peace. Institutions have to make them their own and comply with them. If they do not, they will perpetuate the existence of a violent and unjust society. "
Wifredo Cañizares is a member of the Making Progress Foundation, an organization that promotes human rights through the building of peace and the development of democracy:
"We are making an important commitment to consolidating peace and social justice and reconciling the country, and this possibility is represented by Gustavo Petro only."
"Uribism has made very clear during the campaign what it wants to do with both the Agreements and the country. So, there is no doubt that the only possibility we have of guaranteeing the successful implementation of the Agreements is for Petro’s Human Colombia to win in the second round.
His program clearly expresses the will to implement the Agreements and to guarantee the continuity of the talks with the ELN. He has put the defence of life with social justice at the centre of his political proposal."
There is no doubt that the only possibility we have of guaranteeing the successful implementation of the Agreements is for Petro’s Human Colombia to win in the second round.
"The Agreements as a whole are in a critical situation. It is as if President Santos had put aside both his mandate and the agreements.
We must remember that a part of the Agreements still have to go through Congress. This, I think, will be a complex business. But on the political side, on complying with the agreement, we have no doubts about what Petro will do."
"The current Congress has shown its teeth before the Agreements and has lacked the will to guarantee the necessary legal framework for their implementation.
Congress will also be a difficult space for Duque, but it is far easier for Uribism to get Congress to vote on changing or cancelling part of the Agreements, than for Petro to get something positive out of it.
This is not a Congress for peace, it is a Congress fuelled by bureaucracy, politicking and corruption. The sectors of Congress that can guarantee the promotion of laws in favour of the Agreements are in a minority. "
"The only thing we see that could effectively shield the agreements is the Constitutional Court: there is a judgment of the Court saying that the agreements must be complied with and setting a deadline for it.
But we know how things are in this country under a far-Right government: they would probably push new laws through Congress limiting or eliminating the Agreements and we know, from past experience, that the Court would then act in agreement with the sitting president."
"What we hope for is that, in case of there being an Uribist government, the Constitutional Court would stand firm."
"We can expect almost anything. Uribism can do anything to achieve its goals. Anything can happen. One scenario would be a limiting of the Agreements, another would be law proposals to change the JEP, oppose agrarian reform, or end talks with the ELN. "
"The vast majority of the human rights and victims movement is supporting Human Colombia, because there is definitely a greater chance of guaranteeing a peace scenario with them than with Uribism."
Juliana Hernández is a member of Careful with Peace, an organization that monitors the processes and the implementation of the agreements:
"Right now, the situation puts at risk an important negotiation: the negotiation with the FARC. The candidate who is likely to be president is Iván Duque and he has not been supporting the Peace Agreements as a member of Congress."
"He wants to make structural changes to the Peace Agreements on social issues, justice, truth and comprehensive reparation to the victims.
A government of the Right would directly affect things that are currently being done and that are actually working within the Truth Commission, and institutions such as the National Centre for Historical Memory, which has been able to report independently and objectively on what happened during the conflict."
"Iván Duque reaching the presidency is synonymous with Álvaro Uribe reaching the presidency."
"With candidate Gustavo Petro there is definitely an opportunity - because he has publicly given support to the Peace Agreements, because he carries in his agenda the issue of comprehensive rural reform, and because he considers the possibility of redistributing land.
He is someone who has supported victims of the armed conflict, like María José Pizarro (congressional candidate for the List of Decency and daughter of Carlos Pizarro, the leader of the M19 guerrilla in the 1980s) – they have both been talking about the conflict for many years.
As has Ángela María Robledo (congresswoman for the Green Alliance, now running as vice-presidential candidate with Gustavo Petro), who has been a major advocate of the agreements on issues of gender, truth and justice."
It seems that 50 years of war are not enough for us in this country to take the decision to vote for peace.
"Meanwhile, Iván Duque is proposing changes in order to transfer some cases to the ordinary courts. This poses the risk of increasing dissidence, much in the same way as happened in 2005 with the paramilitaries.
It also puts at risk the possibility for demobilized persons to receive the funds they were promised to start economic projects of their own, or to access a country whose civil society they can join."
"Considering that only 18% of the agreements have been implemented, the overall picture is quite complicated. If people do not vote for Human Colombia, they will be voting against peace."
"The Agreements have no legislative shield at this time. The only things effectively shielded are the Truth Commission and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.
In theory, the Constitutional Court should shield the Agreements, but if there is no political will to do it, it is unlikely that it will. In addition, there is another risk: they could begin cutting the funds for the JEP, which needs magistrates to operate."
"It seems that 50 years of war are not enough for us in this country to take the decision to vote for peace. We have deeply internalized a discourse which sees organizations as unique political subjects.
When we talk about the FARC, we talk as if they were an individual, when in fact they are thousands of poor rural people who had probably no other options for survival. The Right appeals to this vision so as to be able to stigmatize others."
"Human Colombia has Gustavo Petro as its leader, a former M19 fighter, and that is something they do not forgive. Duque is the scenario we have always known."
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