In Colombia time goes in circles

I remember a conversation around three years ago with Richard McColl on his Colombia Calling radio show. We were dismayed at the lack of books on Colombia’s history, and about how Colombians forget, or erase the past.

It wasn’t an original idea. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Hector Abad, Juan Gabriel Vasquez are some of Colombia’s finest writers and each places memory, myth, and the distortion of history at the heart of his novels.

At the start of the epic telenovela about the life of Pablo Escobar, El Patron del Mal, the viewer is reminded that, “he who forgets history is condemned to repeat it”.

And for writers like William Ospina, this inability to keep the facts and errors of history alive is one of the defining features of the Colombian condition. In The Search for Bolivar he tells us Colombians live in a kind of purgatory; where nothing happens but the repetition of the past. “Time wasn’t passing, but going round in circles”, as Ursula says in 100 Years of SolitudeRead more…

Colombia’s ‘$5 million dollar’ election sell-off

As Colombians prepare to go to the polls in the regional and local elections on 25 October, analyst Leon Valencia has revealed candidates are investing as much as 5 million dollars to fix the outcome.

Few deny vote-buying is endemic in Colombia. Politicians stand accused of spending public money to corrupt an electoral process that authorities ultimately fail to police.

But while President Santos’ government has labelled these elections, “the most transparent in history”, Mr Valencia, director of think tank, “Peace and Reconciliation”, has warned “huge walleted” politicians are buying their way to power.  Read more…

Colombia’s imperfect dictatorship

Colombia is heralded as one of the few Latin American countries not plagued by dictatorship. But how close is she to what Mario Vargas Llosa called a perfect dictatorship? Has the governing elite managed to hold on to power by convincing people they have a democratic choice while simultaneously and systematically dismantling all opposition and threat to their permanence in power? Read more…

FARC peace process “coming to an end”

The government’s top peace negotiator Humberto de la Calle, this week said the Havana dialogues were approaching their conclusion. Some took this as a threat to the FARC that the government would walk away from the table if it didn’t deescalate the guerrilla violence. The FARC “responded” by calling a month-long unilateral ceasefire.

But is this part of a game to soften the public up to the idea of a bilateral ceasefire in which the Colombian army halt all military action against the FARC? If so, President Santos is being well and truly outsmarted by the FARC negotiating team.  Read more…

Bogota, Athens of South America? Pah!

Bogota has been in a depressive slump for too long. The complacent belief that the city is “the Athens of South America” has allowed governors to rule with decadent indifference. Something must be done to arrest the decline of a city that looked more developed and prettier in black and white. We must banish a collective fatalism that whiffs of the last days of Pompeii.
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Don’t blame Colombians for FARC war

Kevin Howlett argues that while peace can only be achieved through negotiation, Colombians shouldn’t be castigated for wanting their president to shock and awe the guerrillas. Whether Colombians believe in peace or not, it is not they, but only the FARC, who can stop this nihilist war. The blame lies at the feet of the FARC (yes, and other actors too), not their victims.   Read more…

No car day is pointless populism

Once upon a time a previous Bogota mayor won, through a referendum, the right to call an annual “no car day” in the city. The idea was to encourage people to stop and think about the effect their daily commute had on the environment. No bad thing.

Current mayor, Gustavo Petro, today held the second no car day of the year. And he wants another one before he finishes his mandate in December.

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