Colombia´s politics are particular, peculiar and fascinating; why else would we devote a website to them?
Within this section of the site – this page, and the subpages – Colombia Politics will provide an overview of some of the key issues, the main players, and the way politics operate here.
This is a work in progress, and new pages and articles will spring up as we go along.
On these page, by way of introduction we will answer as succinctly as possible the following questions.
Is Colombia democratic?
Yes and no. Colombia has a long tradition of democracy. Some claim that Colombia is the longest running democracy in South America. This is true in so far as while her neighbours fell to military dictatorships in the 70s and 80s, Colombia maintained a form of elective democracy throughout.
However, Colombia’s democracy has been under threat from insurgencies, paramilitaries, narcotrafficking, corruption, weak institutions and the limited reach of a state (that often fails to deliver even the most basic of public services to parts of the vast nation).
It is far from a mature democracy with power centralised in the presidency and the media often encouraged to work at the whim of the government of the day. Clientelism is rife and elections are disappointingly subject to major vote-buying.
Colombia’s political parties have in the words of Havard academic James Robinson, “cartelised” power, excluding the vast majority of the nation from taking part. It is often claimed Colombia is run by an oligarchy. A quick look through the family trees of those in power adds weight to this argument.
Colombians vote – around 50% in presidential elections – but they are often disenfranchised by an unrepresentative and elitist political class.
Colombia has endured military control on three occasions, in 1830, 1854, and 1953. General Rojas Pinilla took control of the nation in 1953 effectively with the consent and support of the political elite – who themselves were incapable of governing the country during the period known as “La Violencia”.
Although it has been argued that Colombia is one of the most stable democracies in Latin America, its imperfections are profound.