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Colombia, Just Don’t


Available: Español

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Unfairly known for being the cradle of infamous drug lords, Colombia has a rich tradition of solidarity, ingenuity, and resilience.

In Europe, it has been mainly up to Poland to receive Ukrainians fleeing from war. In Latin America, Colombia has taken it upon itself to welcome the millions —yes, millions— of Venezuelans escaping Maduro’s bloodthirsty communist dictatorship.  And it’s not even Colombia’s first time. Back in 1864, when Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil declared a war on Paraguay, Colombia didn’t just protest against the conflict but offered citizenship to all Paraguayans who stepped on Colombian soil.

Tomorrow, Colombia will have to face yet another challenge, the hardest in generations. Colombians must choose between former guerrilla Gustavo Petro and populist Rodolfo Hernández.

It’s tough, to say the least, to vote for someone like Hernández. Depending on the topic, Hernández cherry-picks ideas from the left, the right, and the far-right. Bad as he is —and he’s rather awful— he is better than Petro. That’s how hard Colombians have it at the moment.

I come from Uruguay. In 2010, also former guerrilla José Mujica became president of the country. No other president, left or right, harmed the nation so badly. No other president, left or right, has been so divisive. Mujica’s administration did something particularly evil, beyond the handling of economics or specific policies that this or that group might dislike. Mujica broke us, and we’ve been struggling to reunite ever since.

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A former guerrilla, if you think about it, can only divide society. Radical leaders, explicitly or implicitly, spark radical behavior. These are people who didn’t believe in the institutions in the first place. And yes, of course, people can and do change, but one doesn’t simply come back from openly threatening a stable democracy. They are not fit to lead nations, because they fail to understand their plurality, their mechanisms, and their institutional resources.

Hernández will be hard to swallow, but in a worst-case scenario, it will all be over in four years. With Petro, however, given its deep connections to Venezuela’s dictatorship, that’s not so clear. It starts slowly: a slight modification in the Constitution here, another one there… and you’ll have Petro or his minions for decades to come.

Latin America cannot afford another punch in the face. So Colombians, just don’t.

Pris Guinovart is a writer, editor and teacher. In 2014, she published her fiction book «The head of God» (Rumbo, Montevideo). She speaks six languages. Columnist since the age of 19, she has written for media in Latin America and the United States // Pris Guinovart es escritora, editora y docente. En 2014, publicó su libro de ficciones «La cabeza de Dios» (Rumbo, Montevideo). Habla seis idiomas. Columnista desde los 19 años, ha escrito para medios de America Latina y Estados Unidos