The serious crisis that Colombian democracy is undergoing is leading us to a dilemma embodied in the very destiny of the current president Iván Duque Márquez: authoritarianism or democratic opening, war or peace, coup d’état or resignation. At the moment, we are witnessing a new modality of self-coup: a gradual self-coup. Without the need to announce it Fujimori-style, Duque and his group in power today concentrate more legal and real power than any of his predecessors after the fall of Rojas Pinilla, which unfortunately does not mean that the anti-democratic imbalance will not worsen even more.
A climate of chaos is perceived, which at the same time that positions authoritarian exits allows the greatest outrages of the Executive. There is a wave of violence that is functional to those who promote a greater militarization of the country and to give continuity to the armed social conflict in the face of the perfidy of the Peace Agreement. The escalation of death in Colombia seems to be the prelude to a coup d’état. The massacres in Nariño, Cauca and a good part of the territories once occupied by the FARC-EP, the genocide against ex-combatants, the massacre against unarmed demonstrators in Bogotá, the murder of Juliana in Cauca by a member of the Army are not isolated incidents, but manifestations of a serious humanitarian crisis and of the generation of an anxiety that favors despotism.
Let us review the basic pillars of a democracy in the current Colombian situation: subordination of the Armed Forces to civilian power; balance of powers between the branches and organs of the State; effective exercise of civil liberties and democratic guarantees; trust and legitimacy of electoral processes. The current democratic asphyxiation is such that it is inevitable to think about Duque, son of a Turbayista, who comes out repressive.
What are the military achievements of the Duque government? Bombing of children, profiling of opponents, permanent violation of human rights of the civilian population, military leadership questioned by human rights, irregular presence of foreign troops, participation in international war exercises using our territory, disregard of local authorities and judicial decisions, police massacre and violent repression of protests with the legal protection of military criminal jurisdiction and hypertrophy of the military budget by 2021 to more than 37 billion. This brief summary describes the real omnipotent power of the Public Force, its economic sectors and its aulic like Minister Holmes Trujillo, to the point that President Duque is literally uniformed with them. With these perks for the military and police, what is the need for a barracks coup? There is a de facto authoritarian government in our country sustained -and conditioned- by the military power, as Major Bermúdez Rossi called it, and it is clear that the president supports and is supported by the majority faction of the public force.
Let us look at the so-called balance of powers. Duque and his party have half the State in their pockets: prosecutor, attorney general, ombudsman, and soon they could consolidate majorities in the Bank of the Republic and the Constitutional Court. Between government tokens and personal friends of the President, the independence of the branches of power and control bodies has been reduced to a fiction. This concentration of power not only demonstrates the anachronism of the current mechanisms for the election of high-level government officials, but also demands fundamental political reform in this regard.
But things do not stop there, confirming that the gradual self-coup is already taking place. Not content with collecting supposedly autonomous entities, the Duque government has de facto suppressed the competences of the local authorities with regard to the management of public order by first implementing the so-called ZEEI (Integral Intervention Strategic Zones) which places territories in conflict at the discretion of the military commanders and now promoting police insubordination in the cities, thus destroying the decentralization developed by the 1991 Constitution. Likewise, the pandemic and the public order crisis have been taken advantage of so that the president governs under a permanent state of exception, reminding us of the disastrous perennial state of siege of the Constitution of 1886, reducing the powers of a virtualized legislature which is denied, by means of every kind of trickery, the effective exercise of political control. Between a virtual Congress with a president legislating by decree, and the closing of the parliament there is only a faint nuance, which in the midst of the crisis propitiated by the National Government may be crossed at any time and without much resistance from certain benches that have proven to be quite venal.
The genocidal Iván Duque will have to beg for forgiveness before the judgment of history, which will condemn him as a mass murderer of his people and a colonized servile who surrendered the sovereignty of his country without complaint. Likewise, the Duque government is turning the high courts into ornaments by disregarding their sentences with impunity. If the presidential rejection of the security measure against former senator Uribe Velez was already an inadmissible interference, the ongoing contempt against the ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice that protects the right to protest, or the mockery of the ruling of the Court of Cundinamarca that suspended the U.S. military brigade in the country, in practice are tantamount to licensing the judges. Incidentally, after more than 3 months of their legal proscription, the gringo troops are still here. Where is the presidential totalitarianism and its dangerous submission to Donald Trump’s electoral campaign going to end?
Thirdly, let’s talk about the real indicators of Colombian democracy: the guarantees of our civil rights. More than 60 massacres so far in 2020, more than 230 signatories of the Peace Accord murdered, as well as 573 social and human rights leaders during the Duque administration alone. The violent repression against the right to protest, the legal and illegal monitoring and harassment against the political and social opposition, the media lynching and the promotion of fascist, discriminatory and anti-democratic ideologies, as well as the continuation of the so-called “legal war”, which is nothing more than the criminalization of the opposition with the wink of a Prosecutor appendage of the National Government, complement the panorama. Last week there were allegations that Barbosa and Holmes are preparing a massive judicial witch hunt, returning to the sad practice of judicial set-ups. If this proves to be true, these “miraculous catches” of the Prosecutor’s Office would make similar days of the dictatorships of the Southern Cone blush and the self-coup would be consummated. However, neither the Executive nor the Prosecutor’s Office has responded.
What for some countries was a disastrous period of open military dictatorships, for Colombia is being sold to us underhandedly as a sort of “new normality”, which, however, does not succeed in hiding its anti-democratic character. Today, civil liberties are de facto denied for the majority of the population, both for the communities subjected to violence in the territories, as well as for those of us who oppose presidential authoritarianism or exercise the right to mobilize. The self-coup is advancing.
Finally, let us look at electoral transparency. The continuity of Duque in the presidency is in itself the affirmation of the absence of guarantees in the electoral process in our country. In the midst of the pachydermy of a politicized CNE and a Supreme Court harassed by the president, the investigation of the so-called “Ñeñepolitics” is still open, which only proves the intervention of illegal forces to put Duque in the presidency. The evidentiary elements are of such depth that the Court maintains jurisdiction over former senator Uribe and several parliamentarians of the Government party involved in this scandal, which added to the testimony of former parliamentarian Aida Merlano, make the election of Duque illegitimate, curiously the president who has accumulated the most power in the last half century. Even applying the old Turbayista maxim of reducing corruption to its fair proportions, this would imply at least the resignation of Duque and his vice-presidential formula, until these facts are not judged, and -since it is fashionable among the Uribistas- making the Ñeñepolítica case public so that the whole country has access to the truth, as well as processing the necessary copies derived from Merlano’s denunciations.
There is no subordination of military power to civilian power, there is no independence of powers or control bodies, there are no democratic guarantees or effective enjoyment of civil rights, and there is no transparency or balance in the electoral system. All these anti-democratic transgressions, although they come from behind, have been exacerbated for and by Duque. If Duque continues as if nothing happened, the elections of 2022 will be in the midst of a disguised civil-military dictatorship, because the ongoing self-coup will have been consummated. We, the forces committed to peace and democracy in Colombia, have a great challenge.
Translation by Internationalist 360°