BOGOTA, COLOMBIA – Piedad Cordoba has long been a well-known Colombian human rights activist, lawyer, former congress woman, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and was once named the most influential Ibero-American intellectual by Foreign Policy magazine. She also briefly ran as a candidate in this year’s presidential elections, but dropped out of the race in March.
Central to her platform was supporting the peace process with the FARC guerrillas. Cordoba, often referred to amiably as ‘la negra’, or the black woman, has long considered herself an ‘ally for peace,’ but this process could be in major jeopardy after the elections, she says.
This Sunday (17 June), Colombians will decide on a new president, forced to choose between polar opposite figures: the far left policies of former mayor of Bogota and M-19 guerrilla, Gustavo Petro; or the far right Ivan Duque who has long been adamantly against the country’s peace process.
Cordoba doesn’t hide her concern, if Duque and his Centro Democratico (Democratic Center) party wins, the peace process will ‘be torn to shreds’, she told New Internationalist.
‘He represents the interests of a political class that doesn’t suit them if the pact is fulfilled,’ said Cordoba. As a result, rejecting the original peace agreements has been a central part of his campaign, she added.
So far, Duque, who won the first round of elections with 39 per cent of the vote, has been backed by the agro-industry and the business sector, as well as the right wing political parties, Conservatives, Liberals and Cambio Radical (Radical Change) – all bodies that stand to lose if certain elements of the peace agreement are implemented, like rural development, land redistribution and social programs.
Part of Duque’s popularity, and the origin of his policies, is due to his close connection with Alvaro Uribe, the founder of Centro Democratico. Uribe president between 2002-2010, was loved by many for his pro-business economic policies, and hated and feared by many others for his links to paramilitary groups and aggressive military policies. These same divisions and alliances apply to Duque today.
Duque was leader of the ‘No’ campaign in the 2016 plebiscite against the peace deal, which won by one percentage point, shocking the country and the international community.
When he launched his political campaign in January, Duque distanced himself from the ‘No’ campaign ideology, and said it wasn’t necessary to destroy the peace process, only to make major modifications in the agreement.
‘But even though he changed his discourse… we all know that’s not how it will be,’ said Cordoba.