The Relevance of the Colombian Elections for Latin America

The participation of several politicians demonstrates the relevance of the Colombian elections in the region.

Colombia's flag

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LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: La relevancia de las elecciones colombianas para Latinoamérica

Colombians have their next date with democracy next Sunday, June 19. Voters will choose between the leftist Gustavo Petro and the independent, who has the full support of the right, Rodolfo Hernández. Both candidates are unorthodox to Colombian democratic history, accustomed to traditional politicians.

The two candidates who make it to the second round alive have carried the flags of change, despite the fact that both have the support of traditional politicians behind them. His little orthodoxy and his talk of change are what most worry the international markets. They do not know with which candidate there will be greater institutionality and stability

Despite the fact that several governments defend the right to self-determination of peoples and prefer not to participate in the internal politics of a neighboring nation, the Colombian elections have been marked by winks, attacks, and direct interference by foreign politicians.

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The first, notorious, was made by the recently inaugurated president of Chile, Gabriel Boric. Precisely during his possession, one of the most striking guests was Gustavo Petro, leader of the Pacto Histórico. The presence of the former mayor of Bogotá contrasted with the absence of the Colombian president, Iván Duque.

But this has not been the only intervention in favor of the Petro candidate. A few days ago, the current Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, defended the Colombian candidate due to attacks from critics and the opposition. AMLO highlighted the similarity between the discourse of fear that the leader of Morena had to face as a candidate and also the former M-19 guerrilla.

Now, not everything has been as praise or defense of Gustavo Petro, there has also been an obvious interference in the Colombian elections as criticism of the candidate. María Elvira Salazar, a United States congresswoman, assured that the possible next president of Colombia "is a thief, a socialist, a Marxist, a terrorist, and he is leading the polls for president of Colombia."

Due to this evident political participation in Colombia, the question is obvious: Why are the Colombian presidential elections so important in Latin America?

The answers are several. In economic matters, Colombia is one of the main trading partners of the United States. Its export of oil, coffee, and coal make Colombia one of the 5 economic powers in the region and the third-largest market, only behind Brazil and Mexico, in Latin America.

Likewise, the elections in Colombia also have symbolic relevance. If Gustavo Petro wins, there would be a ratification of the socialist turn that the region is experiencing. With upcoming elections in Brazil and with Lula da Silva as the favorite, we would be on the verge of the first time in history that all the great Latin American powers and economies have socialist governments: Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela. 

However, the importance of Colombia is greater in strategic matters. First, it is the main producer and exporter of cocaine in the world. This makes it of primary interest to the United States. Likewise, it is one of Washington's greatest allies, both militarily and diplomatically. It has served as a base of operations for foreign interests in Venezuela and one of the biggest beneficiaries of international aid from the northern country.

Precisely, Colombia has also been an important protagonist in the Venezuelan migration crisis, receiving nearly 2 million refugees from the Caribbean country. It has also served as an exit step for Venezuelan opposition leaders.