Colombia’s Elections and Consolidation: Moving Beyond FARC and the Paramilitaries?
After significant improvements in Colombian security over the past decade, President Juan Manuel Santos has increased focus on social progress, unveiling a series of social and economic changes addressing issues from poverty reduction to land reform. While emphasizing these important reforms, President Santos has also worked to continue the fight against urban crime, the leftist guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the criminal networks that have emerged after the demobilization of the paramilitaries. With municipal elections just around the corner, expectations for the Santos administration continue to grow as many in Colombia wonder if the positive changes achieved will continue or if additional security and social challenges will once again overwhelm the state’s capacity.
On October 21, the Latin America Initiative at Brookings hosted a discussion on the current achievements and challenges ahead for the Santos administration. Panelists included Brookings Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown; Adam Isacson, director of the Regional Security Policy program in the Washington Office on Latin America; Virginia Bouvier, senior program officer at the United States Institute of Peace; and Claudia López, a prominent Colombian journalist now at Northwestern University. Senior Fellow Kevin Casas-Zamora, interim director of the Latin American Initiative at Brookings, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.
After the program, the panelists took questions from the audience.
Senior Program Officer, Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution
Senior Associate for Defense Oversight - Washington Office on Latin America
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The Duque government’s drug policy in Colombia is taking on a progressively ominous and counterproductive direction. It threatens to undermine the incomplete and struggling peace process, misdirect law enforcement resources, augment the alienation of coca farmers from the state and undermine human rights and drug users’ access to health services in Colombia. With their emphasis on criminalization of even drug possession for personal use and forced eradication, the announced policies clearly cater to the Trump administration’s doctrinaire and discredited drug policy preferences that harken back to the 1980s. But without sustainable livelihoods already in place, forced eradication will not sustainably reduce coca cultivation and cocaine production. The dominance of zero-coca thinking in Colombia whereby a community has to eradicate all coca first before it starts receiving even meager assistance from the state never produced positive results in Colombia.