Democracy and Colombia: “They have lost respect for us”

Protest during the National Strike/Plaxy/Creative Commons

The recent electoral process in Colombia has demonstrated that our democracy has fallen to a very low point.

People on all sides, are voting against a candidate out of fear. Political parties have been completely replaced by personality cults. Candidates are no longer statesmen, but rather, influencers. Politicians representing more of the same are shamelessly heralding their supposed advocacy for change.

Outrageous and criminal behaviors from all sides are condoned by followers. No one apologizes, no one steps aside, no one loses any votes.

We are lied to, expected to vote for wrongdoers, and kept in the dark as a nation. Colombians have voted for candidates that clearly do not represent us for president and for congress. Scandals of corporate bribery at the highest levels are put aside and never properly prosecuted.

Democracy is lacking when each of the mayor news outlets belongs to a family with enormous financial and industrial power, at a national or regional level. The same group that has invested interests in keeping tailor-made regulations, monopolies, contracts for public infrastructure, tax benefits and information privileges, has also the power to erode public trust and support from those in office through their own influential newspaper, radio, or television network.

Many journalists are mere pawns, participating in this debate with clear political or big corporate agendas. Most people will be glad to hear what they want to hear, but the public knows they cannot rely on the media.

Society doesn’t matter to big media anymore. Decency is a tagline; honesty is a hashtag; “fair and balanced” is a cliché.

Journalists who try to uncover scandals, must do so through small personal web pages, and they are labeled as communists, or being politically biased or tainted.

Big business is curiously comfortable. No increase in foreign exchange rates could suggest that powerful and well-informed business leaders have a certain sense of trust in that this situation will not affect them as much as one could think. Enormous hostile takeovers are taking place while hundreds are talking about leaving the country.

Why is all of this occurring? How did we fall so low as a nation?

Let me try to explain why: politicians, the media and big business have lost respect for our society.

It is as simple as that. The do not care for us. They do not feel that we deserve to be told the truth. They feel that they are entitled to run the country in any way that suits them. We, the public, are not part of the equation anymore.

I believe that it is time to do something about this before it is too late (if it is not already too late).

The nation must come together and claim once again the right for a solid and transparent democracy, a right for a visible rule of law. Before getting into the necessary discussions of right- and left-wing choices, this nation must become a true democracy first.

Colombians gave up on politics many years ago. It is seen as the business of shady characters. It is an activity full of threats for decent persons who don´t know how to survive in such a treacherous and devious world.

But this fear of politics has hurt Colombia way too much. If nothing changes, there will be a hefty price to pay.

The solution is to get the nation back into politics, in an organized, modern, and transparent fashion.

Colombia must build new political parties with national and regional structures. These parties need a well-thought ideological proposition.

Political parties should once again be the place where respectable leaders, thinkers and public administrators are groomed and supported, through specialized organs. Procedures must be in place to hold them accountable when they do not perform properly.

They should have organs for wide participation of the community at national, regional, and local levels.

Organized political parties must exercise influence and power above individuals. They must be the stronghold of democracy, by living up to its principles. They must be the true representatives of their members.

Modern and fresh political parties, I believe, are the only option for building a true, transparent, and participative democracy. This is the only option for the rule of law.

This is the only option that we have if we are to be respected as a society.

If democracy is still a choice, the time is now.

About the author: Jorge Ortiz is a lawyer and MBA. He is a consultant to management.