This was a watershed year for Colombia, and as 2017 is about to leave us, I feel grateful to have reached this final editorial in good spirits and good health. And I wish you all the same for the year ahead. Even though these lines could be filled with a litany of doom and gloom over the peace process, state of the economy, and sadly, tragedies such as the avalanche in Mocoa that struck last April (result of excessive rainfall), I generally feel that by the time we reach this point in the year, what has been said – or in our case, written – is best left now to posterity. So, if there’s a moment to look ahead with a little more optimism than we’ve been used to during these last twelve months, then this is as good a time as ever.
Colombia has a wealth of potential waiting to be enjoyed by the outside world: from tourism opportunities with the post-conflict to investment in rural development, bilingual education and sustainable agriculture. On several recent trips to remote areas of this country, once bastions of the FARC guerrilla, I was overcome by a sense of tranquility, always made to feel welcome by the locals, and impressed by the fast pace with which opportunities are being embraced by those whose livelihoods were affected by the militants.
I was virtually disconnected for days on end, as cellphone service was intermittent or non existent. And what a relief not receive a notcation of yet another ghastly suicide bombing or terror threat on an airline. Surrounded by thick rainforest and entertained by flocks of tropical birds, I felt far removed from that Colombia I had grown used to: a country where at any bend in a river you could be stopped by the guerrilla and taken. A country where you really couldn’t enjoy a walk in the countryside because there was always someone whispering “it’s not safe” or “best to go there with the army.” In fact, there was not one menacing soul, no soldiers seen manning checkpoints, just vast waterways, where, occasionally, a long boat would chug past us, with passengers waving from the other side of the river.
Next year Colombians get to have a definitive say on the future of the peace process when they head to the polls in a presidential election. A democratically elected change in our leadership is necessary to breath new life into a process that has become mired in debates over amendments to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), and concerns that paramilitaries, guerrilla dissidents and other illegal armed groups are filling the void left by FARC.
It would be a great miscarriage of history if populist rhetoric convinces a disgruntled electorate that a past of violence and retribution is somehow more just to ordinary Colombians than peace. Let’s hope we don’t fall prey to dirty campaigning, misinformation and fear mongering by both sides. I am optimistic about the year ahead and all the great stories waiting to be told about this country. Far too often I just feel there’s never enough time with our monthly newspaper and website to re- port from the so-far unseen Colombia – those places we’ve heard are magical, abundant in their biodiversity, and still protected in time.
Every December, when I wrap up the final edition of the year, I can only give thanks to all of you for taking the time to read us, follow us and like us. María Claudia and I also want to thank all our advertisers for their loyal sup- port during what has not been an easy year for any companies doing business in this country. Muchas Gracías. And now, without much ado, we want to extend special holidays greetings to all, have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!