I can’t sleep. It’s not yet 4:00 a.m. but I’ve been up for several hours as I await Colombia’s presidential elections. On one side, camouflaged, sit Colombia’s traditional elites, the corrupt billionaire class owned media, the Colombian state and the United States intelligence community backing a version of the Simpson’s Mr. Burns, a man proud of having cheated the poor as the best way to increase his fortune, who promises to increase their work day to ten hours and reduce their lunch to half an hour, who proudly refused to ransom his daughter from who knows whom (the insurgency he accuses always proudly admits their kidnappings but have denied involvement), who has publicly proclaimed his admiration for Adolf Hitler, and who, despite being under serious investigation for numerous instances of corruption, predicates his campaign on, the battle against corruption and impunity.
Their candidate combines all the negative qualities of Donald Trump (his personality and tendency to boast), Joe Biden (his ineptitude and corruption, including a Hunter clone as a son), Brazil’s Jair Messias Bolsonaro and the Philippine’s Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Perhaps even a trace of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. To the extent the foregoing have positive qualities, he shares none and yet, the United States’ style corporate media’s total support and potential electoral fraud have made him a potential victor.
The conclusion that the foregoing has reinforced is that politics today is not about left versus right, but about deep state power, that combination of government functionaries and a corrupt news media in service to the billionaires who own them, against anyone who threatens their hold on power, whether from the right, as Donald Trump did in the United States, or from the left as Bernie Sanders pretended to do in the United States and Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego, a leftist populist in Colombia is seeking to do now. But also that deep states are chameleons with no problem, despite blatantly obvious facts, in presenting themselves as the vehicles for change and the champions of the fight against themselves, i.e., the utterly corrupt traditional wielders of power.
It is hard to imagine two more different people that Donald Trump and Gustavo Petro, whether measured by temperament, background or policies, except that both advocate avoidance of armed conflicts and runaway defense spending, and both challenge the status quo, but the weapons used against each are virtually identical. A 24/7 media campaign of distortions and outright lies designed to generate fear, loathing and hate; a vote for anyone but them philosophy, regardless of how horrible; and, a profound belief that you do not have to fool all of the electorate all of the time (paraphrasing Lincoln) but only enough of the electorate during election days. Cynicism is the key, cynicism tied to gullibility. And gullibility is not synonymous with lack of education or cognition, it works regardless of education or intellect.
As was true during the epoch of Gaius Julius Caesar two thousand and sixty years ago, the most evil among us describe themselves as the “boni” (the good), while those who seek to improve the lot of the vast majority are cast as evil. Apparently, it is all too frequently true that the more things change, the more they stay the same, but “all too frequently” is not the same as “always”. Much of Latin America has woken and smelled the roses, or at least the coffee, and corrupt regimes have been ousted, at least temporarily, in Honduras, Uruguay, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Brazil and Colombia may seek to join them. The voters in Ecuador thought they had, only to have United States intelligence agencies stem the tide with bundles of cash. As they so often do, everywhere, including in the good old USA.
So, in about twelve hours (it’s now 5:00 a.m.) we’ll see whether as it did in 1970, the Colombian deep state with United States assistance will succeed in stealing a presidential election, or whether too many Colombians refused to be intimidated into accepting large scale electoral fraud, much more difficult in Colombia than in the United States. We require voter identification and ballot delivery only at monitored electoral sites, … But not impossible: Colombian electoral authorities have refused to abide by legal requirements that electoral participants be allowed to audit electoral software, a tactic copied from United States practices in 2020.
So, like many others in Colombia, both the wise and the deluded, I pass a sleepless night wondering what tomorrow will bring, what the next four years will bring. Even if democracy prevails, as the United States saw during the period which started in 2016, deep states never sleep, and never surrender, and there is absolutely nothing they won’t do to stay in power.
But where there’s life, there’s hope, and there’s still quite a bit of life left here.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2022; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at email@example.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at https://guillermocalvo.com/.