If Colombia’s political leaders can’t urge their supporters not to interfere with rival candidates’ campaigns, we must let them know that this is a crucial for democracy.
Because even if we do not agree with a specific candidate, we do not have the right to impede people who think differently to listen to their political leader.
The election race in Colombia has degenerate to the point that somebody allegedly opened fire on the car in which presidential candidate Gustavo Petro was driving.
Hours before, Popayan residents ruined a rally of former President Alvaro Uribe.
Weeks before, demobilized guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londoño was almost lynched while on campaign.
Seventy years ago, the killing of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan spurred the most violent decade in Colombian history in which an estimated 200,000 were killed.
We must overcome this barbaric behavior. We can do this by being civilized.
Are we not democrats?
If we want Colombia to be a free democracy, and if we want to support democracy, freedom and peace in Colombia, we must stop putting our political beliefs before the most common of human rights.
Colombia’s constitution is clear when it says that “any group of individuals may gather and demonstrate publicly and peacefully. Only the law may specify those instances in which the exercise of this right may be limited.”
“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association,” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights confirms.
One could argue that a counter-demonstration falls under the same right, but how does that work if it ends in an exchange of violence?
In the end the counter-protests ended the right of both “uribistas” and “petristas” to peacefully listen to their political leader. People were injured. In the past, people have been killed.
Calling the candidates to order
Both Uribe and Petro have been the first to demand respect for the rights of themselves and their followers.
However, both have failed to demand their rivals be granted the same rights and the same respect. This is beyond hypocritical and generally the perfect prelude to violence.
The polarization promoted by the two is dangerous. Their failure to calm down emotions is irresponsible. It makes some falsely believe that their political conviction is more important than our fundamental rights.
Fortunately, there is no better time to make a politician listen to us than during an election campaign. We must demand they both defend the rights of their rivals. We can do so by email, on social media or when we take part in their rallies.
We must also must think again about our own behavior. I have seen too many people cheer Uribe’s rally being crashed in Popayan, and I have seen too many people justifying the violence in Cucuta.
We all believe we are right, and we all believe that what the other proposes is damaging. Democracy was invented to resolve these differences through a vote, not bashing in each other’s skull.
Colombia needs to move forward, and it needs the help of both the uribistas and the petristas.