The inevitability of Iván Duque

By bogotapost June 16, 2018

Image courtesy of @IvanDuque

In Ituango, Antioquia, a curfew was observed daily between 6pm and 6am in the morning, a time when even the police hid in their fortress in the town square behind deeply-dug trenches. It was established that during this time members of the FARC, the formerly armed Marxist group that had fought the government for 50 years, would lay out mines to ensure the people remained aware who was in power within the region.

These weren’t just historical scenes. They were not from the 80s, nor from the 90s. This was as late as 2016 when the region was still within the ironclad grip of the FARC. As a result of the oppressed atmosphere that the conflict had wrought on the city, the majority were drawn to the aggressive wargames of former President Álvaro Uribe.

That desire for personal security and public order has been on the minds of many in Colombia who have lived through years of violence and fear. It is this desire that has drawn many towards the fresh-faced Iván Duque.

At a lunch held for his supporters, Uribe put his case to The Bogotá Post for why Duque would make an excellent president: “I’m very seduced by a secure country with respect for the law, a country that pushes greatly for private enterprise and that, at the same time, has a sound social policy.”

This seduction isn’t limited to Uribe alone. Much like the people of Ituango, a large number of Colombians too are seduced and are likely to contribute to Iván Duque’s inauguration as Colombia’s youngest president.

And when poll numbers increasingly point in Duque’s favour, it has for some begun to feel less like an election and more like a coronation.

Duque not only has the numbers on his side, he has now quietly accrued the confidence of private enterprises and media outlets as well. The trade group CGN (National Trade Guild) recently endorsed him and newspaper El Tiempo also spoke out in favour of him.

“In a polarized society, it is necessary to return to the civilized dialogue of ideas and the construction of a consensus. It is not easy, but only someone with little baggage will be able to build bridges and bury the hatred that hinders the march towards a better future,” the El Tiempo editorial stated, arguing that Duque’s inexperience ought not be a deterrent in voting for him.

Duque has also had the benefit of having both the help of the political establishment while benefiting from an anti-incumbent sentiment. President Santos is now highly unpopular and, by offering economic respite from Santos’ policies, Duque has been able to take advantage of the president’s unfavourability.

Duque may also benefit from the dissatisfaction towards the peace accord, which many see as focused on providing impunity to former guerrillas.

Earlier this month, Duque insisted to The Bogotá Post that his party isn’t against the peace process but hopes to ensure that the victims and the perpetrators see justice. As for the reintegration zones, Duque said that the Centro Democrático were “going to support the investment that the government is doing in the zones that were affected by violence. So that puts me in the centre of not destroying the peace accords, but making the right modifications that ensure that the victims have the right reparation.”

For those that fear the return to uribismo, the mere possibility that the former President could return to the executive is enough to turn them off voting for either Duque or en blanco. “A vote en blanco is a vote for Duque” was a sentiment many who spoke to The Bogotá Post shared. Others making more sober analyses prefer to ask the question “how much damage could President Duque do and to what extent will his presidency be a return to the years of Uribe?”   

On Sunday the number of sedans with blue placards reading “Duque/Martha Lucia” will reach their peak and a victory for the duo won’t be a surprise to many in the country. For some time, the idea of a President Duque has been an inevitable one.

With reporting by Arjun Harindranath and Sophie Foggin.