We Don’t Talk About Colombia

Who’s who and what’s at stake in the upcoming election.

Taru Anniina Liikanen
10 min readMay 7, 2022


Photo by Flavia Carpio on Unsplash

For the first time in a long while, Colombia will likely see political change. There are lots of intricacies in the election set to be held on May 29, but the competition is basically set between the two frontrunners of the March primary, Gustavo Petro and Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez.

While Petro is a former M-19 guerrilla member and the candidate of the progressive Pacto Histórico coalition, Gutiérrez’s candidacy has been cautiously embraced by the conservatives, under the leadership of influential former president Álvaro Uribe.

This election marks a difference from Colombia’s past, given that Petro is clearly ahead of Fico in the polls. It’s the first time since Uribe took over in 2002 that he might lose his shadow power, and the first time a progressive candidate could have a real shot at changing the country’s fate.

What’s Wrong with Continuity?

The first thing you need to understand about Colombia is that it’s a country at war. Colombia’s internal turmoil has been a major theme in the country’s political reality for decades, and there are many groups battling for power and money, mainly drug cartels, guerrillas and paramilitary groups.

The Cold War was the time when most of the region had succumbed to political violence. But when other major Latin American countries finally left this instability behind in the ’80s and ‘90s, Colombia’s war had already taken such a stronghold of the country it still hasn’t been eradicated.

As a result of the chaos, what people wanted in the early oughts was security. After decades of the war against the guerrilla essentially not going anywhere, Colombians wanted to be able to travel through their country without being abducted, to step outside without fear of violence.

A man called Álvaro Uribe provided them with what they were looking for: order. And he kept his promise. Unlike many Colombian presidents before him, Uribe returned people’s faith in the armed forces and put the focus on the fight against the guerrillas.

When the government ran out of guerrilla fighters, though, they still wanted to show off their victories. In



Taru Anniina Liikanen

Finnish by birth, porteña at heart. Recovering political ghostwriter and comedian. Bad jokes my own.