This upcoming Sunday, May 27th, will be my first time to vote in the presidential elections of my home country, Colombia. With shame, I must admit that I have been part of the 50% of the population that has failed to be part of the democracy. However, in my defense, it wasn’t only because of lack of interest, but also logistics.
I turned 18 in the 1998 elections, but I didn’t receive my official ID to vote on time. In 2002, I forgot to register to vote in my neighborhood, so I was supposed to go to the main hub of the capital. But the night before, I had a party that extended well into the wee hours. Needless to say, the hangover incapacitated me.
For the 2006 elections, I was already exiled in the United States. At that time, the closest consulate was in Miami, but I couldn’t get the time off work. In 2010, my mother-in-law passed putting my life on standby. And in 2014, even though a new consulate was opened in Orlando, I didn’t have the new ID required.
With all this in mind, last March 27th–the last day allowed for registering to vote–I made the effort to drive two and a half hours in rush traffic from Jacksonville to Orlando so I could make it before they closed at five p.m.
I must sincerely thank our diplomatic officials for their sacrifice of working overtime during the registration process. Their regular hours end at two p.m.
As we left the building, my husband asked me, “Why is it so important for you to vote in these elections?” I told him that, in addition to twenty years of voting frustration, I truly believe that Colombia–besides its chronic polarization between left and right–is near the cliff to re-live the terrorism era of the drug cartels boom in the 80’s and 90’s unless the new president faces this threat.
The alarming increase of illicit coca crops and the current corruption epidemic within the government and judicial branches are the perfect conditions for a mega-storm. The ghosts of the drug lords passed are waiting to reincarnate and destroy the legal economy of the country.
Nonetheless, what worries me the most is that many of my countrymen and women have forgotten those decades of blood and fear. And even more, the young population believe the “Narcos” are just characters of the Netflix blockbusters.
The re-activation of new and more sophisticated cartels that are taking control over the port of entry to Europe, Algeciras, is the one of the most recent examples of this ongoing trend. According to the Spanish Secretary of the Interior, Juan Ignasio Zoido, the Gibraltar Campo is known today as “The Little Medellin.”
I can’t forecast who will be the new Colombian president. I can only hope my vote counts for the winner. I also hope the process is legitimate so the losers accept their defeat with honor instead of ripping the country apart with conspiracy theories of voting fraud.
The new leader needs to grab the bull by the horns and eradicate the outlet of drug trafficking in Colombia. Otherwise, the dissidents of Farc and other outlaw groups will continue to finance their war enterprises, keeping the peace suffocated behind a smoke curtain.
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