January 27, 2023
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Separation of Church and State

Colombia is headed into a presidential election weighed down by the remnants of a peace treaty that hasn’t entirely cut it and is tangled by the puppet strings of the Catholic Church.

The historically conservative country’s most prominent internal conflict has never been with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It’s been with the inability to escape the very traditional — and somewhat hindering — ideals of the Catholic Church.

Although Colombia has multiple political parties, it almost works as a two-party system. One side of the aisle focuses on traditional family values and constrictive gender roles, largely opposes continuing peace negotiations with FARC and obstructs peace efforts to this day, backtracking years of progress.

On the other side of the aisle, we can find environmentalists, LGBTQ activists, socialists, labor unions and progressives. But they are too blinded by their pinhole agendas to work together to create cohesive and nonelitist policies and initiatives to help low-income families combat the effects of the peace treaty.

The economy, postconflict policies, Venezuela’s crisis and the resurgence in cartel culture in Colombia are contested topics in the upcoming election. That, and the debate over whether or not gay couples should be allowed to get married and adopt children, and the essential gender roles of women.

What is actually at stake is whether or not the people of Colombia will break the traditional model of conservatism imposed by the country’s massive cultural ties to religion.

There is a difference between Catholic values of “loving thy neighbor” and the imposition of despising difference and condemning poverty with social standards while making people believe their hard work will pay off and that their stagnant position in slums is God’s plan.

Conservative figures in the election like Alejandro Ordóñez, who represents the interest of former Presidents Álvaro Uribe Vélez and Andrés Pastrana Arango, argue that the restitution of the country is based on the return of the family — one that is not broken because Colombia’s entire value system is based on the family.

This rhetoric is a distraction. It is an attack and a disturbance of the actual problems at hand — horrible minimum wage, insane taxes that go nowhere, brewing conflicts with Venezuela, internal discourse over the reintegration of FARC members and attacks on abortion rights, the LGBTQ community and economic equality.

Isabella Grullón Paz can be reached at igrullon@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @isagp23