Finally Peace in Colombia!

Dear friends,

today we have something to celebrate: Peace in Colombia (see e.g., Guardian)!

I feel personally much relieved. After being engaged in Colombia for almost twenty years in the field of moral-democratic education, Colombia has become my third home country (beside my native Germany and the US, where I have many close friends since when I graduated from high school there).

I also feel a little proud that the Colombian president won the Peace Nobel Prize.

Many Colombian citizens have been engaged in the peace process in all parts of the country. I got to know some of the  Colombians who have relentlessly worked for ending the longest civil war in modern history. It started in 1948 when the popular political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was murdered during his campaign for presidency.

I believe that without the rigorous democratization of the Colombian constitution, this peace would not have been possible. Since 1991 the president, the governors and the majors are directly elected by the people without any pre-selection by political parties and primaries which favor the rich and the influential people. In Colombia nobody decides whom the people are allowed to vote for. The new constitution has made it possible for  man and women of high moral integrity and democratic competence to enter politics. The economy is soaring and will be doing even better now, since the country is fully freed from warfare.

Antanas Mockus, for example, a former professor of mathematics and philosophy ran as an independent for major of Bogotá with not more than 800 Dollars campaign money, all his own. After being elected he was indebted to no investment bankers and no associations but only to the citizens of Bogotá. Good government, he believes, rests on three pillars: traditional administrative power, the arts, and morality. He changed many things to the better, as I could witness: The waste in the streets was removed. On Sundays he closed the big streets for cars and opend them for pedestrians and bikers. Friday nights became ladies night: men were not allowed in bars. Bus drivers were taught by colorfully dressed mimes to stop blocking the traffic. Taxi drives learned to obey traffic laws by citizens who showed them the “red card”, which Mockus had let distribute. He let a TV station film him when he took a shower in order to show the citizens how to save water. He offered the police officers of Bogotá free summer school at an elite university. When the parlament of Bogota refused the money for putting up lights in the streets, he asked the people to donate extra money when they paid their tax bills, and many did, so that he could make the streets a safer place. …

Surely, sometimes there are crooks among the candidates and some get elected. But as far as I know they were eventually driven out of their office. By and large, I feel, the voters in Colombia have a good sense of the candidates’ decency. I think that the voters in our countries have such a good sense, too — if their sense was not distorted by an undemocratic voting system.

We can learn a lot from Colombia as far as democracy is concerned.