Colombia | Freedom House

Countries at the Crossroads



Countries at the Crossroads 2005

2005 Scores

Accountability and Public Voice
(0 = WORST, 7 = BEST)


Civil Liberties
(0 = WORST, 7 = BEST)


Rule of Law
(0 = WORST, 7 = BEST)


Democracy in Colombia is affected by three major characteristics of the country - endemic violence, poverty, and a tendency not to enforce laws that have been passed. These three factors combine to produce a democratic regime that at times appears very advanced but which with more careful study demonstrates many weaknesses.

All dimensions of democracy in Colombia are affected by the rampant violence that the country suffers, especially outside Bogota and a few other major cities. When Alvaro Uribe Velez became president on August 7, 2002, the country had been suffering from violence for nearly 40 years. It can be traced to the 1960s, when two major Marxist guerrilla groups emerged: the Armed Forces of the Colombian Revolution (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia [FARC]) and the Army of National Liberation (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional [ELN]). Both groups have called for revolutions to end capitalism, redistribute income, and improve the lives of the poor. As the Colombian government had never established a national police force that was effective in all parts of the country, landowners set up self-defense or paramilitary groups to defend themselves from the guerrillas. These were approved by law between the early 1960s and the late 1980s. In the 1980s drug dealers joined many of them, making the paramilitary groups even more powerful. In 1997 the paramilitary groups organized nationally as the United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia [AUC]) under the leadership of Carlos Castano. Common crime added to the picture, with the result that Colombia has one of the highest indexes in the world of both homicides and kidnapping.

The National Planning Department gave a statistical picture of the Colombia that Uribe inherited in a comparison of the last two years of the presidency of Ernesto Samper (1996 - 1998) with the four years of the presidency of Andres Pastrana (1998 - 2002). Murders rose from 25,039 a year during the Samper presidency to 26,891 under Pastrana, while kidnappings increased from 2,068 to 3,106. Terrorist attacks increased from 744 to 944, and attacks on towns went from 90 to 130. The number of massacres likewise went up, from 114 to 176, and the number of victims of those mass murders increased from 607 to 1,013. Most dramatically, the number of internal refugees increased from 3,907 a year during the last two years of the Samper government to 41,355 a year during the four-year Pastrana presidency.[2]

Uribe rejected the peace approach of his predecessor, who had granted a demilitarized zone the size of Switzerland to the FARC. Instead, Uribe announced that his government would negotiate with any insurgent group that declared a cease-fire with the goal of demobilizing and turning in its weapons. At the end of 2002, the government signed a cease-fire with AUC, although its implementation was still not complete by September 2004, despite verification of the effort by the Organization of American States. Although 2,624 paramilitary troops demobilized during 2004, much remained to be done in the effort.[3]

Uribe's policies also included a strengthening of the Colombian military, with the assistance of aid from the United States. Indices of violence have gone down, while tourism within the country has become less dangerous. Colombians have started having more positive attitudes about their country.

Colombia is a poor country, with a per capita income in 2003 of US$1,810.[4] Furthermore, income is very inequitably distributed, with many people at the bottom living on less than US$1 a day and without government medical insurance, social security or unemployment benefits, or any kind of welfare. Politics are dominated by individuals of the middle- and upper-income groups, with poor people having only the right to vote for candidates chosen by the upper-income groups.

Formally the Colombian constitution specifies a long list of human rights, but in practice many of the rights are violated. In addition, international humanitarian rights are breached by guerrilla and paramilitary groups. Women and ethnic minorities have even more difficulty in securing their constitutional guarantees. While the Colombian government does not often interfere with press freedom, that liberty is seriously affected by the violence of the country. Until 2004, when only one journalist was killed, Colombia had one of the highest numbers of deaths of journalists in the world.[5] Journalists here regularly exercise self-censorship as a way to protect themselves.

Corruption remains a serious problem in Colombia. The Uribe government has made noises about being tougher on this issue; however, to this point few actions have been taken. An independent judiciary exists, but it is inadequately staffed and often spends time in disputes over jurisdiction. Elections are generally free and without fraud, although guerrillas maintain that the lack of real choice makes the voting meaningless.

Accountability and Public Voice: 

Colombians pride themselves on having one of the more democratic governments in Latin America. Indeed there were only three short dictatorships during the 19th century (only one of which was military) and only four years of military government during the 20th century. Nevertheless, before 1953 the regime was far from truly democratic, and repeated periods of violence culminated in a partisan conflict between the two political parties between 1946 and 1964. As a way to end the partisan violence, party leaders proposed a National Front government. After this was approved by the people in a plebiscite and by the congress as a constitutional amendment, power was shared equally by the two parties between 1958 and 1974. The presidency alternated every four years between the parties, and all elective bodies and appointed positions not part of the civil service were divided equally between them. While this clearly was not a democracy, it did lead to the end of the violence between the parties.

Since 1974 Colombia has come closer to the ideal of a democracy. Presidential elections have been held every four years, as have those for the Senate and since 1991 for the lower house of the national congress. Every election does include charges of fraud and intimidation of voters, but both major parties have seen their candidates elected to the presidency. Members of other parties are also elected to the national and departmental legislatures. Although the executive is clearly the strongest branch of government, Colombia's traditional democratic checks and balances have functioned more effectively than those in most other Latin American countries.

Political parties are granted government funds according to the number of votes received in the previous election, as well as private funds. The controls on the latter are weak; these funds allegedly include contributions from drug dealers, most notably in the 1994 election of Ernesto Samper. The lower house of congress debated Samper's impeachment as a result of these funds, but no vote took place, in part because so many of its members had also received monies from drug groups.

With increased democratization since the 1980s, including popular elections of governors and mayors, insurgent groups have expanded their power at the local level. There have been accusations that many politicians, including members of the national congress, are elected with the aid of paramilitary squads, drug dealers, or guerrilla groups.

President Uribe has proposed that the constitution be changed to allow immediate reelection of the president. Under the 1991 constitution, the president can serve only one term. This constitutional amendment passed the Colombian congress in the 2003 sessions and is being considered in 2004 (passage by congress in two consecutive years is one way to amend the constitution). Uribe's approval ratings have been very high - at 70 percent in mid-2004 - and it seems likely that, should the amendment pass, he will be a strong candidate in 2006. [Editor's note: The amendment passed on November 30, 2004, and the Constitutional Court considered its constitutionality in January 2005.]

The government publishes a daily record of pending legislation, laws passed, and new regulations. Since the constitution of 1991 the civic sector is less hampered by governmental regulation than before. However, there are accusations that some civic sector organizations are fronts for insurgent groups, hence affecting the climate in which all organizations can influence policy and causing at least tacit pressure on them. During the presidency of Andres Pastrana, for example, civic sector groups opposing his demilitarized zone for the ELN were charged with being fronts for paramilitary organizations.

The constitution provides for media freedom in Colombia. Recent Colombian governments, including that of Uribe, have done little to limit such freedom. Current laws allow journalists to criticize the government. Libel cases seldom go beyond the obligation to rectify a statement and rarely include a fine, although the Uribe government has proposed a law that would define libel so as to give more latitude to the government.

The media are private, without undue government influence on content. However, while some individuals could be imprisoned for stating their views, the greater fear is murder by groups opposing them. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that in the 10 years between 1994 and 2003, Colombia was second in the world (after Algeria) in the number of journalists killed (31),[6] although only one was killed in 2004. In addition, media ownership concentration among business people with ties to the government forces journalists to refrain from criticism of the government.[7] Hence, self-censorship is common.

In April 2004 a delegation of press-freedom organizations visited the northeastern city of Barrancabermeja, site of the largest oil refinery in Colombia and battleground between paramilitary and guerrilla groups. The delegation met with journalists, prosecutors, the local ombudsman's office, police and army commanders, and civilian authorities and concluded that a climate of intimidation existed for journalists. Reporters were threatened and in some cases attacked, most often with little protection from the police.[8]

Civil Liberties: 

The Colombian constitution grants many fundamental rights, including protection against disappearances, torture, and cruel, inhumane, or degrading punishment. However, in practice these rights are formal but not real. Human rights groups allege that the Colombian government violates human rights. According to Human Rights Watch, Colombia has more reported human rights and international humanitarian law violations than any other country in the hemisphere.[9]

The government denies these allegations, questioning the methodology of the human rights groups. It charges that guerrilla and paramilitary groups are the ones that violate rights in the country, and it alleges that, as human rights groups do not point out this fact, they are tacitly helping the insurgent groups.

In May 2004 Amnesty International (AI) charged that human rights violations were worsening in "security areas" of Colombia (those areas that the government has designated as having an especially high level of violence). While acknowledging that both kidnappings and the number of internal refugees were declining, AI added that government forces, paramilitary groups, and the armed opposition were guilty of massacring civilians. More than 3,000 civilians were murdered for political reasons and at least 600 disappeared in 2003. Despite government charges, the report did point out that both paramilitary and guerrilla groups were responsible for violations of international humanitarian law.[10]

Each year many Colombians are wounded, killed, or forced to flee their homes because of the violence of guerrilla and paramilitary groups. In 2003 some 250,000 citizens were displaced by the violence, bringing the number of displaced people in the country to 2.73 million, a total third-largest in the world behind the Sudan and Congo.[11] Still, improvements have taken place under Uribe. In July 2004 the Ministry of Defense reported that homicides were down 14.5 percent in the first two years of the Uribe government as compared to the last two of the Pastrana presidency, in addition to decreases in the number of victims of massacres and the number of terrorist acts.[12] Another Ministry of Defense report showed a significant drop in kidnappings in the first two years of the Uribe government.[13]

The Colombian state punishes military officers who violate human rights, including those who use torture. In the first half of 2004 some 500 officers were purged, not only for human rights violations but also for corruption and for connections to paramilitary groups.[14] The National Prosecutor's Office indicts officers for many offenses but without doubt does not detect all cases. Many officers have connections to the paramilitary groups, although it is unknown what proportion of the officer corps is so involved.

Arbitrary arrests occur. In February 2004 the Colombian nongovernmental organization (NGO) Permanent Assembly for Peace investigated the mass arrests that had been taking place. Using figures from the Defender of the People, the National Prosecutor's Office, and the media, the NGO found that 6,038 people were arrested in 203 cases between September 2002 and December 2003. Of those, 4,846 were arrested in the mass operations, of whom 3,750 were not indicted.[15]

Formally, Article 30 of the constitution grants individuals the right of habeas corpus, which is supposed to be resolved within 36 hours. The penal process guarantees trial within a set time period after legal arrest, and if the limit is not met, the individual has the right to be released. Drug dealers and white collar criminals take advantage of this right more than poor people do, as the latter are poorly educated and often are unaware of this right. Prison conditions are not humane, with inmates in some cases required to pay for basic needs such as food, clothing, and linens.

Colombians have the right to sue anyone who violates their human rights. The Constitutional Court reportedly had 600,000 such cases between 1999 and 2003, relating to heath, education, nutrition, and protection from violence.[16]

Formally the Colombian constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. Colombian women have the same literacy rate as men do (92 percent),[17] and their participation at all levels of the educational system is equal to that of males, including university education. Yet that equality does not extend to employment opportunities in either the public or private sector. Unemployment is higher for women, and those employed tend to be in inferior positions. As Senator Piedad Zuccardi has said, in Colombia, "formally there are laws, decrees, and norms in favor of women. Nevertheless, in real life one is not given an opening of spaces. That's why many women still think they are discriminated against."[18]

Law 581 of 2000 created mechanisms so that women might have adequate and effective participation in government. In maximum decision-making posts and other directive posts at the national, departmental, and municipal level, women have the right to a minimum of 30 percent of the positions.[19] Yet this law is not complied with in all parts of Colombia. In Cali, for example, of the 19 posts named by Mayor Apolinar Salcedo, only 3 were filled by women. The mayor's excuse was that, if he were to comply with the law, "it will fall to me to kick some men out of their jobs."[20]

The government has set up a Presidential Council for Women's Equity, within which is an Observatory of Matters of Gender (OAG). The OAG reported that while 53 percent of Colombian adults were female, women occupied only 46 percent of national ministries, 6 percent of departmental ministries, and 7.5 percent of municipal ministries in 2002 - 2004. Women held 12 percent of the national senate seats and 11 percent of the national house seats. In the private sector the unemployment rate for women was higher than it was for men. The report concluded, "Sexual stereotypes and roles assigned to women as well as to men still persist. They reinforce and reproduce ways of thinking, in the public sector as well as the private one."[21]

Colombian women are more affected than men by the violence in the country. AI alleges that all sides of the conflict - government troops, guerrillas, and paramilitary squads - have sexually abused and oppressed women. Women are targeted for a number of purposes, including to sow terror within communities, to force people to flee their homes, to take revenge on adversaries, and to accumulate "trophies of war." Rape and sexual mutilation are frequent.[22] Despite the gravity of the crimes against women, the perpetrators enjoy almost complete impunity.

Colombia has formal means to control the trafficking of children, such as a minor's needing the permission of both parents to leave the country or the permission of a judge when that of one parent is lacking. However, child prostitution remains a problem. Trafficking of women is much more difficult to detect as they can legally leave the country. Information campaigns attempt to prevent the acceptance of fraudulent contracts.

The Colombian people include mixtures of three racial strains. In the census of 1960, the first in which race was a question, 14 percent replied that they were white, 5 percent that they were Afro Colombian, and 1 percent Indian, while an additional 40 percent said they were mulatto and another 40 percent said they were tri-ethnic. No Colombian census since that time has included this variable. One contemporary expert estimates that 80 percent of Colombians are of mixed heritage.[23] The Colombian constitution of 1991 recognized Colombia as a multiethnic society for the first time. It gave indigenous people two seats in the Senate, to be filled by them as they see fit, and Afro-Colombians two members of the lower house of congress.

The situation of the indigenous people (defined in Colombia as individuals of indigenous ethnic background who still speak an indigenous language and dress in a traditional way) is dire. The 8 percent of the national population who live on reservations, which make up 30 percent of the national territory, have been devastated by both indiscriminate and selective murders, massive displacement, the forced recruitment of young people by insurgent groups, rape of the women, and the seizure of their land.[24] In September 2004, indigenous groups responded with a "Great Meeting for Dignity and Life," sponsored by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), and a "March for Dignity" in the southern department of Cauca, which had some 45,000 participants.[25] However, neither demonstration had the desired positive effects of encouraging government involvement to lessen adverse conditions.

Traditionally, members of the Afro Colombian community were defined as descendants of escaped slaves who had moved to isolated communities. Today, especially with the displacement of many Afro Colombians to the large cities because of the rampant violence, those descendants are found in all parts of the country, along with other people of similar ethnic background who have never lived in remote areas. They are estimated at about 10 million people, spread out across the country but concentrated in the major cities. While there is no legal discrimination against them and they have had some representatives in high levels of politics, Afro Colombians typically are of lower income, education, and social class.[26]

Over the last six years more forceful laws and regulations have been developed to enable a larger number of people with disabilities to gain equal access to education, public spaces, and the health and social security systems. However, these efforts have not had their full potential effect as they receive insufficient funds and are not high among the government's priorities.

The Colombian constitution states that citizens have liberty of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression. These rights are generally respected. While Colombia was traditionally a Roman Catholic country, in the past 20 years large numbers of citizens have joined other religions, including as many as 600,000 who have become evangelical Christians. While the Roman Catholic hierarchy is not controlled in any way by the government, and divorce has existed since the 1991 constitution, Colombians still observe numerous church holidays.

The constitution likewise recognizes freedom of association, including the right to form labor unions or associations as well as the right to form political parties, movements, and political groups and to publicize their ideas and programs. Generally speaking, labor union activities have been unfettered by the government, although laws limit the right to strike. Unions have been legally punished when they violate those laws. Union members are occasionally subjected to violence. However, generally speaking, the government does not use excessive force against worker demonstrations, and freedom of association is generally respected.

Rule of Law: 

The rule of law has never applied in all of Colombia. Even in early 2004, of the 1,096 municipalities in the country, more than 180 had no police. The major theme of the Uribe presidency has been to bring the rule of law to all parts of the country. After his election, Alvaro Uribe formulated an "integral strategy to win the war" in Colombia. A government-appointed commission prepared a "Report on Human Development Concerning Security and Justice" whose first major conclusion was that the war and justice are too serious to leave in the hands of generals and lawyers. Therefore, it stated, the government should manage security and justice. That demanded coordination among the entities that make up the system.

The report's insistence that the government should concentrate on fighting the armed groups, capturing the perpetrators of the worst crimes, and judging them, resulted in a change in the previous concentration of troops on combating illicit drugs, protecting hydrocarbons, and protecting highways. In the justice system, judges were to spend less time on cases having to do with the financial sector.

The Uribe policy was centered on two axes. The first was to regain control of the national territory through the creation of high mountain battalions (professional soldiers trained in special skills), of patrols of peasant soldiers (volunteers recruited by regional commanders in small towns) to assist the military and police, and of networks of cooperating individuals, based on rewards to informers. The second was a legal offensive with a declaration of internal disturbance, under which the government decreed a property tax (falling most heavily on businesses) and created two rehabilitation zones in which violence was particularly severe, necessitating greater military efforts and funds for recovery. The Constitutional Court approved the first declaration of internal disturbance but found its prolongation unconstitutional.

Some Colombians worried that the peasant soldiers would be no more than the newest incarnation of state-sponsored paramilitary groups. In the 1960s the Colombian government assisted paramilitary, or self-defense groups, to fight the guerrillas. While officially the government assistance ended in the late 1980s, human rights groups and others argue that a close connection remains. The government's response is that the peasant soldiers would not be allowed to maintain control of their weapons and they would always work under the orders of an officer from the military or police.

The security policy led to important qualitative achievements, such as travel for citizens during holidays in military-guarded caravans. A July 2004 Ministry of Defense report found dramatic increases in the number of paramilitary squads, guerrillas, and drug traffickers captured.[27] However, experts are divided about whether the FARC has in fact been defeated or if it has simply carried out a tactical retreat. In addition, some rights groups have reported that President Uribe has not managed to cut the ties between members of the security forces and paramilitaries.[28]

Colombia has both civil and military court systems. The Constitutional Court is the final step in judicial review of laws, while the Supreme Court judges public officials who are accused of misbehavior. The Council of State rules on the constitutionality of decrees, as well as being the last appeal for cases of administrative law.

The Colombian legal system is impartial and generally nondiscriminatory. However, the system has a class bias, with a greater likelihood of adjudication against members of lower-income groups than against the middle and upper strata. Likewise, security services have traditionally favored the rich. Police patrols are disproportionately more common in urban areas, particularly surrounding elite neighborhoods. In addition, the private security system that protects these people is larger than the public one, with no effective structure to supervise it.[29]

The judiciary is independent from the executive and legislature, and funding is not used to control them. Historically, judicial review has led to the upending of laws passed by the congress and decrees of the president; in fact, according to a communique signed by Supreme Court president Silvio Fernando Trejos, "It is very well known that the Constitutional Court makes pronouncements that overturn the legitimate functions of the executive and the legislature."[30] Judges at the higher level are elected by the congress in a fair manner. Lower-level judges, however, are often recent law school graduates who lack adequate training and experience.

The legal system suffers from both disagreements over functions and the inability to adjudicate all criminal cases. For example, in early 2004 the Supreme Court announced in a communique that it thought it necessary to "warn about the dangers to juridical order" if the Constitutional Court did not limit itself to its "specific functions." While the tensions between the two courts were not new, they reached a boiling point in March when the Constitutional Court declared that Supreme Court decisions could be appealed to the Constitutional Court. That was a "usurpation" according to Supreme Court justices.[31]

There is no doubt that many criminal cases in Colombia do not lead to arrest, indictment, trial, and verdict. In 2004 there were 923,000 unresolved cases from previous years. The Supreme Council of the Judiciary has said that between November 2001 and October 2002, 87.5 percent of the cases that entered the prosecutor's office were resolved, while that figure rose to 97.5 percent during the same months a year later.[32]

The prosecutorial system took new form with the constitution of 1991. Abandoning the Napoleonic law method, Colombia based the new system more on the U.S. model. However, the lack of adequate funding, as well as the wealth of some lawbreakers (notably the drug dealers), has made the complete implementation of the system difficult. Although a lawyer is appointed for defendants who are not able to afford one themselves, for minor offenses this is only a senior law school student who is uncompensated, thus being generally ineffective. The system is slightly more effective in the case of major offenses.

The right to private property is included in the Colombian constitution, and governments have expressed pride that the state has never nationalized property. However, during the current conflict the state is unable to protect individual rights to property, especially land in rural areas, from seizures by guerrilla and paramilitary groups. This is especially the case with the lands of indigenous people.

As part of his policy, in March 2004 Uribe proposed an "Antiterrorist Constitutional Reform." The reform had three parts. The first contained measures to prevent terrorism, including the ability of national prosecutors and officers of the police, National Security Department, and military to carry out searches without a warrant from a judge. The second part of the proposal created "Special Units of Judicial Military Police" that would operate in those areas of the country where there was no judicial authority and also could carry out searches without prior approval. The third part of the proposal stated that all inhabitants of Colombia would have to declare where they lived. The Uribe proposal was approved by the national congress but found unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court due to procedural irregularities.

Anti-Corruption and Transparency: 

The Uribe government has established a four-tier plan to fight corruption: inter-institutional coordination among the executive branch, the comptroller, the national procurator, and the national prosecutor; a regional strategy to include departmental and municipal governments in the same campaign; citizen control through transparency committees that ensure the legality and fairness of government operations (especially in bid awarding); and the promotion of a culture of legality.[33] While Colombian government documents demonstrate that intricate organizations and regulations have been set up in this campaign, actual results are not apparent.

The Colombian government is characterized by excessive bureaucratic regulations and, in many cases, low salaries that increase the probability of corruption. Furthermore, adequate protection against conflicts of interest is lacking. Hence it is not surprising that in 2003 the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development ranked Colombia the 59th most corrupt country of the 133 they rated.[34]

All government employees must make a notarized declaration of property and income. Laws against bribes exist, and there are frequent arrests, most of which are well reported in Colombian newspapers. While the procurator and the comptroller are charged with investigating corruption, the quantity of allegations overwhelms their abilities. Comptrollers also exist at departmental and local levels, but in many cases politicians have placed political friends in those posts, making this one of the most corrupt parts of the state apparatus. There are no adequate mechanisms for victims to pursue their rights. More positively, corruption does not affect higher education.

The magnitude of the problem was shown in a 2004 survey carried out by the Chamber of Commerce of Bogota. Among the findings of this questionnaire were that 50 percent of those who contracted with the government responded that the contracting process lacked transparency. In addition, 36.5 percent thought that the process favored the formation of a monopoly of contractors, and 32.1 percent believed that conditions of the bidding were changed to favor some bidders. While 47.4 percent thought that corruption was lower in the national government in 2003 than it had been in 2002, 63 percent believed that corrupt practices had increased in departmental and municipal governments. Finally, 34.1 percent affirmed that, in cases of bribery, it was the government official who suggested the payoff.[35]

At a meeting of top officials held in Bogota in August 2004, commendable statements were made, for example, about increasing internal controls and improving disciplinary action.[36] Unfortunately, to this point those words have not been accompanied with actions.

Sufficient transparency is lacking in public access to government information. Article 23 of the constitution guarantees the right to obtain information about the acts of the state. The government must reply to such petitions unless the information is classified for reasons of national security or for the confidentiality of judicial processes. Article 15 guarantees the right to know the personal information that data banks have collected about one. Legislative review takes place at some points of the budget-making process but is not comprehensive.

The administration and distribution of foreign assistance is handled by a state organization called the Colombian Agency of International Cooperation (Agencia Colombiana de Cooperacion International). However, the United States distributes aid directly through the Agency for International Development. In addition the Solidarity Network (Red de Solidaridad) administers special assistance in the case of natural disasters.

  • The contracting process with the government should be more transparent.
  • The government should devise an enforceable policy to identify and punish all government officials who violate anticorruption laws.
  • Through better identification, adjudication, and punishment, the government should strengthen and enforce laws that punish private individuals who participate in corruption.
  • The Colombian government should increase transparency in its activities, with open-meeting laws that allow the people to know more about its operations.
  • The Colombian government should intensify its efforts to sever all relationships between the armed forces and paramilitary groups.
  • The functions of the different judicial organizations should be made clear so resources are not lost in jurisdictional disputes.
  • Every effort should be made to lessen the backlog of criminal cases through allocating additional funds to the judicial system.
  • Special care should be taken so that the government's security policy does not lead to the loss of individual rights, including those of due process. Searches without prior judicial approval should be avoided.
  • The government should continue to curb violence through expansion of constabulary forces, while at the same time increasing the protection of civil liberties through a stronger court system.
  • The government should do more to ensure that the human rights that are listed in the constitution are a reality in the country through more effective protection of life and property for all Colombians, regardless of race or background.
  • The government should publicize women's employment rights in the private sector more effectively.
  • The government should protect women and children better from trafficking by increasing penalties and providing citizens with information on protecting themselves.
  • The government should do more to protect the indigenous communities from violence by providing greater protection for their rural settlements.
  • The Colombian government should do more to prevent fraud and intimidation of voters in elections, including providing for better protection of election sites.
  • The government should afford increased police protection for at-risk journalists.
  • The Colombian electoral commission should disqualify candidates with close ties to insurgent groups when there is no doubt of the connection.
  • The Colombian political establishment should take steps to counteract the advantages of incumbency before the next presidential election.
  • Libel laws, which currently require only that untrue statements be corrected, should not be changed, as this would hamper the freedom of the media.

[1] I would like to thank Armando Borrero, Monica Varela, and Julio Perez for their assistance in gathering information for this paper. Responsibility for the content, however, is mine.

[2] Cifras de violencia 1996 - 2002, Vol. 0, No. 1 (Bogota: Direccion de Justicia y Seguridad, Departamento Nacional de Planeacion, 2003),

[3] "Informe de balance desmovilizaciones colectivas 2004" (Bogota: Alto Comisionado para la Paz, 2004),

[4] "Colombia, Data Profile" (Washington, DC: World Bank, n.d.),

[5] "Journalists Killed in 2004" (Paris: Reporters without Borders, n.d.),

[6] "Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty: Statistics for 1994 - 2003" (New York: Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ], 2004),

[7] "Colombia: Attacks on the Press, 2003" (CPJ, 2004),

[8] "Colombia: Delegation finds climate of intimidation in Barrancabermeja" (CPJ, 28 July 2004),

[9] "Colombia" (New York: Human Rights Watch [HRW], January 2004),

[10] "Amnistia Internacional insiste en empeoramiento de DD.HH.en 'areas de seguridad' en Colombia," El Tiempo, 26 May 2004,

[11] "En el 2003, 250 mil colombianos fueron desplazados por la violencia, revelan en E.U.," El Tiempo, 28 May 2004,

[12] "Mindefensa rindio un parte positive," El Colombiano, 7 August 2004,

[13] "Secuestro extorsivo bajo 53 por ciento," Semana, 9 August 2004,

[14] "Silenciosa purga de militares en 2004 ha sacada de filas a medio millar de uniformados," El Tiempo, 11 July 2004,

[15] "Polemica por capturas masivas," El Colombiano, 19 February 2004,

[16] "25% de tutelas resueltas por la Corte Constitucional desde 1999 son por desatenciones en salud," El Tiempo, 3 August 2004,

[17] "Colombia, Data Profile" (World Bank),

[18] "Mujeres se sienten todavia discriminadas," El Tiempo, 26 August 2004,

[19] Margarita Maria Pelaez Mejia, "La ley de cuotas: un mecanismo para democratizar la democracia" (Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia, n.d.),

[20] "No se cumple la ley que exige un 30 por ciento de la participacion femenina en los cargos publicos," El Tiempo (Bogota), 26 January 2004,

[21] "Participacion politica de la mujeres en Colombia," Observatorio de asuntos de genero, May - August 2004,

[22] "Colombia: Women's Bodies a Battleground" (New York: Amnesty International [AI], 13 October 2004),

[23] "Manuel Zapata Olivella describe realidades de los afrocolombianos, la etnia mas sufrida en el pais," El Tiempo, 28 May 2004,

[24] "'La situacion de los indigenas es dramatica': ONU," El Espectador, 17 March 2004,

[25] "Asi fueron los primeros 20 kilometros de la marcha indigena por la dignidad, en el Cauca," El Tiempo, 14 September 2004,

[26] "La comunidad afrocolombiana," El Tiempo, 3 June 2004, It is not clear how the newspaper arrived at these figures, as "race" is not a census question.

[27] "Mindefensa rindio un parte positive," El Colombiano, 7 August 2004,

[28] "Colombia" (HRW, January 2004),

[29] "Seguridad democratica," Semana, 17 October 2004,

[30] "Continuan choque entre Cortes," Semana, 3 March 2004,

[31] Ibid.

[32] "Judicatura, Contraloria y Fiscalia presentan balances distintos de esta entidad," El Tiempo, 3 June 2004,

[33] "Programa Presidencial de Lucha contra la Corrupcion" (Bogota: Presidencia de la Republica, 2002),

[34] Eduardo Pizarro Leongomez, "Contrastes frente a la corrupcion: Dignidad e indignidad," El Tiempo, 24 October 2004,

[35] Eugenio Marulanda Gomez, Presidente de Confecamaras, "Encuesta de percepcion empresarial sobre corrupcion" (Bogota: Camara de Comercio de Bogota - PBEC, Foro, Corresponsabilidad del sector privado en la lucha contra la corrupcion, 4 May 2004),

[36] "Plan de choque contra corrupcion," El Tiempo, 20 August 2004,