VOL. 6, NO. 6, PGS. 1–7


The Fallacy of Polarisation in Colombia
Polarisation as a Political Strategy
Egoitz Gago Antón

Egoitz Gago Antón is Professor and Director of the Masters in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.

This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy.

Polarisation has been a leading concept in the media and academic circles in Colombia for some years now. It is usually used to present an idea of prolonged, unacceptable, irreparable opposition and division in the country’s society. While some opposition and division may have occurred at some point in recent history, it is important to understand that the idea of polarisation that we observe in the media does not correspond to a description of the state of political debate, but rather to a deliberate strategy by one part of the ideological spectrum to delegitimise the other. In fact, political polarisation has not really existed in the history of Colombia. This assertion emerges from the analysis of three main points: a) what we understand by polarisation; b) the signs that reveal that polarisation does not exist today; and, finally, c) who are the beneficiaries of the use of the term and who are the victims of believing in a political situation that is not so. However, it is important to make it clear that affirming that there is no polarisation in Colombia does not imply that Colombian politics is a space where debates take place with civility. The Cainite character of political relations in the country, its misadventures, betrayals and corruption, is well known. However, speaking of polarisation puts a black ribbon on the very heart of the idea of politics. One problem with the use of this word is that its definition is not agreed upon, and there are even authors, such as Giovanni Sartori, who postulate the need for a certain difference between positions1. Even so, the notion of polarisation that is normally used implies opposing positions where there is a vision of the enemy and, therefore, strategies and actions aimed at eliminating that enemy. This notion corresponds to a classic polarising situation, marked by disqualification, hatred, insult and, in extreme situations, violence.

The violence that has existed in the Colombian context has hidden a characteristic of political polarisation that makes us doubt its existence in Colombian politics: actions aimed at eliminating the enemy have been unilateral. Disqualification and hatred do not come from either side of the ideological spectrum, but rather predominantly from positions of power, that is, from what we would call the political right. This assessment may be debatable, so for the sake of the reflection exercise that will follow, let us assume that polarisation characterised by the widespread use of political hatred has existed. If this were the case, how could one explain the processes and actions that have been taking place in recent years? —The signing of the 2016 peace agreement between the government and the FARC-EP, the emergence of new social demands by youth collectives, and the modernisation of the political process as seen in the last elections in 2022. All these processes and actions indicate the opposite, that polarisation at the political level does not exist. So why is the term polarisation so entrenched in the media and public opinion? The reason is purely strategic. The process of political normalisation has left the right wing without its most important weapon: the disqualification of the other. This has led to the emergence of “centre” options, in inverted commas, which, as might have been predicted —as witnessed in countries such as Spain, the UK and, more recently, Brazil— have seriously declined, if not disappeared.

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