EFEBy Irene Escudero Bogota

The optimism about a potential end to Colombia's decades-old armed conflict that surrounded the 2018 election has evaporated over the past four years.

As citizens head to the polls for the first round of presidential balloting on Sunday, growing territorial control by illegal armed groups and near-daily massacres and murders of social leaders have dashed those former hopes for peace.

"(Conservative President Ivan) Duque is leaving behind a country in flames," Daniela Garzon, a researcher at the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Pares), told Efe.