This article assesses the state of democracy in Colombia stressing the strong tension between form and substance. Although there are institutions that create the appearance of a consolidated democracy, these are immersed in a milieu that undermines their legitimacy. We maintain that the main threats to Colombian democracy come from two sources. There are "external" threats related to the actions of diverse illegal armed actors such as paramilitaries, guerrillas, and drug lords. Additionally, there are "internal" factors, specially those created by the lack of checks and balances that result from president Uribe's tenure. Our assessment focuses on political institutions and citizens perceptions of them.