Both candidates got almost 15 million of votes to remove President Iván Duque’s party and Uribismo, the conservative political movement he represents, from power. It was a cry of rebellion against traditional politics and corruption, but now most of those who supported the big loser of the day —Federico Gutiérrez— have gone en masse to support Hernández’s candidacy. The Petristas are nervous, because his candidate obtained two and a half million votes ahead, but with these movements from the right, his victory could vanish if the old machines prevail.
In that first round, the surprise was that Gutiérrez, a candidate from the government party and from other right-wing sectors, was defeated by Rodolfo Hernández, a septuagenarian businessman about whom little was known until a few months ago. The campaign of the former mayor of Bucaramanga has been based on pointing out his contempt for the traditional parties and, despite being criminally and disciplinary investigated for acts of corruption and being involved in scandals for two decades, he successfully raises the flag of “end the robbery”.
Hernandez was imputed in February 2020 for the crime of improper interest in the conclusion of contracts, after allegedly having induced one of his subordinates, when he was mayor of Bucaramanga, to award a garbage processing contract in favor of a group that his son Luis Carlos would receive a bribe of two million dollars. Hernández would have forced the legal director of the mayor’s office to validate the bail. When he refused, Hernández told him —according to a recording provided by the Attorney General’s Office to the file— that “the norm can say what it wants, the law does not matter.” The trial against him will begin on July 21.
Along with that accusation there are others, ranging from assaulting a citizen to slapping a councilman. And his talk about the role of women in society has gotten him into trouble recently. Hernandez’s true personality is that of a misogynist and violent. However, he tries to avoid public debate about his problems and prefers to use platforms like TikTok to show himself as a nice and uncomplicated old man, who does not want to know anything about traditional politics.
In addition, he has shown how shallow he is in his vision of the country, with ideas such as remove the exams admission to public universities or the extension of the working day to 11 hours a day.
He has also revealed his anti-democratic character after announcing that, if he wins, on his first day in office he will declare the state of inner shock —used in cases of “serious disturbance of public order” — to issue emergency decrees, bypassing Congress.
After the first round, the results of the polls showed Hernández unbeatable, after the adhesions he received from the right. But as the scandals became known, the predictions have begun to change and on Friday the 3rd a survey showed, for the first time, that Gustavo Petro was ahead of him by almost four points. In the following days, the campaign has heated up even more, as the polls show almost a technical draw between the two applicants.
Petro is a former guerrilla fighter who has broadened his political spectrum to include a wide variety of positions, all progressive, and has achieved very attractive signings after the first round. For example, the former presidential candidate and former mayor of Bogotá Antanas Mockus, patriarch of the political center and also intellectual mentor of the group that supported Sergio Fajardo, the candidate of the Centro Esperanza coalition who came in fourth place in the first round. Luis Gilberto Murillo, Fajardo’s vice-presidential candidate, has also joined Petro, bringing with him the support of sectors of the center and the center-right.
Murillo was also a minister in the governments of the Nobel Prize winner and former president Juan Manuel Santos, whose bishops also They’ve united to Petro. This is unrestricted institutional support for the efforts to build a stable and lasting peace in Colombia, one of the great flags of Petro since Santos achieved the deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a guerrilla that demobilized in 2016 after 60 years of struggle.
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Rodolfo Hernández has received support from the most stale of traditional politics, starting with the Uribistas, the great losers of the first contest. The entire conservative lineage —with former presidents Álvaro Uribe, Andrés Pastrana and César Gaviria to the head— is with Hernández although this has pointed out that, despite the endorsements, if he wins he will not give them prebends. The problem for the independent candidate is that this support ends up subtracting votes from those who supported him because they saw him as someone outside the status quo.
Until now, nothing is written and the final days of the campaign will determine if Colombians decide for a change that, in a sneaky way, means that the same traditional politicians will arrive behind the facade of an irreverent businessman, or if they will dare to elect a a revolutionary with profound ideas, supported by very important sectors of the institutional framework, who wants to shake Colombia from so many years of dissatisfaction, inequality and violence.
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Opinion | Alliances show who is who in the second round of Colombia