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Colombia already chooses the next president in the ballot, a dispute between Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernández

Colombia began this Sunday the voting day for the presidential ballot between the leftist Gustavo Petro and the outsider Rodolfo Hernández.

Polls show center-leftist Gustavo Petro and upstart Rodolfo Hernández -both former mayors- practically tied since they outscored four other candidates in the initial May 29 election in which none received enough votes to win, forcing a runoff.

Some 39 million people are eligible to vote on Sunday, but abstention has been above 40% in every presidential election since 1990.

The Colombians are voting amid widespread discontent by rising inequality, inflation and violence. Disgust for the conditions in the country is such that in the first round voters turned their backs on the usual centrist and right-wing politicians and chose two newcomers to the political scene.

The official ballot with the two candidacies. AP Photo

Face to face

Petro, a 62-year-old senator, is in his third presidential campaign. A victory for Petro would end the long-standing marginalization of the left by voters due to its perceived association with the nation’s armed conflict. Petro was once a rebel of the now-defunct M-19 movement and was granted amnesty after being jailed for his involvement with the group.

Petro has proposed ambitious pension, tax, health and agriculture reforms, and changes to the way Colombia fight against drug cartels and other armed groups. He got 40% of the vote in last month’s elections and Hernández 28%, but the difference narrowed quickly when Hernández began to garner anti-PT votes.

Petro could become the last political victory of the left in Latin America fueled by voters’ desire for change. Chile, Peru and Honduras all elected leftist presidents in 2021, and in Brazil, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is leading the polls for this year’s presidential election.

Meanwhile, Hernández, 77, who made his fortune in real estate, not affiliated with any major political party and has rejected alliances. His austere campaign, conducted primarily on TikTok and other social media platforms, was self-funded.

Rodolfo Hernández shows his vote.  AFP Photo

Rodolfo Hernández shows his vote. AFP Photo

His proposals are based on the fight against corruption, which he blames for poverty and the loss of state resources that could be used for social programs. He wants to reduce the size of government eliminating several embassies and presidential offices, converting the presidential palace into a museum, and reducing the use of the executive’s aircraft fleet.

Hernandez resurfaced at the end of the first-round campaign, outperforming more conventional candidates and surprised many when he finished in second place. He has faced controversies, such as saying that he admired Adolf Hitler and then apologizing that he was referring to Albert Einstein.

The candidate Gustavo Petro.  AFP Photo

The candidate Gustavo Petro. AFP Photo

two looks

Silvia Otero Bahamón, professor of Political Science at the Universidad del Rosario, said that, although both candidates are populists who “have an ideology based on the division between the corrupt elite and the pure people,” everyone sees their fight against the establishment differently.

“Petro relates to the poor, ethnic and cultural minorities of the most peripheral regions of the nation, that are finally taken into account and invited to participate in democracy”, explains Otero. While Hernández’s people “are more ethereal, they are the people who have been defrauded by politicking and corruption. It is a looser people, which the candidate reaches directly via social networks.”

Surveys show that the vast majority of Colombians believe that the country goes in the wrong direction and disapproves President Iván Duque, who was not eligible to seek re-election. The pandemic set back the country’s anti-poverty efforts by at least a decade. Official figures show that 39% of Colombians lived on less than $89 a month last year, a slight improvement from 42.5% in 2020.

The looming shift away from traditional presidential politics has sparked fears in some in this conservative country, mostly Roman Catholic. Many base their decision on what they don’t want, rather than what they do want.



“A lot of people say `I don’t care who is against Petro, I’m going to vote for whoever represents the other candidate, no matter who that person is,'” said Silvana Amaya, a senior analyst at firm Control Risks. it works backwards. Rodolfo has been portrayed as that crazy old man, communication genius and extravagant character of whom some say `I don’t care who I have to vote forbut I don’t want him to be my president.

Both men will have a hard time keeping their promises since neither has a majority in Congress, which is key to carrying out the reforms.

In recent legislative elections, Petro’s political movement won 20 seats in the Senate, a relative majority, but would still have to make concessions in negotiations with other parties. Hernandez’s political movement only has two congressmen in the House of Representativesso he would also have to seek agreements with legislators, whom he has alienated by repeatedly calling them “thieves.”

Source: AP and AFP


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