Former Mayor Rodolfo Hernández, barely known and with an apparent little chance of success at the polls, surprises by going to the second round
The elections in Colombia were marked by surprise. The results of the electoral process showed a change with respect to what the polls of the last weeks reflected. They put the leftist Gustavo Petro as the favorite – that’s how it finally happened – and Federico ‘Fico’ Gutiérrez behind; Nothing is further from reality. The polls propelled an “outsider” to second place – as he himself admits – what is known as an unknown competitor with little chance of success. Who is that character? Rodolfo Hernández, a 77-year-old millionaire engineer with a strong campaign on social networks – he calls himself the “king of Tik-Tok” – and without a hair on his tongue.
With hardly anyone believing in his chances of reaching the House of Nariño, according to the polls, his strong personality and the populist campaign of the movement that he himself created (Liga de Gobernantes Anticorrupción) gave him close to six million votes (around to 28.15% of the vote), displacing ‘Fico’ to the right and thus managing to dispute power with the left in a second round.
Hernández was born in 1945 into a working-class family. Married to Socorro Oliveros, he has four children: Rodolfo José, Mauricio, Luis Carlos and Juliana. She was kidnapped in 2004 by the National Liberation Army guerrillas, who demanded two million dollars in exchange for her release. His father refused to pay because he thought it would encourage further kidnappings, and his daughter has been missing ever since. Hernández began an unsuccessful search that ended last year, when he declared his eldest daughter dead.
The millionaire made his fortune in the seventies building affordable housing in his hometown, Piedecuesta. At the end of 2015 he was mayor of neighboring Bucaramanga, the capital of the department of Santander, thus defeating the political class that had been ruling the region for three decades. During his tenure, which ended in 2019, he became known throughout the rest of the country for his weekly Facebook broadcasts in which he spoke directly to citizens.
Advised by the Spaniard Víctor López -he led Nayib Bukele to the Presidency of El Salvador-, his speech has been based on the relentless fight against corruption, although with hardly any concrete measures in this regard. Still, his message has caught on. How? One of the ways he has been reiterating in his campaign that he is an engineer, in order to give the image that being rich he does not need to steal from public coffers. However, he is involved in a corruption case that dates back to his years in the Mayor’s Office. The Prosecutor’s Office accuses him of favoring a company linked to his son Luis Carlos. The trial was scheduled for after the elections.
This defender of the fight against bureaucracy and excessive public spending has become popular in the country for his open language, which has led him to star in several controversies. On one occasion he pointed out that he was “a follower of a great German thinker called Adolf Hitler”, although he later backed down claiming that he wanted to refer to Albert Einstein. He also stood out for his public fights with the councilors of Bucaramanga, whom he called “thieves” and “corrupt.” In fact, he came to slap mayor John Claro, who accused his son Rodolfo José of being involved in acts of corruption. The aggression removed him from office for three months, although it has served as his campaign slogan, which invites him to “slap corruption in the face.”