For the first time in history, the left has a good chance of reaching the presidency in Colombia. The political dynamic has been marked since 1958 by a two-party system, in which conservatives and liberals have been taking turns managing political power. Trust in traditional parties and their leaders, especially Uribismo, was broken as a result of the 2019 cycle of protests, widening the margin of opportunity for the left and new political leaders.
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Gustavo Petro, candidate for the Historical Pact, is preferred in The polls for the presidential elections this Sunday. He is around 40% in voting intention, but that does not ensure that he will avoid the second round on June 19. In second place is the right-wing candidate, Federico “Fico” Guitérrez, for the Equipo por Colombia coalition, with 25%. In third place in the polls is Rodolfo Hernández, an unexpected candidate, anti-establishment populist.
Gustavo Petro, the left proposal
Petro grew up in Zipaquirá, a city located about 40 kilometers from Bogotá and 450 from Medellín. It was there that, at the age of 21, the now favorite took a private piece of land together with a group of fellow militants and founded the Bolívar 83 neighborhood, which he distributed among the homeless. “I will never forget those days because they linked me forever to the world of the poor,” Petro tells his book One life, many livespublished by Planeta in 2021.
“Few parties, few girlfriends, little disorder,” write journalists Laura Ardila and Juanita León, from the empty chairin The presidential. From very early on, his life was dedicated to politics in leftist spaces. Petro joined the M-19 guerrilla, at the age of 17, where he was nicknamed Aureliano. In 1987, at the age of 26, he went into hiding until he laid down his arms in 1990. He finished his degree in Economics at a private university, and in the mid-1990s, during the government of Ernesto Samper, he was appointed diplomatic attache . He was living in Belgium until 1997.
After several legislative positions, in 2011, Petro was elected mayor of Bogotá, a position that ended prematurely after his garbage collection model was disqualified by the courts. In 2018, he assumed the position of senator, which he still holds. “In my opinion, the result was very important. It was my first government experience and an experience of progressivism on a Latin American scale,” says Petro in his book.
Among the reasons that explain the growth of Petro is the demobilization of the FARC after the signing of the Peace Accords, which have made the left a recognized actor. But also, this option grows in response to the social demand opened by the 2019 cycle of protests. “The left was completely behind because there was a very easy association between ‘you are on the left, then you are a guerrilla.’ The demobilization of the FARC made Colombia a country more similar to the rest of Latin America,” says journalist Juanita León, director of the empty chairto elDiario.es in this interview.
Federico Gutiérrez, the conservative option
The Monaco building, an eight-story mansion, with a tennis court and even a bunker, located in the exclusive El Poblado neighborhood of Medellín, was one of the residences of drug trafficker Pablo Escobar. A quarter of a century after his death, on February 21, 2019, the city’s mayor, Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez, ordered its demolition and more than 1,700 people, including President Iván Duque and the musicians of the Philharmonic of Medellín, approached the place to see the collapse. The decision, for some, represented a symbol of the fight against impunity in Colombia. For others, a political spectacle.
Sports fanatic, marathoner and cyclist, lover of vallenato music, the candidate of the right-wing collation Team for Colombia, with 25% voting intentionis fighting this Sunday to enter the second round in his first time as a candidate for president.
Gutiérrez, 47, became mayor of Medellín in 2016 after beating the Uribe candidate, Juan Carlos Vélez, by a point of difference. That unexpected victory is a constant reference in Gutiérrez’s electoral speech when his opponents want to paint him as a puppet of former President Álvaro Uribe. Fico moves with more autonomy from Uribe than the current president, Iván Duque, although he reflects many of his ideas.
“Fico believes that drug trafficking is the cause of all our problems, that if we eradicate coca, we behead the dissident leaders, we will have security and prosperity. He also proposes lowering taxes because ‘if the rich do well, everyone will do well’: these are all recipes that have been applied in recent years”, says journalist Juanita León.
Fico is a real country, as those born in Antioquia are called in Colombia, he studied civil engineering at the University of Medellin, was a councilor and mayor of that city, the first to be elected by signatures on the street and not by a traditional party. He finished his term with an 82% popularity rating. During his time on the Council, he supported Sergio Fajardo, another of the candidates for the presidency in these elections and also the mayor of Medellín.
Thanks to the autonomy with which he usually moves in politics, in March of this year he appeared in the primaries of the right-wing coalition Team for Colombia and won Óscar with 2.1 million votes, more than half of the total. Iván Zuluaga, the favorite of former President Uribe.
Rodolfo Hernández, the anti-system right
In a hotel in New York, Rodolfo Hernández learned that he had won the Mayor’s Office of Bucaramanga. The polls did not give him even 5% of voting intentions. For this reason, this construction businessman did not waste a second of his time waiting for the results of the 2015 regional elections that he believed had been lost and left, after voting, for the United States.
The surprise generated by this candidate was repeated this year when, after months in the pack of laggards, he managed to rebound in recent weeks fighting for second place, with only 5% less than Federico Gutiérrez.
An engineer by training, a construction businessman, Hernández governed the city of Bucaramanga, capital of the department of Santander, between 2016 and 2019, implying that being rich does not need to steal public funds.
In his public interventions he is characterized by his outburst insults and by using phrases such as that politicians “are rats”. The engineer came to the race for the presidency because of his controversies, for example, because of an interview in which he said that he admired Adolf Hitler or for hitting an opposition councilor from Bucaramanga, which ended with his suspension from office. . In this way, Hernández has managed to question in this campaign the popular sectors disenchanted with politics, who in the last elections opted for the candidates of Álvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center, but who today do not believe in any politician.
Although Hernández, candidate of the Anti-Corruption Governors League movement created by him, has refused to make alliances, his candidacy makes it difficult for both the right, in a first round, and the left, to reach the second round.
Sergio Fajardo, the decline of the center
In the midst of the 2018 presidential elections, when Colombians had to choose between Iván Duque and Gustavo Petro, Sergio Fajardo announced that he was going to see the whales. “After election day one is very exhausted, I had never felt that, such a tremendous feeling, but it’s as if they took all the energy out of him, everything hurts,” argued the candidate for president of Colombia at that time. “I did not turn my back on the country,” Fajardo said in December of last year, when he announced that he would fight for the presidency again.
In these elections, as in the previous ones, Fajardo wanted to represent the center option in a polarized country. But the numbers are not good. Having started February with little less than 10% in intention to vote, the candidate for the Centro Esperanza Coalition has fallen so much in the polls that not even the best projections place him above 5%.
This mathematician, born in Medellín and educated at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, received his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, was a member of the facilitating peace commission, became mayor of Medellín in 2004, recognized for having lowered the of violence in the city and in 2012 he became governor of Antioquia.
Fajardo will try again this Sunday, with the still bitter taste of not having made it to the second round in 2018 by a difference of 252,000 votes with Gustavo Petro.