Colombia Goes to the Polls on Sunday to Choose President Between Ex-Left Guerrilla and Popular Millionaire on TikTok | World

Two radical promises of change and an uncertain and potentially explosive outcome: Colombians elect this Sunday (19) their president from among the leftist Gustavo Petro and independent millionaire Rodolfo Hernándezwhich, each in its own way, defeated the traditional parties and promised a new era in politics.

Practically tied in voting intentions, Petro, 62, and Hernández, 77, are vying to succeed the unpopular Iván Duque in the second round vote.

On May 29, the senator and former guerrilla won with 40% of the votes against 28% for the construction magnate. However, projections predict a fiercer dispute this round.

“A very tight result affects the governability of either one,” says Luisa Lozano, a political scientist at the University of La Sabana.

And unleash discontent “in the streets”, which convulsed in 2019, 2020 and 2021 with bloody and multitudinous protests that already reflected a society in transformation in the second most unequal country on the continent, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. .

The two candidates engaged in a dirty and aggressive campaign. The electorate has already shown that it is fed up and will now decide whether to install the left in power for the first time or a non-party eccentric who promises to “ban out corruption”.

Petro and Hernández embody the popular desire for change and the punishment of the elites that have historically ruled this country with a six-decade armed conflict, the world’s largest cocaine production and a polarized society impoverished by the pandemic.

Their programs are opposites.

Petro is an economist running for president for the third time. He took up arms against the state and signed peace in 1990. Later, he distinguished himself as an opposition deputy and became mayor of Bogotá (2012-2015), where he won over opponents for his “authoritarian” style and chaotic plan to nationalize garbage collection.

“I will not come to the government to seek personal revenge (…) nor will I think of confiscating or undermining” private property, he promised in the face of fears aroused by an unprecedented left-wing government with a former guerrilla at the head of the economy and military forces. .

Who is Gustavo Petro?  Ex-guerrilla is favorite for Colombia's presidency

Who is Gustavo Petro? Ex-guerrilla is favorite for Colombia’s presidency

His rival is an engineer who made his fortune as a builder. He was mayor of Bucaramanga (2016-2019), a city of 600,000 where he is very popular for his self-confidence, austerity and for having cleaned up public finances.

In this campaign he landed as a millionaire “outsider”, very active on TikTok who surprisingly took the right out of contention.

“You can vote for who will take the money out of your pocket or for me, who will put the money in everyone’s pocket”, he says.

Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernandez during an interview this Sunday (29), in Bogotá, Colombia. — Photo: REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

Hernández, who, with his proposal to reduce bureaucracy and fight against corruption, responds to a process for irregularities in a contract during his administration. Unpredictable, he often retracts his most thoughtless lines.

“Both are equally uncertain and risky, because they are impulsive in their decision-making,” says Germán Prieto, a political scientist at Universidad Javeriana.

As vice-presidential candidates, they chose two black women. Environmentalist Francia Márquez accompanies Petro and conservative academic Marelen Castillo is Hernández’s running mate.

The next Colombian president will have to respond to a country of 50 million inhabitants where poverty is at 39%, unemployment at 11.1% and informality at 44.5%.

The violence too gained ground with various armed groups financed by drug traffickers, hundreds of social leaders murderedthousands of displaced people and insecure borders.

Who is Rodolfo Hernández?  Right-wing candidate runs for Colombian presidency

Who is Rodolfo Hernández? Right-wing candidate runs for Colombian presidency

The 2016 peace agreement with FARC rebels has lessened the conflict, but not extinguished it.

Faced with the many challenges, Petro aims to strengthen the state, raise taxes on the rich, reform the pension and healthcare system, and stop oil exploration in favor of clean energy.

Without a guaranteed majority, it has an important bench to carry out its projects in Congress.

His opponent, on the other hand, appeals to capitalism and austerity.

Get to know the controversies of Rodolfo Hernández, candidate for the presidency of Colombia

Get to know the controversies of Rodolfo Hernández, candidate for the presidency of Colombia

Hernández received support from the forces that detest Petro, but in principle he would not have parliamentary support. He also faces a corruption trial that could remove him from the presidency while defending himself before the Supreme Court.

Petro represents a “dramatic change, anti-structure, anti-system, anti-traditionalism,” but Hernández “took those flags from him,” says Lozano.

About Abhishek Pratap

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