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- Gustavo Petro, economist and former leftist guerrilla who promises economic and social reforms to fight poverty, inequality and exclusion;
- and independent Rodolfo Hernández, an eccentric businessman who proposes to cut state spending and fight corruption, despite himself being investigated on suspicion of committing the same crime.
The country has never had a leftist president. Petro, who is a senator and led the vote in the first round (with 40.34%), is the politician in this ideological spectrum with the greatest chance of being elected. A former M-19 guerrilla activist and former mayor of Bogotá, he is the candidate for the Historic Pact and has as a platform measures that arouse fear in businessmen and in the financial market.
Hernández is a 77-year-old engineer who is part of the League of Anti-Corruption Rulers. He surprised in the first round (with 28.1% of the votes) with an agenda that foresees, among other actions, delivering drugs to drug addicts and discouraging drug trafficking.
More than 39 million voters were eligible to vote in the second round in Colombia. Voting started at 8 am and ended at 4 pm this Sunday.
See, in the video below, more about Petro and Hernández:
Find out who are the candidates in Colombia’s presidential election this Sunday (19)
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Petro is a former mayor of Bogotá and is currently a senator. He is a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement, which renounced armed struggle in the late 1980s.
He proposed an ambitious $13.5 billion tax reform — equivalent to 5.5% of Colombia’s gross domestic product — financed by higher taxes on the richest.
He promised to improve social and economic conditions in a country where half the population lives in some form of poverty.
Hernández, a surprise run-off candidate, was buoyed by anti-corruption pledges, plans to shrink the government and housing for the poor.
However, he faces an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office for allegedly intervening in a garbage collection tender while mayor of Bucaramanga, to benefit a company his son lobbied for.
Hernández denies the allegations and supporters like his anti-establishment image.
Who is Gustavo Petro? Ex-guerrilla is favorite for Colombia’s presidency
Who is Rodolfo Hernández? Right-wing candidate runs for Colombian presidency
The economy is one of the main themes of this year’s elections, and the two contestants are trying to differentiate themselves on this theme, according to Fabio Sanchez, a professor at the School of Politics and International Relations at the Sergio Arboleda University in Bogotá.
Hernández uses his image of an entrepreneur who could use his management skills for the country. “In his program, he talks about credits and subsidies so that the country can be competitive in international markets”, says Arboleda.
Petro proposes a change in the extractive model to a productive economy (in addition to being an agricultural producer, Colombia also exports oil and minerals).
“This would involve an agrarian reform, which can generate great resistance in some sectors”, says the professor. The central issue of the economic discussion in the elections is how to manage to reduce poverty and improve the levels of development and industrialization, according to him.
left versus unknown
Despite Hernández’s economic discourse being closer to the right, the candidate could not be classified as extreme right, says Fernanda Nanci Gonçalves, a professor at UFRJ and Unilasalle-RJ.
“It is difficult to define what his political spectrum is. He is certainly not on the left, but it is not correct at this point to claim that he is on the far right,” she says.
The professor says that Hernández, despite similarities with former President Donald Trump, of the United States, or with Jair Bolsonaro, of Brazil, is a different politician.
“During the campaign, Hernandez said that if elected, he wants to reestablish relations with Venezuela, he has already said that he would not be against abortion, — and this is a scandal in an extremely religious society like Colombia — and he says that it is important to do a peace agreement with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas, despite him saying that his daughter was kidnapped and killed by the group. Not having a clear agenda is clearly a strategy he uses,” says Professor Gonçalves.
The similarities with Trump and Bolsonaro are more in the way of doing politics, she explains: the use of social networks (Hernández makes many videos on TikTok), the direct and objective speech, without beating around the bush, and the anti-corruption agenda, which appears in a insistent but vague (he does not say how he intends to fight corruption).
The decadence of Uribism
Hernández’s candidacy does not represent the traditional right in Colombia. This sector of politics is dominated by former president Álvaro Uribe. After leaving the presidency, Uribe managed to act to elect two allies: Juan Manuel Santos (later, the two broke up) and the current president, Iván Duque.
“Duque’s government has had the lowest approval rating since the 1990s, and there are many people against this government, which has resulted in a repulsion from the ‘Uribistas,’” says Andres Del Río, a professor of Political Science at the Fluminense Federal University ( UFF).
Difficulty to govern
Even before the elections, it could be said that the next president will have difficulties with the Legislature.
The left-wing coalition has about 30% of Colombia’s legislature, and Hernández’s party is barely represented in Congress, says Andres. “Although the right has lost strength in Congress, it is still more or less half, although segmented into several parties. Whatever the president, there will be several negotiations with these parties,” he says.