Fernanda Pineda/The Washington Publish by way of Getty Photographs
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — In a shock to a political system lengthy dominated by conventional events and machine politics, an eccentric, 77-year-old populist who guarantees drastic price range cuts and jail for corrupt officers is now main the race for the presidency.
Unknown to most Colombians till only a few months in the past, Rodolfo Hernández, an actual property mogul and a former mayor, garnered sufficient votes within the Could 29 first-round election to earn a spot in Sunday’s runoff towards leftist Gustavo Petro.
The newest polls present Hernández neck and neck with Petro, a former guerrilla fighter and veteran politician who had been the clear front-runner all yr lengthy.
“Thanks, Colombians,” Hernández mentioned in a video message to his supporters after beating 4 different candidates and ending runner-up to Petro within the first spherical of voting. “I’m relying on you to win the runoff.”
The video, shot from Hernández’s kitchen with home equipment and a pot-filled range within the background, was in step with his austere picture. Though Hernández earned hundreds of thousands in actual property, he says he isn’t spending a lot on his marketing campaign.
You would possibly discover Rodolfo Hernández on TikTok
Somewhat than barnstorming the nation giving speeches, he communicates by way of TikTok movies and softball interviews, normally specializing in authorities graft, which he claims is the basis of Colombia’s issues. In a latest interview on Colombian TV, he mentioned that just about all politicians have been “traitors, liars, clowns and hypocrites and we’re going to kick them out.”
If he wins, he plans to carry a easy inaugural in a poor city, saying regular swearing-in ceremonies on the presidential palace with a whole lot of visitors waste taxpayer cash on caviar, Champagne and whisky. Regardless of his age, Hernández says he can be on the job from daybreak till nightfall to cram 5 1/2 years of labor right into a four-year presidential time period.
“Colombia is a gorgeous nation that has been run by thieves,” he mentioned within the TV interview, “and the outcomes have been deadly.”
Gustavo Petro goals to be the primary leftist president
Hernández’s rival, Petro, is attempting to grow to be Colombia’s first-ever left-wing president. Thus, regardless of who wins, the incoming chief will take the nation in a brand new path. All this, in response to analysts, is the results of many years of corruption and unkept guarantees by conventional politicians in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic that threw hundreds of thousands of Colombians into poverty.
Nonetheless, 62-year-old Petro is a former Bogotá mayor and a longtime opposition senator who’s on his third run for the presidency. In comparison with Hernández, he’s previous information, says Lawrence J. Gumbiner, a former U.S. diplomat who has suggested Hernández on worldwide affairs.
The sensation amongst many citizens, Gumbiner says, is that “all these guys who’ve been round all these years, we do not like every of them. We do not actually know who this man [Hernández] is however we’re so sick of all people who has been round all these years that we’re keen to roll the cube on him.”
Including to Hernández’s rise is lingering worry of Petro. Enterprise leaders are nervous about Petro’s plans to regularly section out the manufacturing of oil, the nation’s most important export, to renegotiate commerce offers with nations like the US, and reform the pension system. Petro has additionally pledged to forge nearer ties to the authoritarian regime in neighboring Venezuela.
Hernández acquired endorsements, together with from rival candidates
Partly in consequence, Hernández has obtained a wave of endorsements from institution events and politicians, together with Federico Gutiérrez. He was the conservative, pro-government candidate who completed third within the Could 29 vote. He claims Petro may grow to be a leftist dictator, like Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, and in his concession speech he urged Colombians to again Hernández.
“We’ve to save lots of liberty and democracy as a result of as soon as they’re gone, they do not come again,” Gutiérrez warned.
However critics declare that Hernández harbors an authoritarian streak.
He has praised President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador for ordering military troops to occupy that nation’s Congress constructing in 2020 to intimidate legislators into supporting his insurance policies. Hernández lacks a majority in Colombian Congress however mentioned he would put up billboards of allegedly corrupt lawmakers and disgrace them into supporting his agenda.
As well as, he refuses to face the scrutiny of televised debates or hard-hitting journalists, preferring to speak immediately with voters by social media.
“His Achilles’ heel is his populist tendencies and his appreciation for the strongman model of governance,” Gumbiner says.
Hernández’s headstrong strategy was on full show in 2018 when he was mayor of the northern metropolis of Bucaramanga, the one necessary political publish he has held. He was caught on video screaming at a metropolis councilman — after which slapping him — in an argument over corruption.
Certainly, for all his discuss of unpolluted authorities, Hernández himself is going through corruption costs over a public works contract from his time as mayor in a case set to go to trial in July — simply weeks earlier than the brand new president can be sworn in.
In a Could 29 speech, Petro instructed his supporters: “My opponent is accused of corruption. Do we would like that? You do not struggle corruption by sending out messages on TikTok.”
Hernández has additionally made some gorgeous gaffes. In a radio interview final yr, for instance, he mentioned he’s a “follower of an important German thinker named Adolf Hitler,” however later clarified that he meant Albert Einstein, saying he has no love for the Nazi ruler. In video message to voters in Vichada, a distant division in jap Colombia that borders Venezuela, he requested his interviewer: “Vichada? What’s that?” But he nonetheless gained essentially the most votes in Vichada within the first spherical of voting.
Ideologically, Hernández is difficult to pin down. He is pro-business but additionally helps abortion rights, same-sex marriage and drug legalization and backs Colombia’s 2016 peace treaty that disarmed the nation’s largest guerrilla group. But he is did not flesh out his proposals on all the pieces from nationwide safety to the economic system.
Nonetheless, many Colombians are drawn extra to Hernández’s model than his substance. Amongst them is Marco Moreno, who runs a motorbike store on the outskirts of Bogotá.
Hernández “may be very agency in his choices,” Moreno says. “He is radical. And that is what’s good about him.”