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Colombia Saves Itself From Communism in First Round of Presidential Elections

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THE PRELIMINARY results of the first round of Colombia’s presidential election result in left-wing extremist Gustavo Petro and populist outsider Rodolfo Hernandez battling it out in the second round. It is a completely surprising result as the center-right candidate Federico Gutiérrez, supported by the traditional liberal, conservative parties and the pro-Uribe force Centro Democrático, was left out.

In itself, this is not bad news for Colombia. The great danger was that Gustavo Petro—a left-wing extremist who belonged to the M-19 guerrilla group and supported by the FARC terrorist organization—would win in the first round. However, he obtained 40% of the votes, which is not enough to win in the first round. Rodolfo Hernandez got 28% and Gutierrez, 23%. 

It is most likely that in the second round all of Gutierrez’s votes will be absorbed by Hernandez. In fact, Gutierrez already endorsed the outsider, when he gave his speech recognizing his defeat. If the votes obtained by Hernandez and Gutierrez in this first round are combined, Hernandez will be president of Colombia.

The fourth place finisher was the moderate leftist Sergio Fajardo, with only 4.2% of the votes. Even if they are all absorbed by Petro, they will not be enough for the candidate of the extreme left to triumph in the second round. Therefore, the panorama no longer looks as favorable for Petro as it did a few hours ago. Petro may have reached his ceiling, which is very similar to what he obtained in the 2018 presidential elections -it must also be considered that all Petro’s machinery bet on the candidate to triumph in this first round, so his results of this May 29 may not vary much in a second round.

Now, who is Hernandez? He is an enigma. Until very recently he was unknown in much of Colombia. He was mayor of the medium-sized city of Bucaramanga and made headlines when in a moment of euphoria he slapped a city councilman. Beyond that, he did not have much recognition. However, since he ran for the presidency, he began to grow rapidly in the polls, until he consolidated, this Sunday, May 29, as the second force in Colombia. 

Hernandez is a successful construction businessman and experienced firsthand the war against communist groups in Colombia. His father was kidnapped by the FARC and his daughter was murdered by the National Liberation Army. Very different from Petro, who was part of the M-19 guerrilla group.

Hernandez’s proposals do not fit him into the left-right spectrum. It is easier to call him a straight populist. He bets on a protectionist economy, proposes handouts, but also talks about reducing the state payroll, lowering taxes, supports fracking and will keep the security forces intact. 

Hernandez is a provocateur and has made very, very controversial statements. However, today he consolidates himself as the only alternative for Colombians to prevent the extreme left from taking over Colombia. 

Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.

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