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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Rodolfo Hernández: ‘I want Petro to know how to run the country and be true to his anti-corruption speech’

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Rodolfo Hernández collapsed on his way to the Colombian presidency. In his first attempt to reach the House of Nariño, he received more than 10.5 million votes. You didn’t hit him. TikTok wasn’t enough for him. The social networks that helped him get into the second round on May 29 weren’t enough this time. With a short video message, the 77-year-old entrepreneur accepted his defeat without hesitation and congratulated Gustavo Petro. “I accept the result as it should be if we want our institutions to be strong. I sincerely hope the decision is beneficial,” said Hernández, who was not seen in public during the day. “I wish Petro that he knows how to lead the country, that he is faithful in his speech against corruption and that he does not disappoint those who trusted him,” he concluded, thanking those who supported him during his campaign have accompanied.

The president’s second round was downhill for Hernández. Despite a court order, the 77-year-old refused to take part in a debate with his competitor Gustavo Petro, and he also avoided being in public places because he feared an assassination attempt. His strategy of hiding and only speaking where he felt safe didn’t work for the engineer everyone knows.

In front of his campaign headquarters, which he called Casa Nariño like the presidential palace, the atmosphere was similar to that of Atlético Bucaramanga, who are used to defeats. Armando Calderón followed the register’s bulletins through a battery-powered radio he carried on his bicycle. At the gates of Hernández headquarters in the Bolarquí neighborhood of Bucaramanga. “They left us like goats, with long jaws, bored,” he said. He never saw his candidate in person.

Hernández took refuge behind a computer until the end. “I voted for him because I feel like Santander is always ignored. If you look at the highways and the development of other regions, you will find that every president pulls for his side. With a man from Santander we would finally get a chance.” Calderón, 63, is disappointed not to be able to see “the engineer” at the Casa de Nariño but says he feels calm. “I don’t think we will become like Venezuela. It’s just a story.”

The former mayor of Bucaramanga registered his candidacy for the League of Anti-Corruption Governors political movement, of which he is the leader, and from there raised the flags of the fight against the “Robadera”, which became a common expression in his speech, which has little to do with other topics. Until this Sunday, little was known about his government plans because his views changed throughout the campaign and it has always been difficult to know his real positions on crucial issues on the country’s agenda. The unknown Rodolfo Hernández stayed until the end.

His defeat is also the defeat of the establishment, for although the former mayor of Bucaramanga entered the presidential race without the support of any traditional political party, after the first round all sectors historically opposed to the left joined his campaign. “I get everyone’s votes,” he said when his name was linked to Uribism, left without a candidate after Federico Gutiérrez’s failure. Rodolfo Hernández received the Antipetrista vote without having to do anything. It was enough for him to be the one running for the presidency with Gustavo Petro to gain the support of broad economic sectors and political clans. Still, he failed to garner a majority among citizens calling for a change that would close the gaps that have made Colombia one of the most unequal countries in the region.

The candidate, who sold himself as an “outsider” and who broke the political stage by foul language and avoiding the press, has not won the presidency but will take a seat in Congress because the law requires it. However, his future will be determined by what happens with the trial he will face on July 21 for alleged acts of corruption while in office. Millionaire Hernández faces charges of unlawful interest in entering into contracts in a case involving one of his children. Although the former Bucaramanga president denies committing a crime, has apologized that “it was a trap” and says he is not afraid of the law, the evidence compromising him was enough for authorities to accuse him.

Rodolfo Hernández was confident of getting 15 million votes this Sunday. He always asserted that his quest needed no one but him, and the whole campaign revolved around him. But his image also played against him. The multimillionaire builder who said he wanted to help the poor and “end politics” was the same one who laughed at not one but several pictures of him flaunting his money, at his vacation home or on a yacht in Miami. His austerity speech remained in words and failed to convince the majority of Colombians, fed up with unfulfilled promises and, above all, demanding a more just and egalitarian society in which everyone has a place.

A supporter rolls up a poster showing presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernández a day before the second round of the country’s presidential election, Bucaramanga, June 18, 2022.IVAN VALENCIA (AP)

Source elpais.com

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