Rodolfo Hernández is Colombia’s Trump and He Might Be Headed for the Presidential Palace


BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Colombia’s political panorama has shifted remarkably in a question of 24 hours.

For months, pollsters predicted that Gustavo Petro, a former rebel-turned-senator creating a bid to be the country’s first leftist president, would head to a June presidential runoff in opposition to Federico Gutiérrez, a conservative established order candidate who had argued {that a} vote for Mr. Petro amounted to “a jump into the void.’’

As an alternative, on Sunday, electorate gave the highest two spots to Mr. Petro and Rodolfo Hernández, a former mayor and rich businessman with a populist, anti-corruption platform whose outsider standing, incendiary statements and single-issue way to politics have earned him comparisons to Donald Trump.

The vote — for a leftist who has made a profession assailing the conservative political magnificence and for a reasonably unknown candidate and not using a formal celebration backing — represented a repudiation of the conservative established order that has ruled Colombia for generations.

Nevertheless it additionally remade the political calculus for Mr. Petro. Now, it’s Mr. Petro who’s billing himself because the secure trade, and Mr. Hernández as the harmful jump into the void.

“There are adjustments that don’t seem to be adjustments,” Mr. Petro stated at a marketing campaign match on Sunday evening, “they’re suicides.”

Mr. Hernández as soon as referred to as himself a follower of Adolf Hitler, has urged combining main ministries to economize, and says that as president he plans to claim a state of emergency to maintain corruption, resulting in fears that he may just close down Congress or droop mayors.

Nonetheless, Colombia’s right-wing established order has begun lining up in the back of him, bringing many in their votes with them, and creating a win for Mr. Petro seem like an uphill climb.

On Sunday, Mr. Gutiérrez, a former mayor of Medellín, the rustic’s second-largest town, threw his strengthen in the back of Mr. Hernández, announcing his goal was once to “safeguard democracy.”

However Fernando Posada, a political scientist, stated the transfer was once additionally the established order correct’s last-ditch effort to dam Mr. Petro, whose plan to remake the Colombian economic system “places in danger lots of the pursuits of the standard political magnificence.”

“The Colombian correct has reached such an especially disastrous level,” stated Mr. Posada, “that they like a central authority that provides them not anything so long as it isn’t Petro.”

Mr. Hernández, who had received restricted consideration in lots of the nation till only some weeks in the past, is a one-time mayor of the mid-sized town of Bucaramanga within the northern a part of the rustic. He made his fortune in building, development low-income housing within the Nineteen Nineties.

At 77, Mr. Hernández constructed a lot of his strengthen on TikTok, as soon as slapped a town councilman on digicam and lately instructed The Washington Put up that he had a “messianic” impact on his supporters, who he in comparison to the “brainwashed” hijackers who destroyed the dual towers on 9/11.

Pressed on whether or not one of these comparability was once problematic, he rejected the speculation. “What I’m evaluating is that once you get into that state, you don’t trade your place. You don’t trade it.”

Till only some days in the past, Colombia’s political narrative gave the impression easy: For generations, politics have been ruled through a couple of rich households, and extra lately, through a hard-line conservatism referred to as Uribismo, based through the rustic’s tough political kingmaker, former president Álvaro Uribe.

However voter frustration with poverty, inequality and lack of confidence, which was once exacerbated through the pandemic, at the side of a rising acceptance of the left following the rustic’s 2016 peace procedure with its biggest insurgent crew, the Innovative Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, gave the impression to shift the dynamic.

By way of 2022, Mr. Petro, lengthy the combative face of the Colombian left, idea it was once his second. And within the months resulting in the Might 29 election, electorate flocked to his proposals — a extensive growth of social techniques, a halt to all new oil drilling in a rustic depending on oil exports, and a focal point on social justice.

The tale line was once: left as opposed to correct, trade as opposed to continuity, the elite as opposed to the remainder of the rustic.

However Mr. Hernández’s fantastic upward thrust displays each a rejection of the conservative elite and of Mr. Petro.

It additionally unearths that the narrative was once by no means so easy.

Mr. Hernández, who gained 28 p.c of the vote, has attracted a extensive swath of electorate longing for trade who may just by no means get on board with Mr. Petro.

Mr. Petro is a former member of a insurgent crew referred to as the M-19 in a rustic the place rebels terrorized the inhabitants for many years. And he’s a leftist in a country that stocks a border with Venezuela, a rustic plunged right into a humanitarian disaster through authoritarians who declare the leftist banner.

Mr. Hernández, along with his fuzzy orange hair and businessman’s way to politics, has additionally attracted electorate who say they would like any person with Trumpian ambition, and don’t seem to be stricken if he’s liable to tactlessness. (Years after announcing he was once a follower of Adolf Hitler, Mr. Hernández clarified that he intended to mention he was once a follower of Albert Einstein.)

Two of the rustic’s greatest problems are poverty and loss of alternative, and Mr. Hernández appeals to those who say he can assist them get away each.

“I feel that he appears at Colombia as an opportunity of enlargement. And that’s how I feel that he differs from the opposite applicants,” stated Salvador Rizo, 26, a tech guide in Medellín. “I feel that the opposite applicants are looking at a space this is on fireplace they usually wish to extinguish that fireplace and expose the home. What I feel the view of Rodolfo is: That there’s a space that may be a large resort at some point.”

He has additionally been a constant critic of corruption, a protracted concern that some Colombians name a most cancers.

Early on, he made a pledge to not take marketing campaign cash from non-public entities, and says he’s investment his presidential bid himself.

“Political folks thieve shamelessly,” stated Álvaro Mejía, 29, who runs a solar power corporate in Cali.

He says he prefers Mr. Hernández to Mr. Petro, an established senator, exactly as a result of his loss of political enjoy.

The query is whether or not Mr. Hernández will be capable of deal with that outsider standing within the weeks main as much as the runoff, as key political figures align themselves to his marketing campaign.

Simply mins after he gained moment position on Sunday, two tough right-wing senators, María Fernanda Cabal and Paloma Valencia, pledged their strengthen for him, and Mr. Posada predicted that others have been prone to observe.

Mr. Uribe, who sponsored Mr. Hernández’s run for mayor in 2015, is an an increasing number of polemic determine who turns off many Colombians. Mr. Posada predicted that he would no longer throw his weight in the back of Mr. Hernández, in order to not charge him electorate.

If Mr. Hernández can stroll that tough line — dating the established order’s votes with out tarnishing his symbol — it may well be tough for Mr. Petro to overcome him.

Many political analysts imagine that the more or less 8.5 million votes Mr. Petro were given on Sunday is his ceiling, and that lots of Mr. Gutiérrez’s 5 million votes might be added to the six million Mr. Hernández won.

As the consequences turned into transparent, Mr. Hernández’s supporters rushed to his marketing campaign headquarters on some of the primary avenues in Bogotá, the capital.

Many wore vibrant yellow marketing campaign T-shirts, hats and ponchos, which they stated they’d purchased themselves as an alternative of being passed out unfastened through the marketing campaign, consistent with Mr. Hernández’s cost-cutting rules.

“I’ve by no means observed an individual with traits like the ones of the engineer Rodolfo,” stated Liliana Vargas, a 39-year outdated attorney, the use of a not unusual nickname for Mr. Hernández, who’s a civil engineer. “He’s a political being who isn’t a political candidate,” she stated. “It’s the first time that I’m completely excited to take part in a democratic election in my nation.”

Within sight, Juan Sebastián Rodríguez, 39, a pace-setter of Mr. Hernández’s Bogotá marketing campaign, referred to as the candidate “a rock celebrity.”

“He’s a phenomenon,” he stated. “We’re positive that we’re going to win.”

Genevieve Glatsky contributed reporting from Bogotá.





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