Columbians will once again head to the polls on Sunday to vote for their next president. As this important vote looms large, threats of violence and police crackdowns have increased.
On Sunday, Columbians will have the choice between Rodolfo Hernández Suárez, a construction magnate, and Gustavo Petro Urrego, a former guerilla member.
In the first round of voting, no candidate reached the 50 percent majority needed to capture a win. Petro was around 10 points short of a first-round victory and bested his nearest opponent by 12 points. Hernández came in second and will be his only opponent in the final vote.
Both candidates have pledged to shake up the corrupt system in Columbia that has been plagued with corruption and graft. Hernández has said that he plans to accomplish this by shrinking the size of government. Though he has not given many details on how exactly he will achieve this stated goal.
In fact, a big worry some have about Hernández is that of his own alleged corruption. He has been accused of intervening on the side of a company that his son had lobbied for.
Hernández, though, has strongly denied these allegations, even going so far as to slap one local council member that accused him of such.
Hernández has mostly gained his following online. He is known as the ‘TikTok King’ in Columbia for his popularity on the platform, where he has more than half a million followers. He used this instead of attending traditional debates (where he would have had to elaborate on all that boring, superfluous stuff, like policy).
Petro has also pledged to fight against corruption. He has also likely benefited greatly from support pulled in by his running mate Francia Márquez Mina.
Márquez is an Afro-Columbian lawyer and activist for human-rights and environmental protection. Hernández has also picked an Afro-Columbian running mate, Marelen Castillo Torres, however she has been largely out of the picture during the course of the campaign.
These two candidates are symptomatic of the anger many Columbians feels at the perceived corruption and ineptitude of the government. Hernández is an independent and Petro, well yeah he, was a guerilla fighter.
Columbia has been especially hard hit by the ongoing COVID pandemic, which has led to nearly double digit inflation. Neoliberal policies have also been proposed, in response many have taken to the streets and ballet boxes to protest. One such issue is that of the move towards privatization of health care in the country.
These protests have continued and police have once again started cracking down on those they accuse of planning violence. While no actual evidence of such plans was given, police reported that they have arrested over 260 members of radical groups, some of whom were supposedly connected to vandalism in last year’s anti-government protests.
Police are currently on high alert due to what they claim are plans of planned violence in Columbia by groups that believe the election will be rigged. Petro himself has expressed some concerns that there could be election fraud, whether this is based on evidence or simply a rhetorical ploy is unclear.
While Petro dominated in the first round of voting, many centrist and right-wing figures are now aligning behind Hernández. Polling has now become a statistical tie, within the margin of error for most polls, with both candidates under 50 percent.
Whether it is the former guerilla or the businessman that now spends a lot of time on TikTok that becomes the next president of Columbia, it will be decided by Columbian voters this Sunday.
Picture generated by DALL·E mini