Populist Hernandez to face leftist Petro in Colombia runoff

Populist businessman Rodolfo Hernández had a strong run in Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday, in next month’s runoff against former leftist guerrilla Gustavo Petro Easy win.

In most results, Hernandez, the outspoken populist, won about 28 percent of the vote, beating the more established center-right candidate Federico Gutiérrez, who won 24% of the votes came in third.

Petro won with more than 40 percent of the vote, but given that the majority of Gutierrez’s backers are likely to back Hernandez in the second round, Jobs cut for left-wing front-runners win the presidency. He won about 8.5 million votes, while Hernandez and Gutierrez had nearly 11 million votes between them.

“This is really the toughest situation for Petro and I don’t think his campaign will be very happy,” said Sandra Botero, a political analyst at the University of Rosario in Bogota. It’s going to be a tough fight for him.”

The results will stimulate financial markets on Monday.Economists had predicted that if Hernandez made it to the second round, the peso and Colombia Assets will strengthen in anticipation of his eventual victory in the tiebreaker.

Petro and Gutierrez led the polls for much of the campaign, but Hernandez, an outspoken 77-year-old millionaire who funded his own campaign, Soaring in final polls before voting. Some right-wing voters appeared to turn to him at the last minute, seeing it as their best chance to prevent Petro from taking power.

“To those who voted for me, I tell you now, I will not let you down,” Hernandez said in a video message recorded shortly after the results were announced.

There were jubilant scenes in his hometown of Bucaramanga, where he was known as an uncompromising anti-corruption activist after four tumultuous years as mayor between 2016 and 2019. When he left the office, his approval rating was 84 percent.

Thousands of his supporters took to the city streets, waving “Rudolph” flags and chanting his name.

Hernandez’s age, wealth and tirade against traditional politicians have led some to call him “the Trump of Colombia.” Others, perhaps referring to his permanently tanned and carefully groomed hairstyle, likened him to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi.

When he launched his campaign last year, he was barely given a chance, and as recently as March, his turnout was about 10 percent. Hernandez, who has no political party, leads an ad hoc movement called the Alliance of Governors Against Corruption. He made few public appearances during the campaign and made extensive use of social media.

His simple message of ending corruption by cutting the state budget resonates in a country many voters see Addressing corruption is a top priority. He promised financial incentives to citizens who report corrupt state officials.

As mayor, his tenure was precarious. In 2018, he was suspended for assaulting a city councilman, and the following year, he was banned again for violating Columbia’s campaign rules while in public office.

Despite his anti-corruption rhetoric, Hernandez himself faces corruption charges. He is accused of improperly awarding the Bucaramanga garbage collection contract. He has denied the allegations, but the case is due to go to trial in July, just two weeks before Colombia’s next president takes office.

Petro’s results confirm he has solid support across the country, especially among young people and the poor. But it also points to a ceiling of about 40 percent for him to break through, as the last election in 2018 showed, when he was second only to right-wing incumbent Iván Duque.

“Everyone knows the Petro [Marxist guerrilla groups] Farc and ELN and this country cannot forget how these bandits terrorized us over the years,” said Jorge Garzón, 34. Vote for Gutierrez Sunday. “That’s what Gustavo Petro is all about, we can’t let him win.”

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