BOGOTÁ ( Associated Press) — Rodolfo Hernandez has his own Casa de Narino, as he named his campaign headquarters. It’s not luxurious, it doesn’t have a parade ground, nor is it like the presidential palace in Bogotá in which Colombia’s heads of state have historically lived.
His office is in Bucaramanga, in the northeast of the country, where he was mayor and lives with his family. Before entering, a sign is printed on a white wall that summarizes his offer as a candidate: “Where no one steals, there is enough money.”
According to Hernández, if he is elected president of Colombia in next Sunday’s ballot, the Casa de Nario will become a museum, as did Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. For Hernandez, 77, the thought of living in a palace doesn’t excite him, he assures that his fortune is worth $100 million and that his true luxury will be with his family in Bucaramanga on the weekend.
The real estate business magnate broke into the election campaign with a speech focused on the fight against corruption and on Sunday became an unlikely candidate for the left-wing Gustavo Petro for the second round of the presidency.
The “Colombian Trump”, as some call him, found his opportunity in widespread boredom with corruption. In the first round, he managed to captivate nearly six million people with simple messages that he repeats like mantras: “Don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t betray.” It seeks to defeat the “corrupt” political class and, in theory, give money they would not rob Colombians of state coffers, especially the most vulnerable. As well as reducing state expenditures which it considers unnecessary, for which it proposes to abolish some embassies, all presidential councils, and reduce the use of aircraft fleets.
Hernandez was born in 1945 in Piedquesta, a neighboring city of Bucaramanga. His father was a tailor and his mother owned a tobacco factory. He managed to study civil engineering at a national university, public and prestigious, and now as a candidate he proposes to eliminate the demand for university entrance examinations as he remembers that he himself was about to miss out and if so If it happens, their life will be different.
His grandmother Dolores was a fundamental part of his upbringing and the one who advised him that he still remembers: “Work with the poor and you’ll be rich.” So he did. He earned his fortune by building thousands of homes in the most vulnerable areas and financing their purchases.
Before being a politician, Hernandez is a businessman. He usually states that Colombia is a potential company he wants to manage and that the shareholders are 50 million Colombians. He saves every peso in both his campaign and his company, Constructora HG, both managed by his wife, Socorro Oliveros, whom he married in the 1970s and has four children.
One of the saddest events in his life was the disappearance of his daughter Juliana at the hands of illegal armed groups. Despite this, he assured that as president he would abide by the state-signed peace agreement with Colombia’s extinct guerrilla revolutionary armed forces and offer to the National Liberation Army (ELN), considered the last active guerrilla in the country. They sign the same agreement and fulfill it.
He entered politics in 2015 when he ran for mayor of Bucaramanga, the capital of the Santander Department and won against all odds. Shortly before the end of his term, he resigned after being suspended by the Attorney General’s office for alleged involvement in politics, something prohibited for public officials.
Hernandez would rule the country in the same way as his private businesses. “He does not like that nothing is left to chance in his construction company, he goes to the construction site to see how one brick is being glued to another. He gets into the subtleties so that the great work gets done right,” Oscar Hernández Rugels, political director of the League of Anti-Corruption Governors, the candidate’s political movement, told the Associated Press.
It was his brother Gabriel, a philosopher, who in 2015 helped him lay the groundwork for his particular way of doing politics with the “Logic, Ethics and Aesthetics” movement that does not align with traditional politicians and adheres to his constituents. was involved. Although he cleaned up the finances of the mayor’s office and went from deficit to surplus, there were proposals he did not follow through, such as building 20,000 homes in popular neighborhoods, despite the fact that he signed a commitment letter with voters. Signed. ,
His weak side is the criminal process in which the prosecutor’s office formally charged him with alleged irregularities in a consulting contract to implement new technologies for waste management in the city’s sanitary landfills. Because of this process, his critics question the veracity of his speech against corruption, although Hernández assures that he is innocent.
As mayor, he faced several disciplinary proceedings, including hitting an opposition councilor when he asked uncomfortable questions, for which the Attorney General’s office suspended him for several months.
“He is a man who cannot control himself, does not manage emotions and slander, because as a result he made a pretense that I was corrupt, when I only told him the truth that neither he nor No one else is able to deny that, there are no criminal or disciplinary proceedings against me,” John Claro told the Associated Press, who assured that he reprimanded him for “partnering with questioned politicians in the field.”
After the attack became national news, Hernandez publicly apologized. His political director assured that he then chose to practice yoga, as he told him it was “a way to calm the spirit and the genius, and I believe he solved it in a good way,” Rugel said.
Likewise, Hernandez has avoided other scandals, such as when he said he admired Adolf Hitler and then justified that it was a slip because he was referring to the scientist Albert Einstein. It also does not have good ties with feminist movements due to phrases such as “It is better to support from home for women, people do not like women involved in government”.
The objections have been raised despite the fact that the candidate has assured that as President he will protect women’s rights. Florence Thomas, a French feminist who has lived in Colombia for decades, explained to the Associated Press that she hopes once in power there will be no setbacks to already achieved rights, such as the criminalization of abortion up to the 24th week of pregnancy. .
The polls show a technical tie between Petro and Hernandez and his favorable image is not affected by his comments about women. For Thomas, this would explain why Colombia is “still very patriarchal. He is the patriarch of my generation, it is not with him that is going to replace or destroy old stereotypes.”
Within the campaign, her strategist Angel Bacasino was not concerned about the impact on the female vote. “Most of the women in this country barely survive because there is poverty in a large number of households … These women identify much more with Rodolfo’s proposal than with Petro. So it seems, if we are in France or any other country If it were, something very serious would have happened, it is not so serious for Rodolfo,” he told the Associated Press in a recent interview.
His sheer clarity has two faces: sometimes it gets him in trouble for saying what he thinks without a filter and other times it helps him win over voters who see Hernandez as a common man. see as man who speaks without embellishment, and is able to stand “corrupt”
Difficult to pigeonhole, Hernandez agrees not to forge alliances with politicians in any region, saying he gets whatever votes he wants but does not give up on his campaign commitments. He has been backed by central and right-wing figures, especially from a region that would vote against Petro on the grounds that he could stay in power and implement alleged communist ideas, which the leftist candidate rejected. Is.
What analysts and their own strategists agree on is that he is a populist who runs right at the center. For political scientist Sandra Borda, she is a combination of a “libertarian republic”, which believes that the state should be as small as possible, rigid and that most of the work can be done by the private sector, although she is also liberal on social issues. Is. ,
The only label Hernandez has given himself is the “King of TikTok”. It was on that social network that he gained great popularity for his cheerful appearance, despite his age. A group of 13 young people between the ages of 23 and 31 are behind a strategy unprecedented in Colombian politics.
Their communications director Luisa Olejua Pico told the Associated Press, “It’s very simple to work with them, they recognize the work we do and it’s the social networks that put them in the national context.” The man who “goes a thousand” at work.