Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | May 27, 2010

Presidential Elections in Colombia

The first round of presidential elections in Colombia will take place this coming Sunday, May 30. The two leading candidates are running neck-to-neck. I can’t decide.

My friends who still live in Colombia, mostly young folks, educated and happy in their jobs (as opposed to looking for jobs), who organize themselves on Facebook and post on YouTube, tell me I must go full-force behind Antanas Mockus. It must somehow be connected that they are yuppies a la Colombiana and Mockus is running with the Green Party.

I have worried for some time now that under President Uribe’s one-man show, the institutions have gone into decay. Will they be able to function independently without Uribe’s strong hand behind them? How weak are they, really? In this respect, Mockus would be a good choice for a breath of fresh air, and of—what is so far—a  clean bill of anti-corruption.

But, see, I am not sure Mockus is “presidential.” When he was rector of a university, he mooned his students. When he was Bogotá’s mayor, he walked around in a spandex suit. To add to the circus, he got married atop an elephant! Must I really be expected to take him seriously? Is his carnival not a hazard in the eyes of foreign investors? Well, as mayor, he did turn-around Bogotá’s budget deficit. He is creative, give him that. As mayor, he hired 400 mimes to shame traffic violators, both drivers and pedestrians, and it worked.

But Mockus’s leading opponent, Juan Manuel Santos, is also creative. As Uribe’s defense minister, he orchestrated the release of 15 hostages, including three US contractors as well as former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, by infiltrating the FARC. Get this—the army’s intelligence officers, under Santos’s personal supervision, studied in a profesional drama school to master the right accent and lingo and body language, and they managed to fool the FARC’s command structure. They ordered for the hostages to be taken by helicopters to meet a new FARC commander, and once in the air, they overpowered the FARC captors and flew the hostages to freedom. Not a single shot was fired, no one was wounded. And Santos has been a finance minister under previous administrations so he has some market confidence.

Colombia can’t afford to ease up on the FARC. Just Monday, May 24, nine Colombian Marines died in an ambush staged by the FARC in Caqueta. Santos would be a “shoo-in” to continue Uribe’s policies. Umm … not always a good thing, like the whole scandal with the “false positives” in which poor and innocent civilians were killed and masqueraded as dead FARC. That’s just reminiscent of a bad novel set in Colombia in the 1930s. Santos represents a party heavily associated with paramilitaries.

I see no true leader blooming this time around.

Stay tuned to the blog for new posts every couple of days…

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