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Opinion: Rodolfo Hernández, Colombian Bukele

One of the candidates for the presidency of Colombia with the greatest possibilities, Rodolfo Hernández, presents himself as the Colombian Bukele.

Rodolfo Hernández

"Rodolfo Hernández is a mix between Trump, Bolsonaro and Bukele". Foto: LatinAmerican Post

LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

In 2022, Colombians will once again elect their president. The electoral battle to choose the successor of Iván Duque is characterized by the abundance of candidates and pre-candidates. There are all colors and flavors, but of all the applicants with possibilities, the most striking is Rodolfo Hernández.

Today he is the second candidate with the highest vote intention according to the polls, behind Gustavo Petro. He is a 76-year-old civil engineer, close to turning 77, born in Piedecuesta (Santander), and who has shaken the political chess of these elections.

In a scenario full of center, right and left coalitions, the Santanderean has decided to go alone and will compete directly without prior consultation with other political sectors. According to him, because he does not ally himself with politicians and the others are "the same with the same".

The engineer (as he is known) entered politics 6 years ago when he won the elections for mayor of Bucaramanga, an industrial and population center in the country. Hernández launched himself as an independent, an "outsider", an entrepreneur who wanted to implement the same philosophy that allowed him to create a fortune in the private sector, but now in the public sector. With an independent, anti-corruption, and pragmatic discourse, he managed to convince most of his neighbors to be elected.

In his mayoralty, he became known throughout the country, due to his high popularity among the citizens, but also due to the scandals. For example, he punched a councilman in the face, criticized firefighters, and called Venezuelan women "factories for making poor Chinamen (children)." Despite his false starts, he continues to garner high approval from an electorate tired of the political class and political correctness.

Although his carefree and unfiltered manner is what has earned him several criticisms from academic or elitist sectors, it is also his main virtue with people. His way of speaking is reminiscent of that of many Colombian grandparents from the provinces, with sayings and grammatical errors that cause empathy, not only in adults but also among young people.

Many have associated him with a figure like Trump or Bolsonaro, but Rodolfo is a more complicated character and politically he is far from the right. Although, his pragmatism allows him to camouflage himself in almost all political sectors and that is precisely his strong point when calling voters and one of his criticisms from all sectors. Which allows him to be more similar to the Salvadoran president.

It could be said that politically he is a social democrat, but it would not be exact. Although he is friendly with the business sector (from which he comes), he has also made it clear that he is in favor of abortion, equal marriage, euthanasia, the regulation of marijuana, among other progressive positions. Although his pragmatism has made it easier for him to be close, at times, and depending on the context, with any of the former presidents Juan Manuel Santos or Álvaro Uribe. He is a strong opponent of the current government but has made it clear that he will not ally himself with the candidate on the left.

But, despite the fact that engineer Hernández has championed corruption in his speech, he has also been the target of several money management scandals (he and his family), not only in his administration but in the campaign. But Rodolfo not only resembles Nayib Bukele but has also shown his admiration for him. At various times he has celebrated and highlighted the popularity of the Central American politician.

Resembling Buekele, Hernández has several undemocratic tendencies and lacks dialogue. Just as the Central American head of state desisted from reaching political agreements with Congress, so was the deal between the municipal council of Bucaramanga and the mayor.

Neither Bukele nor Hernández knew how to agree with the legislative powers to come up with joint projects. Both branded the slightest criticism of politicians as corrupt. Both manage social networks as their main tool, both campaign and government.

Both politicians have even known how to use the support of influencers. Recently, Nayib Bukele met with Luisito Comunica, one of the most famous YouTubers in the entire continent. For his part, Hernández did the same with Yeferson Cossio, a Colombian influencer with almost 8 million followers on Instagram.

Surely, if Hernández reaches the second round with any candidate from the left or right, he will have the possibility of capturing voters from the opposite sector. Even in the event of a second-round against candidates from the center, he will still be able to achieve a majority if he maintains his image as an outsider and his chameleon-like political inclination.

Now, if Rodolfo manages to seduce the large and diverse electorate he is targeting, his arrival at the Casa de Nariño will be a fact. Colombia will have a president far removed from the molds and close to what El Salvador has experienced.