Colombia to go Green in May 30 presidential race?

Colombia’s presidential election on May 30 is developing into an unexpectedly tight race between Juan Manuel Santos—incumbent hardliner Alvaro Uribe‘s former defense minister who pledges to continue the current aggressive military campaign against leftist guerillas—and Antanas Mockus, reformist, anti-corruption candidate of the Green Party (Partido Verde). In February, President Uribe was constitutionally barred from running for a third term, leaving Santos as his heir-apparent and presumed shoe-in. But polls are showing Mockus’ potential as an upset victor.

As a two-term mayor of Bogotá, Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, was seen as an idealistic infrastructure wonk with an eccentric streak, promoting bicycle lanes, traffic calming and mass transit. The Economist wryly says he was the city’s “chief pedagogue,” urging bogotanos not to run red lights, dump litter or beat their wives, sometimes dressing up as “Super Citizen” in spandex to get the message across. As the rector of the National University in Bogotá, he once dropped his trousers and mooned an auditorium of unruly students to get their attention.

He formed the Green Party with two other successful mayors of the capital, Luis Eduardo Garzón and Enrique Peñalosa. They marked their rejection of traditional politics with an open primary in which 1.6 million people voted. They got a big boost when a rival independent, former Medellín mayor Sergio Fajardo, agreed to join Mockus as his vice-presidential candidate. Both men are former mathematics professors.

But don’t expect a Mockus victory to mean Colombia joining South America’s anti-imperialist bloc, led by Venezuela and Bolivia. Mockus and his allies have positioned themselves firmly in the center. They say they are neither with nor against Uribe. Mockus vows to continue the current government’s security policies, but not what he calls Uribe’s “anything goes” attitude that he blames for human rights abuses. He also rules out talks with the FARC guerillas unless they first accept Colombia’s constitution. (PBS, May 12; The Economist, April 29)

The leftist candidate is Gustavo Petro of the Polo Democratico, considered a long shot. Mockus has rejected an alliance with Petro, but left open the possibility of coalition with the Polo Democratico if the election goes into a second round. After Mockus’ decision, Petro blasted him as being in the same “political camp” as Uribe. Mockus stated that uniting with Petro would go against his “no-violence” platform. While acknowledging that Petro has not actually advocated violence, Mockus said he promotes “theories that, one way or another, directly or indirectly, justify violence.” (Reuters, May 11)

Petro, ironically, is a key opponent of plans for US military bases in Colombia, and an outspoken critic of human rights abuses by the Colombian security forces. He has long been a target of illegal surveillance and death threats.

See our last post on Colombia.

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  1. Will Mockus legalize?
    There are signs that a Mockus election could mean an opening in Colombia’s entrenched drug-fueled conflict. During a recent debate with other candidates, Mockus answered a question about Plan Colombia—the US aid plan that funds the militarized anti-drug effort—by proposing a national dialogue to reconsider the country’s drug policy. (Colombia Reports, April 9)

    1. Mockus is Chavez’s candidate
      The “opening” would allow Castro/Chavez and FARC to retake control in Colombia. Mockus is Chavez’s candidate and, as such, he would destroy and enslave Colombians.

  2. GREEN is the old RED
    Chavez is investing millions stolen from Venezuelans to demonize Santos and support his candidate, Mockus. As the Europeans are telling us, GREEN is the old RED. GREEN, like that of Mockus, is just a way to hide the RED (Marxism) of Chávez and Castro. It’s a way FOOL people into Marxism.

    Mockus is Chavez’s candidate and, therefore, the LAST thing Colombians need to achieve prosperity AND security.

    Colombians are being manipulated, just like Bolivians and Ecuadorians were manipulated, to vote for a minion of Chavez. We hope Colombians are smart enough and learn from the tragedy of their neighbors, Venezuelans and Ecuadorians.

    VOTING for Mockus, a candidate of Chavez, is voting for Chavez and the AIDS of socialism/Marxism that destroys people and countries, as it has destroyed Cuba and Venezuela and is destroying Ecuador and Bolivia.

    1. Kneejerk anti-communism never fails…
      …to blind those intent on missing the obvious.

      Now, let’s see. Gustavo Petro blasts Mockus as being in the same “political camp” as Uribe, while you blast him as “Chavez’s candidate.” If Mockus is “Chavez’s candidate,” what is Petro? (We don’t think he is “Chavez’s candidate” either, but at least it is vaguely plausible.)

      Oh, and when did Castro and Chávez ever “control” Colombia? We must have missed something.

      Finally, some of us think Chávez isn’t Marxist enough. He’s a little bit of what real Marxists call a “Bonapartist.”