Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Luis Gonzalez's Pedal-Powered Campaign For President

'Against the Free Trade Agreement, the gringos and the fatherland's sell-outs.'

Luis González campaigning,
one voter at a time.
Luis González has been carrying out his self-powered presidential campaign along Ave. Septima for the past months. I often see him pedaling along on his beat-up one-speed bicycle mounted with the sign denouncing the gringos, free trade agreements and a loudspeaker blaring the speeches of assassinated politician Jorge Eliecer Gaitan.

Colombian politics is already buzzing about next year's presidential campaign, in which Pres. Santos looks likely to seek reelection, and Time Magazine says that his most likely opponent is his relative, ex-Vice Pres. Francisco Santos. Either one would likely support free trade agreements, a close alliance with Washington, a continued military campaign against the guerrillas and a privatized economy.

González, 52, would take a very different route if he makes it into the Casa de Nariño, which he's sure he'll do. In his administration, foreign military advisers would be expelled from Colombia, the state would nationalize all public services, health and education would be free and everybody would be guaranteed a job.

But before getting elected or even getting onto the ballot, González needs to collect the signatures of 520,000 voters. He's is planning a cycling campaign tour of the coffee region.

González motions toward the memorial for his hero,
Jorge Eliecer Gaitan.
He campaigns many days on Ave. Septima, by the spot where his political hero Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was assassinated in 1948 and where he seems to find a supportive crowd. But Gaitanistas are today a limited constituency.

Would González's policies work? Will he get the chance? González doesn't have any political parties behind him, nor money (he survives off of donations and by selling CDs of Gaitan's speeches). But, he says, he does have 'the people' behind him, and that's all he needs. Neither does his political history bode well. He ran multiple times for city council and mayor, mostly in his native Santander Department, and lost every time. Those failures don't disappoint him - he's sure that the only political position which matters is the presidency, so why not go directly there?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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