Tuesday, May 13, 2014

President Zuluaga?

Presidential candidate Oscar Iván Zuluaga.
(Photo: El Tiempo)
When the newborn Centro Democratico Party selected Oscar Iván Zuluaga to be its presidential candidate, many observers called it political suicide. After all, the convention of the party, which was founded by ex-Pres. Alvaro Uribe, had passed over Uribe's vice president, Francisco Santos, who seemed to be their most popular and charismatic potential candidate (and happens to be Pres. Juan Manuel Santos's cousin). Zuluaga, an ex-treasury minister, in contrast, was seen as grey, uncharismatic and little known publicly.

Andres Sepulveda, arrested hacker
linked to Zuluaga campaign.
And in recent weeks, it seems that things should only be getting worse. Police arrested a hacker linked to the Zuluaga campaign, who allegedly spied illegally on the government-FARC guerrilla peace talks and tried to sabotage those talks. Zuluaga admitted having visited the hacker's office, but claimed that a conspiracy behind the episode was attempting to damage his image.

Meanwhile, ex-Pres. Uribe, who remains the boss and dominant figure in the Centro Democratico Party, found himself in an uncomfortable position after prosecutors cited him to back up claims he made that Pres. Santos's 2010 campaign had received a multimillion-dollar donation which might have come from drug traffickers. (At the time, Santos and Uribe were political allies.) Uribe refused to testify to the prosecutors, questioning the system's fairness - a strange position for an ex-president and senator-elect.

Yet, despite these polemics, a recent poll showed Zuluaga winning both the first-round presidential election, to be held May 25th, and also a following run-off election against Santos.

Alvaro Uribe: Help or hindrance for Zululaga?
But Zuluaga should hold off as yet on his redecorating plans for the presidential palace. Most other polls have placed Santos in the lead. And, it seems likely that as the voting nears, most supporters of also-ran candidates will shift to Santos instead of a relative unknown like Zuluaga, or the third leading candidate, one-time Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, a chronic loser in election after election.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


coolcoil said...

I am not surprised that despite the ongoing revelations about Zulaga's ties to the hacking scandal, he continues to gain in the polls. I think that many Colombians are actually happy to hear that the military was wiretapping the peace talks since they do not trust the current government to not give away the store in order to get an agreement. From my perspective, Santos has done a decent job of running the country, but I have talked to many people, including my wife, who are wary of sliding back to the days when you had to worry about coming across a guerrilla roadblock anywhere you drove in the country. They, like most people, are willing to trade liberty for security.

Miguel said...

I don't think there's much danger of Colombia sliding back to the Pastrana era under Santos. Santos was, after all, Uribe's defense minister, when they beat back the guerrillas.

It seems to me that Zuluaga has inherited Uribe's teflon coating - probably because his supporters see him as a stand-in for Uribe. Sandals such as the False Positives, the DAS spying affair, the paramilitary ties, etc etc, didn't seem to matter to Uribistas.