|Colombia's next president? |
Unfortunately, probably not.
Sergio Fajardo wasn't perfect as mayor Medellin: Some projects were executed poorly, and he ran over budget. But Fajardo also accomplished things, and Medellin has continued its evolution from Narco City to tourist destination and retirement haven. In fact, the Washington Post just listed Medellin as one of the globe's 'attrative cities.' Not bad for a city which just a few decades ago was ruled by vicious drug cartels. Bogotá was not on the post's list.
Fajardo is a political centrist. Unfortunately, in tomorrow's first round of presidential voting, the two leading candidates are the far-left Gustavo Petro and the right-wing Ivan Duqué.
Petro's mayoralty of Bogotá was marked by investment for poor people, but also monumental mishandling of public services. Exhibition No. 1 was his decision to transfer the garbage collection contract to the city's water company, which didn't even own garbage trucks. For weeks, garbage piled up on sidewalks and streetcorners.
Petro got temporarily removed from office for that travesty. I also witnessed many examples of corruption and/or incompetence during Petro's time as Bogotá mayor. For example, the city installed racks for hundreds bikes in places where nobody ever wants to park a bike. And Petro issued a contract for a public bicycles program which was illogical, unrealistic economically and evidently rife with corruption. The much-needed project has as yet to start.
De la Calle seems like a good guy, and we all should be grateful to him for making the peace deal with the FARC, as imperfect as it is, a reality. But negotiating a peace deal is far from being the top executive of Colombia. It's too long a leap from peace negotiator to president. De la Calle is not ready.
Vargas Lleras got things done, in particular on infrastructure. But Vargas Lleras' eocnomic and social philosophies are too conservarive for my taste.
Unfortunately, none of the three centrist candidates seems to have enough support to make people he has the potential to pass into the second round of voting. So, Duque and Petro will likely pass to the second round of voting.
If Ivan Duque wins, he'll set Colombia backward decades on social issues such as minority rights. He'll also do his best to sabotage the peace agreement with the FARC, causing the armed conflict to resurge.
Also, many believe that Duque, a young guy, would just be a puppet of ex-president Alvaro Uribe, Duque's political sponsor. And Uribe has been credibly linked to right wing death squads, also called paramilitaries. That would give Duque a huge burden.
Petro, on the other hand, has lots of good ideas - which however are completely impractical and undoable, such as trading the oil economy for avocado growing.
Wish it were true!
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours