The surprise has been consummated and, for the first time in recent Colombian history, it will be the two populists who best embody the change demanded by the electorate who will compete for the presidency of Colombia on June 19.

Rodolfo Hernández, 77 years old and personification of the anti-politician who despises the parties and finances his campaign with his money so as not to depend on anyone, will be the rival of veteran Gustavo Petro, 62 years old, leader of a far-left movement and candidate for the third time to occupy the Nariño Palace.

Petro has won this Sunday in the first electoral round with 40%, Hernández has been second with 28% while the independent Fico Gutiérrez, who brought together the center right and the right and who had the support of the traditional parties, It has occupied the third place with 24%.

“Corruption is not fought with TikTok messages,” Petro said in his speech after hearing the results, about his rival, who has become a figure on that social network. He has also pointed out to him for getting rich at the expense of the poor who go into debt to buy a home.

In his turn, Hernández has stated that “there is a firm citizen will to end corruption as a system of government. Today the country lost from politicking and corruption. Today they lost the sheaves that believed they would be the government forever,” referring to Fico and the traditional parties that supported him. Despite the coup, Gutiérrez has announced that he will vote for Hernández to stop Petro.

The candidate of the Historical Pact -an amalgamation of parties such as the Communist, the Patriotic Union or the Democratic Pole- arouses hatred and love alike. In his only executive position – mayor of Bogotá – Petro only obtained the approval of 36% of the citizenry at the end of his mandate. But his current challenge is not to show that he learned the lesson from his mistakes, but rather to drive away the fears caused by his closeness to Chavismo and some of his economic proposals, which raise hives.

It should be noted that with 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants, Colombia is an exceptional witness to the way in which a despotic regime has ruined the once rich Venezuela. The fear that he would replicate a similar model was one of the reasons for his defeat against Iván Duque in 2018.

“We will see if Colombian society has lost its fear of Petro and bets on the most radical change that he proposes, or if prevention towards his figure persists,” analyzes Yesid Lancheros, deputy director of the Colombian magazine Semana. “He now has more support than in 2018; he has managed to convince more people who feared him, including businessmen.”

Certain of his victory, Petro has spent the electoral campaign assuring that the Duque government and the usual elites will try to block his path with some sinister plot, although that type of discourse loses force now that he will face a critic of the government and a man foreign to Bogota politics.

Rodolfo Hernández, who has no party, has limited himself to repeating during the campaign that he will fight corruption like no one else. Among his promises of obvious populist odor are turning the Presidential Palace into a museum, since he does not intend to reside in it, and taking away bodyguards and official cars from legislators, although a Head of State lacks the power to take action in Congress and the Senate.

“He is an unprecedented political phenomenon, a man from the province, with almost no experience in public service, who says things without a filter,” says Lancheros. “But he has a very high probability of beating Petro and being President because he arouses enthusiasm and represents change for a large sector of the country.”

In mid-May, Ingrid Betancourt gave up her presidential aspirations and joined Hernandez, and is likely to hold a cabinet post, which could be Foreign Affairs, if she expires in June.

“Of the candidates that there were, Rodolfo is the only one who can wage a one-on-one battle with Petro and has a lot to grow from,” says Carlos Suárez, director of the Strategy and Power agency.

Apart from Fico Gutiérrez, the polls also left Sergio Fajardo out of the game, the mathematician who grouped the center left who started as the favorite and finished with a meager 4%. This week will define his next steps.

Starting this Monday, a second stage begins in which Petro will have to break his ceiling, which is always around 40%, and Hernández, ensure the electoral flow that he already has, add the voters of Fico and attract the majority of those from the center . He has the advantage that he has been close to Petro, to Uribe and was about to seal a deal with Sergio Fajardo.

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