Salem Radio Network News Thursday, August 11, 2022

World

Populist Colombian candidate Hernandez enjoys late rise in polls

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Rodolfo Hernandez, a septuagenarian construction magnate and former mayor, is enjoying a late rise in polls ahead of Colombia’s presidential vote on Sunday, boosted by his colorful social media presence and anti-corruption promises.

The ex-mayor is currently running third, but within striking distance of the center-right’s Federico Gutierrez. If he manages to make it to a likely second round, surveys show he would be only a few points behind leftist front-runner Gustavo Petro.

“Here’s the key for getting out of poverty: kick out all these thieving politicians who have us immersed in poverty,” Hernandez told a rally last week in Cartagena, promising to end privileges for officials and govern with austerity.

Despite Hernandez’s anti-corruption rhetoric, he is facing an investigation by the attorney general’s office for allegedly intervening in a trash collection tender when he was mayor of Bucaramanga to benefit a company his son had lobbied for.

Hernandez denies the accusations and insists they are designed to derail his presidency bid.

That accusation is not his only scandal – he resigned his post as mayor after he got in hot water with the procurator general for participating in politics – prohibited for Colombian officials.

He had previously been suspended for hitting a city councillor in an altercation that set social media alight.

TIK TOK CANDIDATE

Hernandez, who is financing his own campaign, has relied heavily on social media, posting eccentric videos on TikTok, including one of him riding an electric scooter.

The whimsical content belies his personal knowledge of the suffering caused by Colombia’s nearly 60 years of war.

His farmer father was held by the FARC guerrillas for more than four months, while his daughter Juliana was kidnapped by the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels in 2004.

Hernandez believes she was murdered in captivity, but has said he would explore peace talks with the ELN if elected and continue to implement a 2016 deal with the FARC.

He has also pledged to strengthen law and order and create jobs, although he has shared scant details of those plans.

Hernandez, a civil engineer, says he amassed a fortune of $100 million via his construction company, which specialized in housing for low-income families, all without taking government contracts.

The 77-year-old native of Santander province has promised to donate his presidential salary to fund social projects.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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