Colombians in US vote for right-wing losing candidate, get Trump’s ‘reflection’ to stand against left

Colombian-Americans likely to support leftist’s new right-wing opponent

FILE - People walk past a campaign mural of presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernandez, representing the League of Anti-Corruption Governors, in Bogota, Colombia, May 20, 2022. Hernandez, the former mayor of Bucaramanga, rose in the final stretch of the Colombia's presidential campaign after promising to clean the country of corruption and to donate his salary among other measures. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara, File) (Fernando Vergara, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MIAMI – Just as former U.S. President Donald Trump promised, Rodolfo Hernández said he is such a wealthy businessman that he can afford not to receive his government salary if he is elected president.

Like Trump, Hernández has used social media to surprise political pundits with his influence. The BBC and Reuters acknowledged his new self-proclaimed “King of TikTok” title.

The 77-year-old former mayor of Bucaramanga is impolite and unpredictable. His similarities with the 45th U.S. president have some observers referring to him as “Trump’s reflection in Colombia.”

“Everyone in Miami knows what happens when a communist is in power. We know better,” M. Natalia Suarez, a Colombian-American from Cali, said in Spanish.

Rodolfo Hernandez, presidential candidate with the Anti-corruption Governors League, shows his ballot before voting in presidential elections in Bucaramanga, Colombia, Sunday, May 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Mauricio Pinzon) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Only about 39.6% of Colombian registered voters in the United States participated in Sunday’s presidential election — which resulted in an unexpected June 19 runoff election.

“I was working so I couldn’t vote. This weekend is big for us on tips, but I will try to vote to make sure this guerrillero doesn’t ruin our country,” Suarez said in Spanish.

Official records show about 64.4% of Colombian voters in the U.S. chose Federico “Fico” Gutierrez, the right-wing 47-year-old former mayor of Medellin. Records show about 16% of them voted for Sen. Gustavo Petro, the leftist 62-year-old former mayor of Colombia’s capital of Bogotá.

The political reality was different in Colombia.

The presidential election narrowed to two polar opposites: Petro, an economist and former member of the M-19 guerrilla, had about 40.3% of the total vote. Hernández, the entrepreneur and engineer, had 28.5% of the total vote.

“Several right-wing lawmakers in Colombia openly backed Trump in 2020,” Local 10 News Reporter Cody Weddle wrote on Twitter earlier this week.

Gutierrez, who is a harsh critic of Petro, was outed with 23.91% of the total votes. He and the other four candidates fell behind with about 30% of the total vote. As of Monday afternoon, they had yet to make a public announcement about who they will support next.

Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, left, and his running mate Francia Marquez, with the Historical Pact coalition, stand before supporters on election night in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, May 29, 2022. Their ticket will advance to a runoff contest in June after none of the six candidates in Sunday's first round got half the vote. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

“Petro is a leader who draws masses,” Columnist Juan Francisco Valbuena wrote in Spanish for El Tiempo adding, “Much of this support is within the youth, who see him as the leader who can change the country.”

Economic inequities were often at the center of debates. Colombia’s economy partially recovered last year and the World Bank estimated in April that the national poverty rate decreased from about 42.5% in 2020 to 38.6% in 2021.

The race also defined that regardless of who wins on June 19 — another woman will be taking Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez’s office in the Casa de Nariño, Colombia’s official presidential home.

Hernández and Petro both selected women who are graduates of the private non-profit Santiago de Cali University as vice-presidential candidates.

Petro chose Francia Márquez, an attorney and 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize winner. The 40-year-old Afro-Colombian former housekeeper became known for her activism against illegal mining.

At the last minute, Hernández selected Marelen Castillo Torres, a 53-year-old academic with a doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University in South Florida.

About the Author:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.