EspañolAfter a close race for mayor in the Colombian capital of Bogotá, former Mayor Enrique Peñalosa emerged victorious last Sunday to regain his old post with one-third of the vote.
Besides his own proposals, Peñalosa, of the center-right Radical Change party, was undoubtedly favored by the fact that Bogotá residents had grown tired of 12 years of leftist rule in the city. In the last decade, city infrastructure has decayed, crime has increased, and poor planning surrounding the Integrated Transportation System has worsened public mobility.
Political and security analyst John Marulanda believes the key to Peñalosa’s victory was his decision to separate from traditional politics and present himself as a results-oriented manager. “The polarization and the lack of progress led voters to punish the communist left in Colombia,” Marulanda says. “With this election, it’s become clear that Marxism-Leninism is old, fringe politics.”
The difference was huge. The so-called left, represented by the Democratic Pole, obtained a meager 18 percent. Bogotá Adelante (Forward Bogotá) candidate Rafael Pardo, who came in second, took 28.5 percent, surpassing the number of votes that Gustavo Petro received when he was elected mayor.
The party of former President Álvaro Uribe, Democratic Center, had a decent showing, with their candidate Francisco Santos obtaining 12 percent of the vote. It’s clear, however, that Bogotá residents decided to use their vote to protest against socialist ideology.
According to Marulanda, it was the previous administration in Bogotá that polarized the city with antiquated rhetoric. This is also reflected in the newly formed Bogotá City Council, where where only one representative of the Democratic Pole remains. “They only had 18 percent of the vote, and that is symbolic of what Colombians think of them.”
Meanwhile, Peñalosa is off to a smooth start. His primary challenge will be to put Bogotá back in her place as the most developed city in the country, a position that Medellín has overtaken in recent years.
“Pardo and Francisco Santos have offered Peñalosa their help,” Marulanda says. “They hold a majority of the city councilmen, so we’ll have to wait and see what agreements they make. Meanwhile, the Democratic Pole councilman will have to surrender to the majority.”
A Clear Message to the Guerrilla
Marulanda considers the election result a message for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who are close to finalizing negotiations with the Colombian government in Havana. “They must realize that their proposals, tactics, and political discourse have no chance in elections,” the analyst argues.
While it remains a mystery how the FARC will enter political life in the country, it’s clear that it will be difficult for guerrilla members to reach any high office. Besides their ideology, Colombian society has has little to no tolerance for the crimes they have committed.
Marulanda says the FARC gains its funding almost exclusively from the illegal trade of weapons and drugs, making any campaign for office for the guerrilla even less credible.