Frederick phyco Gutiérrez, the presidential candidate of the right-wing coalition in Colombia, has surprised everyone by announcing this Saturday as his vice-presidential formula Rodrigo Lara Sánchez, a doctor who was mayor of Neiva, a city of less than half a million inhabitants in the center from the country. While Gustavo Petro and Sergio Fajardo, at the head of the other great alliances of the left and center, respectively, favored Afro-Colombian figures representing the country’s periphery, Gutiérrez opted for Lara Sánchez, son of the remembered Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, a Minister of Justice assassinated by orders of Pablo Escobar in 1984.
Medical surgeon from the University of Cauca, Lara Sánchez –half brother of Rodrigo Lara Restrepo, also a politician– is a relatively unknown figure at the national level who, after two decades working in hospitals in Bogotá and Neiva, entered politics in 2010 the hand of Sergio Fajardo, who is emerging as Gutiérrez’s main rival for the ticket to the second round of the presidential elections to face Petro. The new vice-presidential candidate was mayor between 2016 and 2019 of Neiva, the capital of the department of Huila, but did not appear among the contenders of any observer.
Gutiérrez presented him as “an ordinary Colombian” in a messy press conference from the streets of Medellín. “We share a vision in which what we want is to unite the country,” he said, referring to respect and dialogue with Lara Sánchez, who in her turn rejected “hate speech.” The former mayor of the capital of Antioquia stressed that he identifies “good people” in all political sectors, and that the regions are going to play a fundamental role in the upcoming elections.
In a campaign in which the flag of change is on the rise, Fico heads the Team for Colombia, the alliance that is most tilted to the right and with the most continuity against the unpopular Government of Iván Duque. Until now, the former mayor of Medellín had given few clues about the choice of his second in command. The big question was whether he was going to lean toward a figure to woo voters from the political center, which emerged weakened from the legislative elections, or one that endorsed his most conservative credentials and decidedly brought him closer to the Democratic Center, the governing party founded by Mr. Former President Álvaro Uribe. The name of Lara Sánchez, who has always been shown appreciative with Fajardo, indicates that you have chosen the first option.
Gutiérrez also reaffirms, at least from a symbolic point of view, his speech against the legacy of the great drug cartels. As mayor of Medellín, he made the demolition of the Mónaco building, which Pablo Escobar had built, a point of honor and managed to tear it down in February 2019.
The two polls that have come out after the consultations that confirmed Petro as the rival to beat show Gutiérrez, who has tried to regroup the right around his figure, as his closest pursuer. In that of the firm Invamer, Petro registers 32% of the preferences and Gutiérrez 23%, while Fajardo equals around 10% with Rodolfo Hernández, the former mayor of Bucaramanga. Yanhass’s showed similar results, with Petro in first place (37%), followed by Gutiérrez (19%), Hernández (11%) and Fajardo (10%). The first round of the presidential elections is voted on May 29; if no candidate gets more than half of the votes, there will be a second round on June 19.
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Gutiérrez has already obtained more than two million votes in the Team for Colombia consultation, which shaped the early alliance of former mayors he forged with Alex Char (Barranquilla) and Enrique Peñalosa (Bogotá). Later they added the candidate of the Conservative Party, David Barguil, and Aydeé Lizarazo, from the MIRA party, with Christian roots. Although the alliance left out Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the former official candidate of the Democratic Center, he ended up stepping aside, recognizing that he had little chance of competing with Fico and offered his support.
That Gutiérrez manages to be the true counterweight of the petrism it still depends on the alliances he manages to seal. He was the last remaining candidate to uncover his letter to the vice presidency among the three great coalitions. In search of regaining the lost momentum, Fajardo was the first to announce the former Minister of the Environment, Luis Gilberto Murillo, while Petro confirmed last Wednesday that he will seek the presidency with Francia Márquez, the environmental activist who became a phenomenon election in the primaries of the left, despite being second in his bloc.
The other candidates who stayed on the sidelines of the large blocs previously defined their formulas, since their legal deadlines were different. The former mayor of Bucaramanga Rodolfo Hernández – after the journalist Paola Ochoa declined the offer – registered Marlene Castillo, academic vice-rector of the Universidad Minuto de Dios, in Bogotá. And Ingrid Betancourt, who noisily left the Centro Esperanza Coalition to go for her party, Verde Oxígeno, chose the military José Luis Esparza, who participated in the operation that freed her after spending long years kidnapped by the extinct FARC guerrilla. .
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