Rodrigo Lara Sánchez saw his father on television more times than in person. His father, from whom he only obtained his last name when he had already died and thanks to a DNA test, was a prominent Colombian Minister of Justice gunned down in 1984 by assassins under the orders of Pablo Escobar. Lara Sánchez (51 years old, Neiva, Huila) was almost unknown until March 26, when he was elected to Federico’s vice-presidential formula phyco Gutiérrez, the second in the polls in the electoral contest to reach the House of Nariño. Since then, he has been presented as “the son of”, but he prefers that Colombia recognize him as the former mayor of Neiva, a small city in the south of the country that he directed, without scandal, between 2016 and 2019, and that culminated No investigations against him. “A politician who comes out of office with a clear conscience and with clean hands, sadly, is not seen as much in Colombia,” he says.
Lara Sánchez, despite accompanying the right-wing candidate, assures that she does not feel part of that political current. “I have never been on the right, nor have I belonged to the right, nor do I speak with the former president [Álvaro] Uribe”, he warns. His opinions on issues such as abortion or the use of glyphosate are opposite to those of his partner on this path to the presidential elections. “phyco and I are not the same, we do not share the same ideas in everything ”, he assures this Wednesday afternoon. She has come from a marathon day and is getting ready for another. She hasn’t stopped. “It’s exhausting, but rewarding.” He says that this campaign, the first in which he is measured in the entire country, is very different from the only one he has experienced, when he launched and won the city leadership from him.
Ask. The only political position he has held, that of mayor, was as a representative of a center-left party. How does the formula of the candidate who represents the right in Colombia come to be?
Answer. phyco and I have a friendship for about six years, since we were both elected mayors. He from Medellín, and I, from Neiva. We always had a close relationship, we shared the same concerns and the same idea that the country has to be built from the regions and not from the centralism that we had to live as leaders of two cities that were not the capital, where power has been concentrated historically. after consultation [las primarias en las que Federico Gutiérrrez fue elegido el candidato de la derecha]I offered him my support: “What can I do from here to help?”
P. His choice was a surprise. For you too?
R. As well. I was focused on my work as a doctor, as a university professor. I never imagined this. Since I left the mayor’s office [en 2019] I had completely distanced myself from politics. A few days after the consultation he told me that he wanted me to work on his campaign, but at his side, to accompany him as his formula. There I decided to hang up the gown and leave the scalpel to start touring the country.
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P. phyco is the candidate who represents the right, you have not done politics from that spectrum.
R. I have never been on the right, nor have I belonged to the right, nor do I speak with the former president [Álvaro] Uribe, I don’t even take orders from anyone.
P. In 2018 you supported Sergio Fajardo, who is once again a candidate this year. What made you change position?
R. Colombia is experiencing a moment where there is a model that could take the country to a leap into the void. And there is another, ours, that seeks to include, unite all sectors, regardless of color, without distinction, where we can all meet. I think the proposal phyco it is what we need if we want to rescue the regions that have been forgotten. The country is not for polarizations.
P. When he talks about a model that could take the “country to a leap into the void” he refers to that of Gustavo Petro, but what does he say about his candidacy being seen as the continuation of what this country has been for 20 years.
R. It is something that we are aware of. The young people who went out to protest went out to draw the attention of society so that they are heard because they have been ignored for a long time. The lack of opportunities is a true and true cry, but not everything has been done wrong. We are going to change what is necessary, for example we are going to give the regions the space they deserve in a dialogue where we all fit. There are many deficiencies in the health system, in education, in the fight against corruption. We are going to make a stop along the way to talk from now on and not as it has always been done, with a rear view mirror looking back and justifying the incapacities in the mistakes of the past.
P. The country project that you propose is based on two words: opportunities and order. When speaking of order, many remember Gutiérrez’s mayor’s office in Medellín with a high military presence.
R. No, no, no, here we refer to strengthening the institutional framework. In this country we have been taught to judge not people but institutions. For example, last year there were abuses by the police, but they are individual issues. Here we have to find out how we get our police to improve and be trained in human rights, mainly in the right to life. The State must generate trust in citizens, through justice, the police, politicians. Here we do not trust anyone and that generates uneasiness, a loss of credibility of all the institutions that ends up bringing populist governments to power.
P. You are a doctor, you know the effects that the use of glyphosate has on peasants who live in areas where there are illicit crops, what do you think that Fico is in favor of it?
R. Here there is something important to clarify and that is that he and I are not the same. There are issues where we have differences and one of that is glyphosate. The problem of illicit crops has to be approached from another perspective. Before thinking about fumigating, it is necessary to attend to the communities, generate projects to replace these crops with others that are productive, that there are options before coca, such as coffee, bananas, cassava. We need the accompaniment of the international community, we need resources that arrive to support this type of project, but not for a few months, it must be a permanent accompaniment. I do not agree with the use of glyphosate because I think that spraying has shown that it has problems, above all it has negative effects on nature.
P. What is your position as a doctor and now vice presidential candidate on abortion?
R. I am catholic. I have never practiced one and never would. That is my personal point of view, but it is an issue that should be seen as a matter of public health and not as it has been tried to show from some sectors, as if it were a door for it to be used as a contraceptive method. Many women die in hospitals due to poorly performed abortions because the system does not offer guarantees and, as a State, we have to be guarantors of the health and well-being of all citizens.
P. Francia Márquez and Luis Gilberto Murillo, the formulas of Gustavo Petro and Sergio Fajardo, represent Afro-Colombians, who have been historically marginalized, who do you represent?
R. to the regions. I come from a city with poverty above the national average, with very high levels of unemployment.
P. You not only bear the name and surname of a character with great weight in the country’s history, Rodrigo Lara. He is also physically very similar to his father, how do you experience this in the campaign?
R. People may think that everything has been given to me, that everything has been given away, but I only saw him two or three times. I am here because I have made a political career. I was a mayor with good results, I left the mayor’s office with a clear conscience and a politician who leaves with a clear conscience and with clean hands, because sadly you don’t see that much in Colombia. I didn’t grow up with my dad, but I carry his fight with respect and admiration.
P. His father was a victim of the violence in this country. He fought against drug trafficking and was killed by drug traffickers, what will be his bet if they come to the Government to achieve a peaceful country?
R. We are going to continue with the implementation of the peace agreements, but we are going to demand compliance from all parties. We must work for the victims, that their rights be restored, that we have the right to the truth. It would be absurd to reverse what has already been achieved with the ex-combatants. Peace does not come only through an agreement, that was only the beginning. Peace has to reach the peasant with better roads, with health care. The State has to be present throughout the country.
P. Do you agree with resuming diplomatic relations with Venezuela?
R. There are two million migrants in Colombia. Of course you have to talk to the Government of Venezuela, especially for this aspect. Humanitarian attention is crucial for these millions of Venezuelans who are in Colombia today in search of opportunities.
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