This Sunday presidential elections took place in Colombia. Gustavo Petro was the candidate who obtained the most votes with more than 8.5 million votes, something like 40.32% of the votes. He will face Rodolfo Hernández on 19 June in the second round of the election. It is worth remembering that Rodolfo Hernández came close to 6 million votes, which represented 28.15%.
The first reading is one of satisfaction at the victory of those who have been embroiled behind the slogans of peace and reparation for this fratricidal war that has ravaged Colombia for decades and that still, well, the scars of this violence continue, especially against the peasant and indigenous populations in the territories. However, it is also clear that the right-wing candidates, if they come together, would have more votes than Petro.
Federico ‘Fico’ Gutiérrez, the third in these elections, obtained 24% of the votes and indicated that he would support Hernández. To better understand this Colombian scenario, the hopes and concerns, we have with us today Zabier Hernández, who is an essayist, but fundamentally a peace activist. He lives in Nariño, Colombia. His militancy has led him to hold numerous community positions. Today he is working hard for the Historical Pact.
Hello Zabier, thank you for being connected with us here at Continentes y Contenidos.
Zabier Hernández: Hello, Mariano. Greetings and a hug to all the internet users who connect. And, well, we are very happy, with a lot of hope and optimism, but working hard to win in the second round.
Petro’s victory was clear and indisputable; but we are gripped by fear or doubt as to whether it will be enough to win the run-off, how do you see it, how do you see it, how do you see it personally?
Well, since you said the figures, I wanted to comment and tell everyone who is connected, that Nariño was the third region to have the highest rate of voting and support for Gustavo Petro. We had around 71% of the valid votes in favour of Gustavo Petro. A high percentage is something historic at the national level, because as you saw Petro was over 40%, that is, in Nariño we obtained 30 points more than the national average in the country. This is a great incentive to us, a motivating factor.
And what are we doing to win in the second round and give Colombia this great news of beginning a new era of peace, of reconstruction of the productive apparatus, of distribution of the country’s wealth? First: Something that is already happening is all the support and articulation of the centre, the centre-left, even the centre-right, if you allow us to categorise it in that way. Fajardo’s vice-presidential candidate yesterday announced his support for Petro’s candidacy. All the senators of the Green Party are today organising a public event to support Petro’s candidacy. We have liberal sectors that were by decision of the president of the Liberal Party, César Gaviria with Federico ‘Fico’, today there are direct talks with Petro to build an agreement of adhesion that possibly tomorrow will be disclosed to the public.
In fact, some opinion leaders who were with Rodolfo Hernández were joining Gustavo Petro’s campaign because Rodolfo Hernández has sold himself as the candidate of change and opposition to corruption and Uribism. However, on election day he received the support of Uribism, both from the candidate Federico Gutiérrez and from the maximum leader of Uribism, Mr Álvaro Uribe. This has meant that sectors that supported Rodolfo Hernández because they believed him to be an option and an alternative to Uribe, but seeing that Uribe now supports Rodolfo, they have come to support Gustavo Petro’s campaign.
Let’s say that this is the political scenario of the organic voting party, but there is a large swathe of Colombians who abstained from voting in Colombia, which is almost 50%. This is a fundamental fringe and we are already winning it to the extent that we are building a strategy to reach the heart and to be able to interpret what the abstentionist vote wants, which is undoubtedly complex and we have to know how to build a strategy to be able to extract a large part of the victory in the second round from this vote.
This is precisely what I was going to talk to you about, because there are so many people who did not vote that if a significant percentage of those people were to participate, it could completely change the political scenario. How do you think you can motivate those Colombians who are disenchanted with politics or who simply prefer to leave everything in the hands of others?
Yes, the first thing is that, well, the political tension and I would like to say the factor of distrust in the Colombian electoral system, in the software, in the outright refusal of an international audit of the Electoral Register software, which was not achieved, which the government did not allow. And, today there are strong rumours that there was a fraud in the software that did not allow Petro to grow more than 40 percent, because it was already established in an irregular intervention within the software. Now, this distrust is transferred to this latent electorate that is there, that does not participate, but that has an opinion.
We are first going to deactivate the political tension, the confrontation of a sector of the historic pact that has begun to attack Rodolfo Hernández, to attack Uribism, and what this creates is tension in the abstention. This does not find a way to enter the political process first and Petro has said, in the words of Petro and Francia, we are going to treat with love all those who did not vote in order to make them fall in love with us. This is our first proposal.
The second is that some mistakes were made in communication, in political pedagogy, and that today we are building, let’s say, a pedagogical proposal that will really allow us to reach abstentionism with our proposals.
The third proposal has to do with the economic difficulties we had as a Historical Pact to facilitate the mobility of the electorate, especially in remote and profound areas of Colombia, which we are resolving today in Nariño, at least. Thus, we are solving the logistics of election day, in terms of mobility so that vast sectors of this rural, profound Colombia can reach the polling stations. In this way, we could win 25,000 or 30,000 votes from the start, if we solve the logistical problem.
That is to say, there is an abstentionism that is organic, political and ideological; but there is 35 to 40 per cent of abstentionism that is not going to vote because it did not find a way to get to the polling stations, and we are also going to solve that.
I remember interviewing Ángela Robledo at the time and talking about what women’s participation meant for Colombia at that time in previous elections. And it seems to me that now with France as the vice-presidential candidate, not only is the participation of women sustained and strengthened, but Afro-Colombians are also included. I don’t know if you would like to explain this to those of us outside Colombia so that we understand how important this is for you.
Yes, of course, and it is a very key question, why at this time? In terms of victory, the prospect of victory in the second round, women and young men and women are a factor of popular victory. Women undoubtedly make up the majority of Colombian citizens. Rodolfo Hernández has been roundly rejected by women because of his declared misogyny. His definition of women as very useful for the kitchen, for the home, but not useful for politics. And this has generated a reaction.
Yesterday in Colombia we experienced virtual meetings at a national level of millions of women, not thousands, but millions, who congested the networks, meeting to define their strategy and they clearly said the phrase that has become a trend: Petro is not going to defeat Rodolfo Hernández. We women will defeat him. And this is important, it is the key to the perspective of 19 June.
On the other hand, the young people, who, it must be said very clearly, have not yet reached the required level of political participation. There is still a strong and growing gap among young people, and we are working on this issue to resolve it. In this context, Francia Márquez, Ángela Robledo and the women of the Historical Pact and the women of the Frente Amplio who support Petro, are a fundamental factor in bringing together the citizenry and especially women. And, I must say, the women of the Pacific, the women of the South West, where Petro had the highest vote, are going to work in depth to increase the participation of women in this process.
I think it is very important what you were telling us about the work to help ensure that this participation or this political intentionality of the population can be reflected in the votes. There is evidence, with the election results, of the need for more votes to be cast. I am not so confident about the political agreements that can be made between candidates, between leaders, because it seems to me that it will not clearly mobilise the people, it will not direct them in their voting. Prospecting has already begun. You talked to us a little bit about the numbers in Nariño, the number of votes that could be incorporated, is there an infrastructure to do this on a national level, not just in Nariño?
Yes, I was asked in the chat about whether Nariño could increase the turnout and whether the 70% vote could be transferred, let’s say, we could reach that level at the national level. Well, I don’t think we’re going to reach 70% at the national level. It has to be said that to win in the second round the Petro-France formula needs one million five hundred thousand votes to be safe and to be comfortable it would be 2 million votes; while Rodolfo needs 5 million votes to be able to reach the level required to win.
That opens up a perspective that is not so difficult, but it does not mean that we have it so easy either. So, we are working to secure two and a half million votes, that is, to reach 11 million votes in the second round, and we believe it is not impossible. In Nariño we removed them 450,000 votes, which represented 70 or 71 per cent, and doing the analyses we have done, we can increase the number of votes by 100,000 more to reach more or less 80 per cent. This is feasible in Nariño because there is a history of support for the left, this is not a fortuitous event, but rather there is a historical process that has led to an alternative government, to the left being the government in Nariño, and this is the result of a process.
In Colombia it is different, we will surely reach 52%, which is a result that will allow us to do well. In the second round, this is the perspective. Petro will concentrate on the regions where we lost, we are talking about the Santanderes, Antioquia, Tolima and Boyacá. In addition, part of the Boyacá League and Petro will go to these regions to reverse the result that has been established in these regions.
Yes, we thank you for taking the time to help us look at the electoral results in Colombia from the regions. I find it interesting what you were also telling us, that the strategy for the run-off is not going to be based on bombarding Rodolfo Hernández, but rather on looking for proposals to enthuse voters to come to the Historic Pact. This also shows a change. Even though Rodolfo Hernández makes it easy for people to take a swing at him, I think it’s interesting to show that change of mind, what they’ve been looking for, for so long.
I did say that in the spirit of confronting Rodolfo, what a group of our voters and voters have done is to position Rodolfo in networks. And his comfortable space is Tik Tok. He is a man who does not have a government programme, who does not have proposals, who throws phrases and that becomes the strategy. So, we are going to concentrate on our own strategy.
We are going to leave him alone and it also has to do with a healthy criticism that we made of Petro and France. And that is going to change, there are not going to be any more large-scale public rallies. There is not going to be this paraphernalia of the big stages of the big stage to speak to thousands of people. Instead, there will be networks, walks and direct contact with the people, greater proximity to the voters, to the abstentionist reader who is waiting in the wings. So, these are part of the change in the strategies that we are going to develop.
Thank you very much. See you soon and we will all be waiting for what happens on 19 June. A big hug Zabier.
Good Mariano. And an invitation to all Colombian men and women abroad, in Argentina, in the world, to remain optimistic, to continue working, because victory belongs to the Colombian people on 19 June.