For the candidates who survive the long campaign to reach the House of Nariño, the time has come to uncover their cards for the vice presidency. Sergio Fajardo, the candidate for the center coalition that emerged weakened from Sunday’s legislative elections, was the first to choose his formula, former Environment Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo, in search of regaining lost momentum. The Afro-Colombian politician and academic thus declines his own presidential aspiration for the Renaissance Colombia movement, which had remained on the sidelines of the three great alliances that also raised Gustavo Petro on the left and Federico Gutiérrez on the right.
“Luis Gilberto Murillo has all the conditions to be president of Colombia,” said Fajardo, who made the announcement on Thursday and highlighted the environmental issue as a condition for the development of a country in which the regions “are not seen from the center ”, as well as the need to include “with dignity” groups that have not had a voice. Both politicians coincided as governors of their departments, Chocó in the case of Murillo, and Antioquia in Fajardo. “We need to decisively implement the peace agreement”, the only one in the world that has an ethnic chapter, to improve security in the regions, the former Environment Minister pointed out at his turn.
Murillo (San Juan, Chocó, 55 years old) lived in Washington until January, is an associate researcher at MIT and is very well connected with African-American sectors of the Democratic Party in the US capital. Originally from a small town in the jungle department of Chocó, the poorest in Colombia, he studied mining engineering in the former Soviet Union, and later returned to Colombia to participate in the student movement that led to the 1991 Political Constitution. twice elected governor and lived a decade as a refugee in the United States after being kidnapped. During the Government of Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018), he headed the presidential program for the Pacific region, one of the most neglected in the country, and the Environment portfolio.
The crowded presidential campaign began to clear on Sunday, when the three large blocks of the right, center and left chose their unique candidates in separate consultations that coincided with the legislative elections. Fajardo is the first of the three to choose his formula, waiting for announcements from Petro, who heads the Historical Pact, a leftist alliance tailored to him, and phyco Gutiérrez, who tries to regroup to the right around his figure.
The election of Murillo contains the paradox that it attenuates and accentuates at the same time the lack of diversity that has weighed down the Hope Center Coalition. Although it brings a new regional and ethnic component, which in some way forces Petro to make a move, it is a masculine formula that joins an alliance in which five male candidates participated, among whom Fajardo won, but with an ostensibly lower vote. to that of its rivals to the left and to the right. While Petro obtained more than four million votes in the Historical Pact, and Gutiérrez more than two in the Team for Colombia, Fajardo prevailed in his alliance with just 723,000.
The new centrist vice-presidential candidate has the challenge of moving with a speech about opening spaces to the “forgotten” of the country, “that compensates for the tacit requirement that existed that the formula of the candidates should be a woman to support the discourse of equity of gender”, points out the analyst and consultant Andrés Segura, who highlights its incidence in the Pacific communities normally forgotten from the centers of power.
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The search for vice presidents
In a campaign where female candidates with real options have been scarce, choosing a woman as second in command seemed almost like a strategic necessity. While waiting for the decision of Petro and Gutiérrez, who have not yet exhausted the deadline to register their formula, Fajardo has defied that logic.
In the Historical Pact, in particular, the decision has caused friction. Initially, the left-wing bloc had publicly promised to give the second in the query the key to accompany Petro, the distant favorite in all the polls. Despite the fact that Afro-descendant environmental leader Francia Márquez became an electoral phenomenon on Sunday – surpassing even Fajardo in votes – that has not guaranteed her to be the chosen one.
“Leaving Marquez out would be a huge mistake for Petro, although he cannot afford to make her vice-president as he needs to provide the centrists and traditional parties with a stake in his campaign. This will be the most important decision to be made at this time,” says an analysis by the Colombia Risk Analysis consultancy. “I have no desire to occupy a position, my desire is to achieve change for this country, that means a collective construction project that we have been building with the Pact,” said Márquez – who slipped that Fajardo had sought it, although he denied it – in an attempt to settle the controversy within his coalition.
In the case of the Team for Colombia, in which Gutiérrez prevailed, there are few clues. The question that hangs around is whether he is going to choose a figure that allows him to bite voters from the ailing political center or one that allows him to strengthen his more conservative credentials, which associate him with the continuity of the Democratic Center, the government party founded by the former president Alvaro Uribe. “Colombia is not going to change if we get stuck in those two positions, Petro-Uribe, or whoever Uribe says in the season’s costume,” Fajardo assured when presenting Murillo and claiming that they are the best alternative to polarization in a “majority center” country.
The deadlines are different for the other candidates who were not part of any alliance, who have already registered their formulas. Rodolfo Hernández was the first to announce a partner in mid-February, the journalist Paola Ochoa, but she declined her aspiration a few days later in an episode that showed an erratic campaign. The announcement of Ochoa’s name had made headlines at a time when the former Bucaramanga mayor was vying for attention amid alliance debates. Earlier this month, Hernández leaned toward Marlene Castillo, academic vice chancellor at the Universidad Minuto de Dios in Bogotá.
Also Ingrid Betancourt, who left the Centro Esperanza Coalition amid disagreements, has already registered her vice-presidential formula. The policy of the Oxygen Green party, which spent long years in the jungle kidnapped by the extinct FARC guerrilla, was decided by Colonel José Luis Esparza, who participated in the military operation that freed her and 14 others kidnapped on the 2nd of July of the year 2008.
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