File photo dated May 22, 2022 showing presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernández, being recorded with a mobile phone during his visit to Piedecuesta, Colombia.  (EFE / Marco Valencia).

Rodolfo Hernandez became the surprise candidate by getting into the second round of the presidential election of Colombia and since then he has been the unknown of the contest: everyone wonders if he will be able to maintain the “rodolfista” phenomenon that has spread throughout the country and go from being a billionaire businessman to being the president of the Republic.

The “Colombian Trump”, as some call him, he turned all the scenarios planned for months and inaugurated a new playing field in which next Sunday he will dispute the head of the Colombian State with the leftist candidate Gustavo Petro.

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Definitely, the engineer shook the political board on May 29 when voters chose him over the hitherto favorite to come second, the right-wing Federico “Fico” Gutierrez. Since then, the Rodolfo Hernández phenomenon has been growing under his leadership.

File photo dated May 22, 2022 showing presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernández, being recorded with a mobile phone during his visit to Piedecuesta, Colombia. (EFE / Marco Valencia).

Hernández is the head of the Anti-Corruption Leaders League movement, created by him. He does not define himself politically, although his proposals tend towards populism, and he leads a movement that places him with a high probability of prevailing at the polls, although the polls anticipate a tight result.

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Since the beginning of the electoral race, this 77-year-old candidate has starred in an atypical campaign in which social networks have been the favorite means of transmitting its message, in which the fight against corruption occupies a prominent place.

In the final stretch of the elections, he has not deviated from his tactics; in fact, it has even intensified it: nor participate in debates with his opponent, limiting his public appearances and starring in heated controversies.

File photo dated June 4, 2022 showing Colombian presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernández during his arrival at the Atanasio Girardot stadium in Medellín.  (EFE/ Luis Eduardo Noriega A.).
File photo dated June 4, 2022 showing Colombian presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernández during his arrival at the Atanasio Girardot stadium in Medellín. (EFE/ Luis Eduardo Noriega A.).

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE ENGINEER

The successful businessmanaway from traditional politics and from what he calls “the castes” of power, was born in 1945 in Piedecuesta, a town in the department of Santander, and began his career in Bucaramanga, the regional capital, where he became a millionaire in the business of the construction of low-income housing.

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Raised in a working class family, he is married to Socorro Oliveros and He has had four children: Juliana -disappeared after being kidnapped by the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in 2004-, Luis Carlos, Mauricio and Rodolfo José.

In his political career he has made his title of “engineer” an inseparable element of his name, with the intention of giving the idea that, being rich, it does not need to “steal from the public coffers”.

Rodolfo Hernandez.  (AFP).
Rodolfo Hernandez. (AFP).

SHARP TONGUE

But without a doubt, what has most marked his presence on the political scene has been his character, with a tendency to the picturesque and tawdry, and without fear of confrontation.

Hernandez is an “attractive candidate”, because he has novel ideas, if you will, unorthodox, and “the transmit without filterssomething that can connect him with the voters,” political analyst Felipe Botero explains to Efe, adding that this does not mean that the proposals are “plausible.”

The engineer came to the race for the Presidency with some controversial episodes behind him, such as an interview in which he assured that he admired Adolf Hitler or when, as mayor of Bucaramanga, he hit an opposition councilman.

Rodolfo Hernández's vice-presidential candidate and ticket, Marelen Castillo, delivers a speech in front of a group of supporters, on June 6, 2022, in Cali, Colombia.  (EFE/Ernesto Guzmán).
Rodolfo Hernández’s vice-presidential candidate and ticket, Marelen Castillo, delivers a speech in front of a group of supporters, on June 6, 2022, in Cali, Colombia. (EFE/Ernesto Guzmán).

His current campaign, like the one that led him to the mayoralty of Bucaramangahas been based on a speech very critical of corruptionwidely spread in Colombia, and against traditional politicians, whom he accuses of all the ills of the country.

Despite this outrage that has become a flag, Hernández is involved in a corruption case that dates back to his time as mayor (2016-2019) due to alleged irregularities in a consulting contract for garbage management in Bucaramanga for which it will not be known if he is responsible until the judgment, scheduled for after the election.

Although in the first stage of the electoral race corruption centered his speech, in this second he has tried to explain his government program a little more, and emphasize that he will not change his speech in order to gain support and that he is not the candidate of the uribismo, alluding to the political current founded by former president Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010).

The role that women must play and the supposed implementation of a ten-hour working day generated controversy around their proposals.until in full visit to the United States he decided to suspend all the campaign events planned in Colombia -which were not many- arguing that there is a plan to assassinate him.

Supporters of presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernández celebrate in Cali, Colombia, on May 29, 2022, after the presidential elections.  (RAUL ARBOLEDA / AFP).
Supporters of presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernández celebrate in Cali, Colombia, on May 29, 2022, after the presidential elections. (RAUL ARBOLEDA / AFP).

WHO VOTES FOR RODOLFO

The core of the success of Rodolfo Hernandez he is in the regions, especially in the “santanderes”, which encompass his native Santander and the neighboring department of Norte de Santander. Unlike the rest of the candidates, he has not campaigned at rallies in the squares and instead has preferred to hold small meetings with supporters.

His “explosive and rebellious” personality, as well as being somewhat “authoritarian and intolerant”, is what “people like”, says analyst Felipe Botero.

But the candidate has proven to be “a bit naive about how democratic institutions work and this can work against him”, because he “believes that the president has a capacity” to make decisions that he does not really have.

And in fact, if he becomes President, Rodolfo Hernandez he will lack a party that supports him in Congress, which could generate difficulties when governing.

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