“Do not steal, do not lie, do not betray…” and do not debate. Rodolfo Hernández’s campaign bets on the snail’s strategy: hide until he wins the presidency of Colombia. Not attending debates, disappearing from spaces where he has to face Gustavo Petro seems to be the main bet of the former mayor of Bucaramanga to reach the Casa de Nariño, the presidential palace. So far it has worked for him. Without doing it for the first round, and avoiding giving great details of his government plan, he obtained almost six million votes on May 29. And now he has continued to grow in the latest polls until he is ahead of the leader of the left.
“I will not attend debates because I will not be a participant in these polarizing and hateful dynamics where the game is to destroy the other in a minute and a half. I will make better use of the time and I will present my ideas in interviews and through my social networks, ”Hernandez said through Instagram and while a feminist debate was taking place, which was only attended by Petro. “Since May 29, Petro and her associates have taken an attack position focused on destroying me and my project,” insisted the candidate, who called the union.
His decision not to participate in presidential debates or mass events has caused controversy. A group of women sent a letter to the National Electoral Council (CNE) to try to demand that Hernández attend the appointments. “Citizens have the right to listen to their programs and their proposals,” said former senator Ángela María Robledo, signatory of the letter. It is based on Law 996 of 2005, which requires candidates to attend a minimum of three presidential debates in institutional media. But he hides behind his staging on social networks, where he is known as “the old man from Tik Tok”, a place where he can control his narrative and repeat the phrases that have earned him so much affection among citizens: “End with the thieves and the corrupt.
He had been doing it since the first round. Last March, a television journalist also questioned him because, in a country with low levels of internet connection, he favors social networks and does not go to debates. “Don’t you think it’s disrespectful to voters who don’t have internet access, that your campaign is limited to digital and doesn’t go to the public square?” the reporter asked. The candidate, known for being choleric, responded aggressively: “Is it my fault that these people don’t have internet or is it the fault of the thieves who have governed? Answer, let’s see, answer me.”
In that same press conference, when he registered his candidacy, he had given clues to his strategy of not holding events in the public square. “How many votes do you think it takes to win the presidency? They are only 10 million and you know that the demonstrations are prefabricated and cost a lot of money, ”he replied to reinforce his image of being austere during the campaign.
But it is not only because of austerity. According to his strategist, Ángel Beccassino, it was a choice. “The street has three paths: one is public demonstrations, another is walking the street and the third, which we do not work for lack of time, is knocking on doors and generating the feeling that the character had been in more than one in the neighborhood. House”. With Rodolfo Hernández they chose to walk the street and take him to caravans with motorcycles and cars, where voters wear the Colombian shirt and blow vuvuzela.
The street has been crossed with a social network strategy that, according to Perla Toro, an expert in digital communication, has not been limited to traditional ones. “It had two battle scenarios: Tik Tok and geolocated WhatsApp groups with community managers willing to always listen to people. She also created a web page – instead of messing around with billboards and newspaper fights – in which a person signs up and can immediately join WhatsApp groups, separated by municipalities, ”she explained. In addition, she had a commitment to “gamification”, that is, a game mechanic. That also explains Mario Sánchez, volunteer of the networks rodolfistas in Bogotá: “We work as if it were referral marketing [estrategia comercial por la que se ofrece algo a un cliente a cambio de conseguir otros compradores]”, that is, those interested can connect with other voters and invite more people.
The radio, especially the village [comunitaria o de zonas rurales], as Hernández had announced, has been the other key and is reminiscent of the strategy used by former President Álvaro Uribe in his first campaign when he gave interviews to local radio stations. In recent days, Hernández has given interviews to national radio, but even in a controlled manner, since he runs the risk of improvising and making statements that, according to Beccassino himself, later imply doing “damage control.” His mother, his wife and the vice-presidential formula, Marelen Castillo, have also spoken. Not so much his children, one of whom involved his father in an alleged case of improper execution of a public contract when he was mayor of Bucaramanga.
If Hernández was an enigma during the first round, now he plays at being unpredictable. After right-wing politicians gave him their support for the second round, which will take place on June 19, Hernández presented more moderate proposals that call for the political center. Through Twitter he has presented 20 keys that differentiate him from Uribismo in which he mentions his support for the decriminalization of abortion (which is already law), the legalization of medicinal cannabis and the peace agreement with the FARC. However, the lack of consistency between his statements in the media, on social networks and his government plan confuse voters.
“Before the CNE we denounce the inconsistencies that Hernández has shown regarding the document filed to be a candidate for the presidency and the proposals that he is moving in the media and networks. The proposal is very different from what he is pointing out now,” said Robledo, who led the letter from the group of women who complained to the agency, in which they also criticize the “misogynistic and macho character that Hernández has been expressing.” “Sexism kills and those expressions of machismo and ignorance put women’s lives at risk,” said the feminist politician.
But while part of the country demands that the candidate specify his government plan, the rest celebrate the way in which he expresses himself, which has not stopped giving him votes. In the latest poll released this week, Hernandez led Petro by 52% to 44%. “My proposal is not to steal from Colombians,” said the populist candidate. That is the idea that he has been expressing for months and that has earned him support, both on the right and in the political center, which gather around him, either out of anti-Petrism or out of conviction.
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