Today Colombians choose change. But which one and at what cost? On the left, Gustavo Petro (in the first round he won 8,527,768 votes), leader of the left-wing coalition Historical Pact, repeat presidential candidate, senator, former mayor of Bogotá and, if elected, the first left-wing president and former guerrilla who has Colombia, a country historically suspicious of a democratic option with that political aspect.
On the other hand, Rodolfo Hernández (in the first round he got 5,953,209 votes), a successful builder, former mayor of Bucaramanga, with an intermittent political career and attached to his region; a figure on the national political scene who has become the disruptive figure who can take the Casa de Nariño from Petro. Hernández today concentrates part of the support of those who are fed up with the traditional political class and the full support of the orphans on the right who see in him the incarnation of the motto "anyone but Petro."
In the country there is tension and expectation as the polls insist on a technical tie. Added to this is the fear that the loser will not recognize the victory and his followers will decide to recover in the street what he lost at the polls. The doubts are not unfounded: last March there was manipulation of votes and the once good name of the Registrar's Office was marked and subject to the monitoring of 50 oversight organizations, thousands of registered witnesses and eight international missions, including technical and electoral ones, which will verify the transparency in the 12,263 tables set up for the almost 39 million potential voters.
Colombia needs a renovation, no one doubts it. But how feasible is it? Three experts on economics, peace and security, and the international agenda value the candidates' campaign programs:
For Jorge Restrepo, professor of Economics at the Javeriana University, «the two programs are characterized by voluntarism in economic policy, they are not designed to accommodate the institutional procedure. They are radical programs, in that sense, that would require far-reaching constitutional or political reforms; they are designed to win elections, rather than to govern with them». And he sentences: "Whoever wins, it is hoped that he will govern through administrative measures", something that foreign rating agencies already point out as a great risk.
In fiscal matters, “Petro proposes very high levels of taxation, particularly for high-income people, with high-value properties or business owners. But the Petro policy also poses a significant increase in spending. Thus, his promised fiscal consolidation policy fails to balance the numbers between taxes and spending. It is a very risky and unviable policy.” In the case of Hernández, “he proposes tax stability and draconian austerity that would lead to a recession. In terms of public spending, it has a regressive bias; proposes to eliminate the value added tax and replace it with a consumption tax, which would bring an unbearable burden to consumers. It is unfeasible and has the typical demagogic design useful for winning elections».
“Both proposals propose a protectionist policy –says Restrepo-, contrary to direct foreign investment. They have a nationalist bias, to a greater extent that of Hernández, which represents a 180-degree turn in the Colombian productive structure. That is the most worrying because protectionist measures can be applied without the approval of Congress.
María Victoria Llorente, executive director of Ideas para la Paz, the leading think tank on security and peace, analyzes the proposals in light of these two crucial factors for Colombia's stability: "Petro wants to do many things, with a grandiose agenda : Something like refounding the public force, and replacing the concept of the internal enemy with what he calls human security. He proposes little novel reforms, such as removing the Police from the Ministry of Defense, democratizing promotions and rethinking military criminal justice, a classic agenda of the left for the sector. His room for maneuver is narrow and in order to govern, the Historical Pact needs to establish a decent relationship with the military ».
"Hernández is an empty set," he continues. «In his program he has a chapter on security, very traditional, like from the 80s. He does not have strategic proposals. He talks about corruption, but not about the existing one in the public force. He limits himself to welfare issues, better equipment, little else. My conclusion, he is unaware of the territorial challenge and does not seem interested in it ».
“In terms of peace, Petro's program includes the Agreement transversally and points out the need for it to be fully implemented. His approach to social forgiveness involves processes with the ELN guerrillas and with FARC dissidents, but he does not say how he is going to bring these groups into submission. Hernández, for his part, only mentions the Agreement once, and says that he will comply with the schedule, evidence that he is unaware of it. Finally, on drugs, in his grandiloquence, Petro promises a paradigm shift, while Hernández sprinkles his program with various themes, including controlled consumption centers and a simplistic approach to crop substitution ».
Camilo Reyes, former foreign minister and former ambassador to the United States, faced with the foreign policy vacuum in Hernández's program, beyond reestablishing relations with Venezuela, focuses his analysis on Petro's proposals and sets priorities, if he reaches the Government:
«With the United States: a relaunch of the deteriorated relationship can be proposed by emphasizing three elements: re-emphasizing the Peace Agreement, voluntary crop substitution and cooperation for the next 10 years of implementation of the Agreement. The second element, recognizing that we once again have a problem of diaspora to the United States and that must be addressed. And the third point, take advantage of the decision to implement the protection status of Venezuelans to increase bilateral and multilateral cooperation. In short, generate a synergy that combines the review of the relationship with the US and a reopening of the relationship with Venezuela, as promised by the candidate. Hernández has also referred to resuming relations with the neighboring country, but his program does not have a foreign policy agenda that allows further analysis.
The truth is that whoever the new president is, the new government has to see how it once again generates spaces for cooperation, dialogue and concertation at the regional and subregional levels. We have to recover the mechanisms for dialogue in Latin America, especially in South America, where everything is divided and deteriorated.