After being hailed as a hero in the English-language press, Colombian presidential candidate Antanas Mockus is facing criticism for his attention-grabbing antics and lack of concrete policies.
In a scathing article titled “Is this showoff fit to be Colombia’s next president?”, Cuban-born journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner accuses the Green candidate of suffering from a histronic personality disorder.
“Mockus is the political expression of surrealism,” says Montaner, a man with a “pathological” craving to be the center of attention, manifested in his often-cited stunts such as mooning a crowd of university students and getting married in a circus.
Montaner compares Mockus to current Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who he also diagnoses as a histronic, along with Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and former Argentine President Juan Peron.
The comparison to Chavez is a particularly sensitive one for Colombians, who generally hold the Venezuelan leader in low esteem. Mockus was recently pilloried in the Colombian press for saying that he admired Chavez, and was forced to retract the statement, saying that he would like to change the word “admire” to “respect.”
The English-language press have in general heaped praise upon Mockus following his surprise poll surge in recent months, describing his exploits in gushing terms.
The Huffington Post, meanwhile, described Mockus’ “Green Wave” as “the Colombian version of the Obama syndrome,” proclaiming the man to represent “a great and excellent opportunity” for the country.
Montaner pours scorn on all this praise, pointing out that “It is one thing to be amused by, and smile at, an Oscar Wilde who delivers a speech wearing velvet knickers and a gladiolus on the lapel, and quite another to watch your country’s president reviewing the troops in that attire.”
As well as psychoanalyzing the popular candidate, Montaner accuses Mockus of prioritizing style over substance, saying that “histronic presidents” are always “more ready to resort to gestures than to substance.”
This accusation echoes recent criticism in the Colombian press of Mockus’ campaign; independent and highly respected news website La Silla Vacia last week published a column highlighting the lack of content of the Green candidate’s policy platform.
The website argues that Mockus has presented a campaign which prioritizes style over substance, selling to Colombian voters the manner in which he plans to govern, with little specific content in terms of policy plans. “Although Mockus has a clear vision for the type of state he wants … the citizens have yet to see specific proposals from the Green candidate.”
According to La Silla Vacia, “Mockus tends to favor more philosophical issues such as legality, morality, and culture, all of which are linchpins in his policy of ‘democratic legitimacy,’ over more pragmatic proposals such as how will he create more jobs or which roads he will build.”
These accusations may not damage the Green politician’s career; as La Silla Vacia points out, modern politics is often focused more on what a candidate represents than on their exact policy proposals. U.S. President Barack Obama, often mentioned as a point of comparison to Mockus’ Internet-focused, grassroots campaign, was often accused of offering a style of government rather than concrete policies.