Colombia’s “political machines,” represented by President Juan Manuel Santos, are corrupt and obstructing progress of the South American country, said the head of state’s leading opponent in the election race, Enrique Peñalosa.
PROFILE: Enrique Peñalosa
According to the Green Alliance candidate, Colombia’s biggest problem is the “unjust and destructive interference of traditional politics, which impedes what has in the past been a good office,” he told Colombia Reports.
|“Here the traditional politicians invented legislation in order to have almost one unique party, like the communist party in the Soviet Union, like China. So they had what they called a ‘National Unity’ wherein the four parties distributed the government and operated as one party.”|
Santos’ party is similar to ‘Communist Party in the Soviet Union’
The former mayor of Colombia’s capital lambasted President Santos’ political party and coalition likening them to “the communist party in the Soviet Union,” for manipulating the political system in their favor while trying to push out smaller parties.
“Here the traditional politicians invented legislation in order to have almost one unique party, like the communist party in the Soviet Union, like China. So they had what they called a ‘National Unity’ in wherein the four parties distributed the government and operated as a unique party,” said Peñalosa with little hesitation.
The incumbent Santos’ party is the U Party, but the president has enlisted the Conservative Party (Partido Conservador – PC), the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal – LP) and the Radical Change Party (Cambio Radical – CR) to form a larger supporting coalition of National Unity.
Between this coalition, Santos has a vast legislative majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“They were calculating that the rest of the parties were going to disappear because they were not going to pass through the threshold. But neither the Green Alliance nor the Democratic Pole (Polo Democratico – PD) disappeared, and that was what they thought would happen,” Peñalosa explained.
He added that Santos’ coalition did not anticipate former President Alvaro Uribe‘s newly formed Democratic Center (Centro Democratico – CD) party to do as well as they did in March’s elections, yet despite that, the incumbent’s coalition “remained in absolute control of the Colombian state.”
|“All of the machinery of traditional politics are with Santos. What he does is he pays those traditional politicians for their support with decisions that are incompatible with efficiency and good results in the government.”|
The centrist politician concluded his diatribe against the current president by acknowledging the difference between the two men.
The difference between Peñalosa is “that all of the machinery of traditional politics are with Santos. What he does is he pays those traditional politicians for their support with decisions that are incompatible with efficiency and good results in the government.”
Getting the word out and the Green Alliance
When asked about the greatest challenges that currently face his campaign, Peñalosa responded positively saying that his main goal is to get the word about his candidacy.
“30 or 40% of Colombians still don’t know us, while 98% know [President Santos]. Yet still with that, in many polls we win,” said the candidate.
FACT SHEET: 2014 election polls
“Basically we have found a great support among citizens, because they are bored with the traditional political machine. All of these machines support [President Juan Manuel] Santos and these citizens say that this is an obstacle for good government,” said Peñalosa.
“So we believe that we have a huge opportunity to grow [there for] the people to know us more.”
In addition to traveling extensively to advertise himself, the former Green Alliance president said that he hopes that the media gives more attention to his campaign, adding that the travel “doesn’t serve anything if there is not coverage on the part on the media.”
When pressed on the less-than-stellar results for his party during the congressional elections however — between both houses, the party only gained three seats in the larger House of Representatives — Peñalosa appeared dismissive of March’s legislative election’s impact on the upcoming presidential elections.
“We are not hoping to win with the votes of our party. In Colombia, in a big way, parties are simply legal structures,” he said quickly.
Peñalosa yielded that the “heart of the project is the Green Alliance,” but was clear in saying that “it is an open movement to citizens of all parties, for those who don’t have a party, and [primarily] those that believe that traditional politics is a principle obstacle.”
|“Colombians want a president that feels like them and a president that would be at their side, and we believe that they will feel good with us.”|
Peñalosa concluded saying that he hopes to relate to the Colombian people as he runs for the presidency.
“Colombians want a president that feels like them and a president that would be at their side, and we believe that they will feel good with us,” the candidate said.
If no candidate can get 50% of the vote during the first round of elections to take place on May 25, then a second round will be held between the two top candidates June 15.
According to a majority of polls, Peñalosa is the most likely candidate to face Santos in the second round of the elections.
- Interview with Enrique Peñalosa