The debate, televised by national broadcaster RCN, was notable for bringing recent events into the arguments between the two candidates.
The recent sentencing of Colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega for the murder of civilians rescued in the 1985 Palace of Justice siege by M-19 guerrillas resulted in calls by Uribe for a law to protect soldiers involved in such cases, a suggestion Mockus rejected. He said that anyone, solider or guerrilla, who is guilty of a crime should be tried for it. Santos said in response that soldiers don’t want to share responsibility for crimes with groups like M-19.
The recent “Operation Chameleon” mission in which four FARC hostages were rescued was also discussed, with Mockus saying that he hoped it wouldn’t influence the outcome of the election, but also recognizing the operation as a great achievement for the government. Santos, as the former defense minister responsible for the similar 2008 rescue mission that freed Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors, said he would not dare to claim any credit for what was really the work of the armed forces.
Economic questions played a big role in the debate, and the candidates clashed over their estimations of the economic progress their administrations would bring. Santos said that he would formalize 500,000 jobs that were currently off the books, and create 2.5 million more jobs. Mockus responded that it was risky to name specific figures, and Santos replied that Mockus’ lack of figures meant that he had no concrete economic objectives to meet.
Mockus also had a tense exchange with Santos in which he brought up the Partido de la U candidate’s controversial campaign consultant J.J. Rendon. Mockus claimed that Rendon was spreading false rumors about the Green Party, and that he was using dirty campaign tricks, charges that Santos denied. Santos further said that anyone caught spreading false rumors in his campaign had been dismissed.
Both candidates agreed on few points, including that they would both accept calls from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa if they were elected, and that both would try to fight cronyism and favoritism in public hiring, instead trying to hire the most qualified candidates for government positions and contracts based on merit.
Following a convincing victory in the first round, Santos is the favorite to win the 2010-2014 presidency in second round elections on June 20.