Sergio Fajardo

Sergio Fajardo (Screenshot: YouTube)

Sergio Fajardo is a Colombian politician who abandoned a successful career in mathematics in the second half of his professional life.

Fajardo was born in Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, to one of the city’s most prominent architects.

He initially embarked on an academic career as a mathematics professor at Bogota’s elite Los Andes University, but switched to politics in his early 40s.

His introduction to politics was facilitated by Alvaro Uribe, the controversial former president who was governor of Antioquia in the second half of the 1990s.

Fajardo took part in a commission formed by Uribe to investigate the possibilities of peace in their war-torn province.

Several other commissions followed until 1999 when Fajardo joined other independent scholars and journalists to form the informal collective Citizens’ Commitment.

The collective sought to move away from ideological dogmas and promote pragmatical policy making.

Fajardo perfected the collective’s non-confrontational style and was elected mayor in late 2003.

While in office between 2004 and 2007, the mayor embarked on major construction projects that sought to include the city’s poor neighborhoods in the municipal economy.

Some of these projects, particularly a cable car system for hillside ghettos, continue to be praised.

Other construction projects barely survived Fajardo’s term due to construction failures and have put a visible stain on the politician’s local legacy.

Most controversially, Fajardo has been fiercely criticized for the almost harmonious coexistence of his administration and the “Oficina de Envigado,” the city’s crime syndicate, and its leader, “Don Berna.”

This permissive attitude was given a name, “donbernability.”

Nevertheless, Fajardo left office with a sky-high approval rating and was the running mate of former Bogota Mayor Antanas Mockus (Green Alliance) in the 2010 elections.

He became governor of Antioquia in 2012 without significant opposition.

Also as governor, high public spending and a boom in paramilitary activity in Antioquia marred Fajardo’s tenure.

By the end of his term, Citizens’ Commitment died a quiet death due to infighting, reportedly over Fajardo’s refusal to distance himself from Uribe, who was increasingly submerged in claims of mass human rights violations.

Ahead of the 2018 elections, Fajardo jumped the anti-corruption bandwagon of senators Claudia Lopez (Green Alliance) and Jorge Robledo (Democratic Pole) and ended up leading their “Colombia Coalition.”

Fajardo finished third in the first round after social democrat Gustavo Petro and the ultimate winner, President Ivan Duque.

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