Progressive scholar Alejandro Gaviria to compete for Colombia’s presidency

Gustavo Petro found a rather unusual competitor. Alejandro Gaviria, until now rector of the Universidad de los Andes, announced on Friday his intention to run as an independent candidate in the presidential elections of 2022. He is an intellectual with revolutionary ideas on key issues in Colombia such as the drugs, which the progressive electorate will challenge the now favorite in the polls. Gaviria represents for many the hope of a moderate left, far from the bluster of Petro.

The candidate is launched almost a year in advance. With this, he seeks to cushion some of his weaknesses, such as not being known in many parts of the country. Gaviria has enormous credit among the intellectual elites, but she is a face that is not very recognizable among the more popular sectors. For six years he was Minister of Health to President Juan Manuel Santos, where he represented the most modern wing of government. He was in favor of euthanasia, medical marijuana and fought against glyphosate, a herbicide that authorities used to damage coca crops, although potentially carcinogenic to humans.

In a conservative country, some of your beliefs can raise more than an eyebrow. He declared himself an atheist, when the current president, Iván Duque, prays daily in an oratory and crosses himself and kisses medallions of the Virgin. In a book, he recounted his experiences with LSD. In a recent interview with MRT, he ventured that these thoughts around psychedelic drug use could be used by his political opponents when the time comes: Brave new world, this unhappy world of politics, it can be distorted and presented in many ways ”. In this conversation, he called his candidacy atypical, not only in Colombia, “but in the whole world”.

The left vote will fight with Petro, but in the center he will meet his friend Sergio Fajardo, another progressive-minded scholar with more experience in elections, unlike Gaviria. Fajardo, a mathematician, was mayor of Medellín, governor of Antioquia and third in the first round of the 2018 presidential elections. Much of Medellín’s transformation into a prosperous and entrepreneurial city is attributed to him, leaving behind years of trafficking. drug. During these years, he cultivated the center of the political spectrum and supported the peace agreement signed four years ago with the FARC guerrillas.

In this, they are similar candidates, albeit with different life experiences. Gaviria was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 2017. When he finished his chemotherapy, a phrase was tattooed on his arm: “Your time is limited. That seems to be the fuel that fuels his candidacy. I have been pondering this possibility for months. A few days ago, when he was almost decided, he wrote a message on WhatsApp: “inclined to jump into the void”. Politicians often hide his ambition behind the desire of people who want him to take office. In the case of Gaviria, there is some truth to this. Politicians and intellectuals, both in public and in private, encouraged him to take the plunge. The unknown lies in the effect it will have on other parts of Colombia.

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For now, he has decided to run without a party, so he will have to collect signatures. It is speculated that he could later join a recently revived party, New Liberalism, a movement which generated a huge illusion in the late 1980s from Luis Carlos Galán, a brilliant orator. Galán was shot dead on the wooden platform where he was going to organize a rally in southern Bogotá. Her children have now reclaimed her inheritance. The Liberal Party, the Greens and some members of the Coalition of Hope, a progressive platform at the center, have also offered their support.

The departure of Gaviria, who for the first time opts for a post elected by universal suffrage, begins with a resignation. This Friday, he will cease to be rector of the Andes. In a recorded speech he will broadcast on social media today, he will highlight the need to overcome the ravages of the pandemic with unity and improve public debate. The political debate in Colombia, as in many other parts of the world, suffers from great polarization. Gaviria will show good grace to face the attacks by targeting the Casa de Nariño, the presidential residence.

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