Why Petro Beat Peñalosa

Alternate Title: 2011 Bogota Mayoral Election Analysis

If you read my Peñalosa article back in July, you know I think he’s the coolest politician ever. He was a heavy favorite to win the Bogota mayoral race. But he lost to Gustavo Petro. How? This election was Peñalosa’s to lose.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Gustavo Petro’s a great guy. He was an important leader for the Uribe opposition and the engine driver of outing the parapolitica scandal. But he’s a Congressman for Christ’s sake. His forte is policy. How does that qualify him for the role of mayor, a city manager? Peñalosa, on the other hand, is a world-renowned urban development guru. He’s the best guy for any developing world capital, especially this one.

Why did he lose? Simply put, he was endorsed by former president Alvaro Uribe. It’d seem like a good idea to anyone to embrace such an endorsement. Uribe enjoyed 80% approval on leaving office just a year ago. Plus, Uribe was from a different political party, the nemesis of Peñalosa’s Green Party in the last presidential election. In the States when someone crosses the aisle with an endorsement, the benefiting candidate plasters it everywhere he can. Southern Democrat Zell Miller gave the keynote speech at George W. Bush’s 2004 RNC. And Barack Obama’s most important endorsement in 2008 was Bush’s Secretary of State and lifelong Republican Colin Powell.

The difference is this was a local election in Bogota. Bogota is the liberal mecca of Colombia. I spoke to a lot of Colombians in the run-up to the 2010 presidential election between Uribe’s chosen successor and Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus. I didn’t know anyone who wanted Santos. And the only Santos campaign signs I saw were at his headquarters on Calle 72. Everybody in Bogota wanted Mockus. All the signs were green for Mockus’ and Peñalosa’s Green Party. I was surprised beyond belief when Santos won by 20 points.

The lesson to learn was that I live in a tiny bubble of Colombia – the most urban and progressive in the country. It’s a small section that doesn’t represent the majority of the country which voted for a continuation of the Uribe policies that crippled the FARC. Bogotanos didn’t bear the brunt of guerrilla violence. They were more outraged at human rights violations and corruption in Uribe’s government.

People voted for Petro because they want Uribe in jail. My FB friends for Petro didn’t care at all about him before Uribe endorsed Peñalosa.

The U may win on the national level, but this is Bogota. The liberal mecca. Imagine if, in 2009, George W. Bush had endorsed a Democrat mayoral candidate in a San Francisco or NYC primary. It’d sound crazy to an American, but this is about the same. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but Peñalosa should’ve shunned the former president.

If you take another look at the CR article announcing Petro’s victory, note the first comment celebrates not the defeat of Peñalosa, but of Uribe.

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  1. Conservatives will likely continue to have strong showings until the FARC is demobilized. People are sick of the civil war shit. Colombia’s reputation for danger harms their economy immeasurably.

    The voting factor you saw in Bogota is much like Colorado- Denver leans liberal, but Colorado overall usually goes conservative. Rural communities are highly conservative, and I generally think that the difference between urban and rural voting is that rural folks still appreciate the immutable laws of “survival of the fittest” and don’t have any utopian dreams of socialism.

    I didn’t know the candidates you mentioned, of course, but I do not cast liberal votes in any setting. I do hope that the new mayor is able to do some things for Bogota to help with its immediate issues of congestion and pollution, etc.

    I recall that was one of the things you talked about, that your guy was going to be good with.


  2. Penalosa messed it up when he turned his back to Mockus just to get Uribe’s support.

    After leaving the “Palacio de Narino” Uribe has not stopped intervening in sensitive politics such as foreign and internal affairs as if he was still in office.

    We have to remember that before he left the office we were having a very harsh relationship with our neighboring countries that lead us to a crisis. He has also criticized harshly most of Santos agenda’s which is not only disrespectful but annoying as well. As a Colombian I find that Uribe’s legitimacy has shrinked from his 80% approval to a 40% at least.

    I guess most Colombians got overwhelmed with Uribe after 8 years in power and all the corruption that came with. Bogotans did not wanted more corruption in Bogota specially after Moreno’s administration.


  3. We have to remember that before he left the office we were having a very harsh relationship with our neighboring countries that lead us to a crisis.

    Perhaps said crisis had less to do with Uribe, and more to do with the fact that one of Colombia’s neighbors is ruled by a leftist crook with dreams of becoming a regional hegemon? And that said crook’s government is in bed with the same terrorist fuckwits who’ve been trying to take over Colombia by violence for the last 40-50 years? (Not to mention the suspiciously large volume of Colombian coke that now transits Venezuela.)

    But, yeah, sure. It’s all the big bad U’s fault.


  4. Twenty, let me remind you that by the time the government was keen to get into negotiations with the guerrillas to get Betancourt and the others out of the jungle it was the same Uribe requested Hugo Chavez to become the negotiator of the peace process; which made of a national issue a regional one. By letting Chavez get into the process Uribe opened the door to other countries to participate in our internal affairs. At that time, it was of public knowledge that Chavez was sympatetic to the guerrillas’ political doctrines. Therefore, it was the same Uribe who brought the diplomatic crisis by letting others take care of our own business.

    Santos has succesfully re-stablished relations with Venezuela and Ecuador and today at least we do not feel that we are set apart the region but in fact we play a leading roll at Unasur and most importantly at the U.N. security council.

    ‘grosso modo’ : Uribe’s government lacked of diplomacy.


  5. Antoine,

    I don’t see how using an ally of your enemy as a go-between invites said go-between to “participate in [your] internal affairs”, let alone “open[s] the door” for “other countries” to do so.

    Furthermore, the Andean crisis seems to have been primarily about a Colombian raid on a FARC base in Ecuador. I can understand why this ruffled Ecuador’s feathers, but if they’re unable or unwilling to police their own territory so that it cannot be used as a base of operations against their neighbors, they have to expect this sort of thing. It’s not reasonable to expect Colombia to endure endless attacks from groups based across the border because Ecuador is feckless. At any rate, I don’t see how any of this has anything to do with the Betancourt negotiations.

    It’s well and good that relations have been re-established with Ecuador and Venezuela, but the crisis had, in truth, already passed almost as soon as it had begun. I am, of course, delighted that Colombia enjoys a growing influence in the region and the world, but suggest that said influence has more to do with the policies you deplore (killing enemies and exposing Chavez) than the “diplomacy” you prefer. Influence always and everywhere proceeds from strength.


  6. Ey tu vives en el norte de la ciudad, allá es la parte conservadora de la ciudad, ve al sur, o al occidente y verás gente de verdad “liberal”. Y son así por la pobreza.


  7. Luis, los rolos adinerados apoyan mas a Petro y causas liberales.

    Just like in the States, the most liberal people are the richest: Manhattan, San Francisco, Massachusetts, Seattle, all the biggest liberal hotbeds as well as highest cost of living / real estate.


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