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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