Federico Gutiérrez presents himself as the candidate of the people. The former mayor of Medellín ended his term with high popularity and managed to impose himself on the national stage to become, today, the candidate of the right. He proposes fighting corruption and poverty, with an emphasis on security and austerity. They point it out to be the continuity of the Presidency of Iván Duque. Fico promises to keep the good things about the outgoing president and change what didn’t work.
The candidate of the Believe Colombia party and the Team for Colombia coalition came to prevail as the main right-wing candidate in his first presidential race, although another rival recently appeared, the populist Rodolfo Hernández. According to the most likely scenarios, Gutiérrez could reach a possible second round of the presidential election and face Gustavo Petro, the leader of the left.
Fico has presented himself as a young, friendly and simple candidate who walks the streets to meet Colombians. He describes himself as the great defender of the rule of law and congratulates himself for not being involved in any corruption investigation.
Gutiérrez presents himself as the “anti-Petro”, with the motto, “order and opportunities”. He describes his program as a moderate right, based on security and poverty reduction. Although he does not officially receive the direct support of former President Álvaro Uribe, his political line follows the trend of recent presidential terms.
His dynamism and his arrival as a novice on the political scene works both for him and against him. His mandate as mayor of Medellín was an achievement at the political level since he came out with strong popularity. But on the other hand, he appears as a candidate who lacks experience in administrative positions at the national level and knowledge of his country beyond Medellin.
Until he became mayor of Medellín
Fico, 47, is originally from Medellín, where he was born on November 28, 1974. He grew up in a middle-class family and graduated as a civil engineer from the University of Medellín. He also has a specialization in Senior Management from the same institution and another in Political Science from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana. He is married to Margarita Gómez Marín, with whom he has two children.
He became a councilor of Medellín in two consecutive periods, from 2004 to 2008 and from 2008 to 2011. Between 2011 and 2015, he was a consultant in Integral Urban Security of the Ministry of Security and Justice in Mexico and Argentina, before being mayor of Medellín between 2016 and 2019.
Although he was unable to carry out some of his projects, such as decongesting road traffic, he ended his term as mayor with a popularity of 84%, a very high figure, which reflects the general satisfaction of the inhabitants with his work. However, he who congratulated himself on chasing criminals on the street and fighting insecurity saw the homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants increase, from 22.1% in 2016 to 23.8% in 2019.
Fico’s administration suffered a scandal in 2017. His former Secretary of Security, Gustavo Villegas, was captured and accused of being an ally of a criminal gang with which he shared information about cartels to coordinate the capture of criminals. These arrests were later broadcast live by City Hall and presented as achievements of the Fico administration.
Finally, Villegas signed a pre-agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office and was convicted of abuse of public office and abuse of authority, crimes for which he has already finished serving his sentence. The case was a stain on Fico’s image, although he always claimed that he had no knowledge of such relations with the criminal gang.
The continuity of uribism?
The biggest criticism of his opponents is that of following the political line of former president Álvaro Uribe, since, although the former president – whose political sphere has dominated the country in recent decades – has not expressed his support for Gutiérrez, this candidate puts the table a project close to that of the current government, that of Uribe’s political dauphin, Iván Duque.
“After the elections of March 13, Uribismo had no other alternative than to risk it for the establishment, that is, it considers that it is better to achieve reforms than revolutions (…) it is a reactionary and anti-revolutionary vision, and Federico represents this vision”, explains Rodrigo Pombo, lawyer and university professor.
In fact, what most differentiates Fico from Petro is considering that President Duque’s entire mandate should not be thrown overboard. Gutiérrez opts for a similar political line, proposing to maintain what he considers positive achievements of the outgoing president’s mandate and affirming that he will change what has not worked.
Although Uribe’s party, the Democratic Center, has decided not to officially support Federico Gutiérrez, it has not presented any candidate in the election and the one who comes closest to his political line is certainly Fico.
“Fico picks up the flags of uribism around criticism of the Peace Agreement (with the former FARC guerrilla, to which Uribe has been a staunch opponent), with the issue of security and fiscal austerity,” explains Daniela Garzon, Political Scientist and researcher for the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation.
The question of security and the rupture with the Peace Agreement
Fico places great emphasis on the issue of security. He proposes to fight against organized crime, drug trafficking and insecurity, through, among other things, an increase in police forces and the professionalization of the public force.
“We need our Military and Police Forces to recover their territorial sense, to return to the streets and sidewalks, to operate against criminals outside the offices and barracks for the safety of our citizens,” he writes in his program.
Federico Gutiérrez also promises to fight the armed groups that have not laid down their arms, a policy that was the banner of former President Uribe at the time, who is known for his questionable “democratic security” policy, which turned the Armed Forces into a fierce fight against the guerrilla, which left in its wake the death of thousands of civilians in extrajudicial executions, something with which Uribe rejects any connection.
Gutiérrez affirms that he will respect the part of the Peace Agreement that has to do with amnesty for the groups that have laid down their arms and the reintegration of former guerrillas, among other things. However, the candidate, who had voted ‘Yes’ in the consultation on whether or not to carry out the agreement with the then FARC guerrilla in 2016, assumes breaking with a large part of the pact.
Fico has expressed the impossibility of financing the Peace Agreement in its entirety and proposes not complying with some clauses, such as the substitution of illicit crops, or the agrarian reform, whose main objective is to create welfare conditions for the rural population.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Federico Gutiérrez has been seen as the “anti-Petro” candidate. Gustavo Petro, the candidate of the left, represents the fear of the right, which is associated with Chavismo, explains Garzon. In this election, “the right-wing electorate is looking for anyone but Petro,” says the expert.
To face the economic crisis, Fico proposes an austerity policy. His goal is to “seek economies of scale in the management of public resources and efficiency gains,” he writes in his program.
Other key points of its program are to support entrepreneurship, fight against corruption, poverty and inequalities. In terms of foreign policy, he proposes to reopen the border with Venezuela to resume commercial exchanges. However, he would not recognize the government of Nicolas Maduro and would limit Venezuelan immigration.
Fico managed to impose himself on the Colombian political scene without having assumed any public office at the national level and represents the continuity of the well-known right-wing policies in the country, but it remains to be seen if his charismatic speech and his proposal to block the arrival of the left will be enough. to take him to occupy the presidential chair.
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