Nomination: Partido Liberal
Slogan: Un país donde quepamos todos
In one word: Peace
Who is he?
At 72, the Liberal candidate with 30 years of political experience under his belt is the oldest player in the race.
As the government’s chief negotiator, the key role he played in reaching a peace agreement with the FARC makes him very much the ‘peace’ candidate, which – like the peace agreement itself – has elicited a mixed reaction from voters.
For various reasons, he will not be entering into an alliance with Fajardo.
What he stands for:
His commitment to peace is evident throughout his proposals, with plans for post-conflict job creation and investment in areas most affected by the conflict. Unsurprisingly, he opposes any attempts to unpick the peace agreement that took four years to negotiate.
In stark contrast to some of his opponents, he advocates greater control over mining licences as well as stronger environmental protection and further ecotourism.
When it comes to illegal drugs, he leans towards crop substitution rather than forced eradication and has a ‘follow the money’ type approach to handling drug trafficking.
The former ambassador believes there needs to be a complete culture shift in order to address corruption and his tax policies centre around the idea of “a country where we can all contribute.”
De la Calle is proposing a Ministry for Women to address the high rates of gender violence and labour inequality. He would also like to transform the Ministry of Education into a new ‘Ministry of Intelligence’, changing both the funding and structure of the education system.
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De la Calle won the support of the Partido Liberal back in the party’s primaries in November. His supporters praise his long experience in Colombian politics and strong diplomatic skills.
The biggest factor is that he was the man who brought peace, making him well positioned to implement the peace deal. He will keep working to ensure lasting peace with the FARC, without giving up on free market principles.
His core support base comes from those who are committed to peace and want to see it implemented.
He proposes changing Icetex, the widely-disliked student loan system, as well as scrapping obligatory military service – dovetailing neatly with his commitment to peace. Both those policies are popular among the young voters most likely to be affected by both policies.
La Silla Vacia summed it up nicely with the words, “A good candidate, a terrible campaign.” And it’s true that De la Calle’s campaign never quite got off the ground.
Backed by the Partido Liberal, De la Calle has certainly not been helped by the fractions and divisions in his party – indeed the head of the party and former president César Gaviria has already told El Tiempo that they would support Duque in the second round, seemingly already writing off De la Calle’s chances of getting there before the vote has even taken place.
But the bigger – indeed the biggest – issue is peace. Peace is simply a divisive and controversial issue, which makes it a complicated topic to nail your presidential campaign onto.
The people who oppose the peace agreement feel that De la Calle gave the country away to the FARC and didn’t negotiate a good deal.
In addition, while his long political career is seen by some as a strength, it also means that some people see him as part of the problem, part of the same elite that has ruled the country for the last 200 years. He’s also been criticised for his lack of experience on the economic front.
– By Emma Newbery, Oli Pritchard and Freek Huigen. This article first appeared in edition 54 of The Bogotá Post.