Election cheat sheets: Sergio Fajardo

By Oli Pritchard May 23, 2022

Confused about the upcoming election? We’re here to help you with a set of cheat sheets on each candidate so you can follow the local news. Today we’re looking at Sergio Fajardo of Alianza Social Independiente.

Presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo. Photo: World Economic Forum, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Who is Sergio Fajardo?

Sergio Fajardo Valderrama was born in Medellín, where he later became mayor. In terms of the presidential campaign, he’s been here before – in the last election he narrowly lost out to Duque for second place. The rest, of course, is history. He’s a PhD from Wisconsin and has also governed the department of Antioquia. Want more? He also ran for vice-president with Mockus in 2010. Even more? He’s been a columnist for various papers and sub-editor of El Colombiano. Whew. A long CV. 

Is he polling well?

He was. He’s slipped a lot in recent weeks. The glory days of 2018 are far behind him as the country is in a different place to four years ago. This week, he’s languishing at 6% and some polls have suggested voto en blanco might outrank him. Worse, he’s been losing votes as steadily as fast as first Fico and then Rodolfo have been gaining.

READ MORE: Your Guide to the 2022 Colombian elections

What’s his campaign like?

He sees himself as a ‘Third Way’ candidate, neither on the right nor left but representing the unheard centre. He’s trying to position himself as an alternative change to Petro, but so far that hasn’t gained much traction. His manifesto is actually very progressive, but there’s a perception among many that he’s simply more of the same and politics as usual.

So what’s in his manifesto then?

You can read it for yourself online. Like most candidates, he leads with education. He wants a new curriculum, designed with input from all sectors. More money for teachers, and more integration for teachers from ethnic minorities. He plans to expand both SENA (which provides mainly vocational training) and create a Universidad Publica Digital as part of the National University’s distance learning scheme (similar to the Open University in the UK).

For the economy, he’s talking about a move away from carbon-dependency and towards sustainable power. He thinks this could bring power to 430,000 more Colombians. He wants to raise and expand taxes on unenvironmentally friendly activities, as well as those on sugary drinks and fast food. Progressive taxation will hit wealth over COP$5,000,000,000 (1% at first, 2% after ten billion), dividends and high earners. 

Food independence and employment will be the key metrics. He wants to formalise large sectors of the economy, especially in rural areas, and protect those working on zero-hour contracts such as rappitenderos. Finally, he plans to cut deforestation by half and officially protect 30% of both the marine and land ecosystem.

READ MORE: Interview with Sergio Fajardo

Tourism has a major focus – he’s aiming to receive 9 million foreign tourists per year, providing 100,000 new jobs. To achieve this, there’ll be a common fund for tourism development, a drive to attract direct foreign investment and a new campaign to advertise Colombia abroad. Sustainable tourism will be at the heart of all this.

He’s also committing half a million pesos a month for senior citizens without pensions and an expansion of schemes for youth out of employment and education. Also 440,000 new jobs created across 4,000 new projects under state control. He’s looking to make Colombia more inclusive and plans program to improve the lives of those with disabilities. More than a thousand kilometers of 5G roads are to be built or upgraded, as well as incentives for electric vehicles and an optimistic target of no road deaths or even injuries per year.

Who is he running with?

Gilberto Murillo, ex-governor of Chocó. Well, sort-of ex-governor. Originally elected in 1997, accusations of irregularities in his election meant he was kicked out after serving just over a year of his term. He returned in 2011 – believing he’d served his his time out of politics – and was reelected in 2012. However, this was immediately contested and he left his post after ten months when he lost the legal fight. All this, in spite of two certificates from the procuraduría saying he was no longer excluded from politics. No? Us neither. He also served under Santos as Minister for the Environment, reflecting his background in mining.

My friend says Sergio Fajardo’s el tibio. What does that mean?

He’s lukewarm, literally translated. Man think the idea of Third Way politics he values so highly doesn’t appeal to either side. In Colombian parlance, he’s ni fu ni fa. If you want more of the same, he’s not that, but he’s also not a big change. A lot voters don’t see the point. It doesn’t help that he’s reluctant to attack or criticise either side too much.

Any skeletons in his closet?

You could say he has a ‘dam’ big problem in Hidroituango. The Antioqueño megaproject has been beset by all kinds of problems, both technical and financial. Fajardo maintains it has nothing to do with either him or his team, and the problems really started in 2018. Earlier this year he was judged not responsible. However, some of the problems began under his watch, and there are questions about how much he knew.

So, can he succeed?

It seems unlikely. Unlike Petro, his star has waned in the last four years and the idea of a centrist candidate seems to be less popular in an increasingly polarised election. He’s fourth in the race now and doesn’t have much momentum. If he got to the second round, it’s absolutely possible that he could win due to a dislike of the other candidate (likely Petro), but that seems a tall order at this point.