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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Eligible Tampa Bay voters could help decide presidential election in Colombia

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With the upcoming presidential elections in Colombia, the coffee-producing South American country is more divided every day, demonstrated by the results of the first electoral round on May 29.

That’s when left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro, 62, former Bogotá mayor and an ex-guerrilla member, got 40% of the vote. Challenging him will be engineer Rodolfo Hernández, 77, former mayor of Bucaramanga who is not well-known in the Colombian political arena.

Some Colombians compare Hernandez to former U.S. President Donald Trump, calling him the “Colombian Trump.”

If elected, Petro, a critic of the Colombian military establishment, could become the first leftist president of the South American country embroiled in several, highly complex social and economic problems.

On Sunday, Colombians in Tampa who are registered to vote can help pick the country’s next leader. The current population of Colombia is nearly 52 million people.

On May 29, there were 3,235 Tampa Bay area Colombians who went to the polls. The Consulate of Colombia in Orlando includes 31,200 registered Colombian voters: 8,000 in Tampa; 1,600 in Jacksonville; and 21,600 in Orlando.

Related: Colombian presidential election

In the Tampa Bay area, those who are registered can vote on Sunday at the soccer facility, Futbol 5, 5901 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa. Ten voting tables will be set up for official voting purposes.

Civil engineer Rodolfo Hernandez, presidential candidate, faces ex-guerrilla Gustavo Petro for the presidency of Colombia. Two weeks ago, the polls favored Petro. Photo: AP | Mauricio Pinzon [ MAURICIO PINZON | AP ]

Colombian presidents are elected to four-year terms. In 2015, the Colombian Congress approved the elimination of the re-election of presidents. The current president Ivan Duque is the least popular one in the last decades.

Neither of the two current candidates are part of the traditional political parties in the South American country.

Colombia has an unemployment rate of 12%, according to the Colombian Administrative Department of Statistics. Compounding Colombia’s financial and social strain, more than 1.9 million Venezuelans migrated to Colombia, seeking survival, a better future, and fleeing the violence and communism that swallowed their country.

Petro has been a member of the Senate of Colombia since 2018 and it is his third attempt to become president. Hernandez, a construction company owner, was mayor of the fifth largest city in Colombia from 2016 until his resignation in 2019.

Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro. Photo: AP | Fernando Vergara
Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro. Photo: AP | Fernando Vergara [ FERNANDO VERGARA | AP ]

According to the newspaper El País, Petro declared that he earned 478 million pesos in 2020, a little more than $120,000 dollars. Hernández claimed a fortune of $100 million dollars.

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Voter abstention in the first presidential election round was the lowest in the last two decades, according to the National Registry. Almost 55% of Colombians went to the polls.

According to the results of a large survey in which most relevant Colombian media outlets participated, the voters who will elect the next president are the undecided (13%). Those voters, according to the survey, will lean toward Petro or Hernández.

In Tampa, the volunteers and organizers of the Colombian mobile consulate in the area hope for massive turnout.

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Voting in Tampa for the Colombian Presidential runoff elections: Futbol 5, 5901 West Linebaugh Ave., Tampa, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 19.


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