Bogota and the dictator’s grandson

With elections for Bogota’s Mayor approaching in less than a week, Bogotanians have been shocked by a recent statement of the most likely winner of the electoral race. In a public debate last Sunday, Samuel Moreno said he would be willing to buy votes if by doing so he knew he would spare Bogota from electing a candidate that has bought even more votes. In a city that has praised itself of shifting from the traditional clientelistic practices to a healthy democracy in the last 10 years, such a statement seemed surreal. So much so, that many have been tempted to accept his argument, in later interviews, that he misunderstood the question.

A new piece of information emerged today, however, that should make voters think twice about the value the candidate truly gives to clean democratic processes. The FM (a radio station) reproduced this morning a 1995 interview, where Moreno defended the legitimacy of de-facto means of arriving to power. He said that sometimes citizens need to arm themselves to defend electoral results, and that some dictators are not bad because they do more than elected officials. When further questioned about whether the official army shouldn’t be enough to defend the electoral process, he answered that the army sometimes acts in “complicity with the establishment”. As though “the establishment” is a criminal organization.

The statements are perhaps not totally surprising coming from the grandson of the only dictator Colombia has had in modern history. But this makes them no less outrageous. Bogotanians should question the validity of electing a candidate that in two different episodes has revealed a lack of regard for the democratic process. Especially when being Mayor of Bogota has in the past been a valuable step for politicians that later try to become Colombia’s presidents. Hopefully, Bogota’s residents will show the political culture in the city has truly evolved to a stage where candidates for whom the ends justify the means don’t have a chance of conducting Colombia’s largest city.

4 Responses to "Bogota and the dictator’s grandson"

  1. Anonymous   October 25, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Marcela, thanks so much for your first two most excellent contributions to the Latam EconoMonitor. A great pleasure having on board and reading your thoughtful views.

  2. James   October 25, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    So what explains the political popularity of such an antidemocratic individual? What is the source of his popular support?

  3. Guest   October 26, 2007 at 10:57 am

    What are the policies of this Moreno? Why is he so popular? What does it say about the mood of Colombians about economic and security issues?

  4. Marcela Eslava   October 29, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Thanks for comments. An update: Moreno won by comfortable margin! So, as you ask, how come? First, he does have a well selling agenda, based on being the candidate of the party of the current popular mayor, and on promises of building a metro (which seems unlikely given that the central government has been explicit about its opposition to funding such project). Second, the other main candidate was unable to transmit his commitment to continuing with the social agenda of the current city’s government. Third, Moreno’s “peculiar” thoughts on democracy were not so public until he messed up last Sunday in the debate, saying he would buy votes. By the time this emerged, he already was first in every opinion poll. And finally, he and his party managed beautifully last week’s crisis, depicting the situation as manipulation of information by their opposition. Unfortunately, they got the unlikely help of the president (who opposed Moreno), as he indirectly tried to accuse Moreno of being supported by the guerrillas. The president’s attempt to damage Moreno’s chances ended up validating the claim that Moreno was being target of a campaign of lies.