Former presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernández has been disqualified by the National Electoral Council (CNE) and will not be able to run in the regional elections, where he aspired to win the Governorship of the Santander department. The electoral body revoked his candidacy for the October 29th elections, where he was the favorite.
Hernández, who lost the presidency in June of last year to Gustavo Petro, has a corruption conviction from his time as the mayor of Bucaramanga, the capital of the region he now sought to govern. However, the sentence is not yet final, so his current candidacy was able to proceed.
The final reason for disqualification was not this conviction but rather the sanctions that the politician had previously received from the electoral body. These amounted to 3 reprimands, resulting in his 3-year disqualification from holding public office.
The revocation of Hernandez’s candidacy was approved by a close vote, with 6 CNE magistrates voting in favor of the revocation and 4 opposed.
The previous sanctions were for: verbal abuse against a citizen spokesperson; alleged labor persecution of a municipal official in Bucaramanga, Wilson Motta; and the most well-known, physical assault against a city council member in the same city, John Claro.
The Office of the Inspector General, a public agency responsible for investigating and penalizing irregularities by government officials and public servants, had already weighed in on Hernandez’s electoral situation. “Rodolfo Hernandez has three sanctions from the Inspector General’s Office. The sanctions are not very severe: he violated the respectful behaviour appropriate to his position, expressing himself rudely to his citizens and voters,” the agency said at the time.
Legal Options for Hernandez
As it stands, Rodolfo Hernandez’s options are limited to filing an appeal with the body that imposed the sanctions, which has a period of two business days to decide the final outcome. In this regard, Julio Cesar Ortiz, Hernandez’s defense lawyer, has questioned reports that suggest his client’s electoral options are over. “Engineer Hernandez is not disqualified from running for Governor of Santander. The cases are in the second instance, they are nullified. They are not final, and it is the CNE, which is competent to allow or disallow Engineer’s registration,” the defense clarified.
Rodolfo Hernández’s last recourse is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). In fact, the controversial politician’s defense has already announced that they will use this avenue to claim “respect for Mr. Hernández’s political rights.” In Colombia, there are already precedents regarding the IACHR’s actions, as this body restored the mayorship of Bogotá to Gustavo Petro after his removal in December 2013.
Controversial Public Figure
The politician’s controversial remarks have been a constant in his public life. During the 2022 presidential campaign, he claimed not to know the capital of the Vichada department, a Colombian Amazonian region, and initially declared himself an admirer of the “German thinker Adolf Hitler,” which he later retracted, stating that he meant Albert Einstein.
Recordings have also surfaced in which the politician used vulgar and offensive language, including one instance where he threatened a customer at his construction company with a firearm.
As a well-known construction entrepreneur in the Santander region, he assumed the mayorship of the capital, Bucaramanga, in 2016. He resigned from office in 2019 before completing his term after being suspended for participating in political campaigns while serving as mayor, which is prohibited by Colombian electoral law.
A year earlier, he had been suspended for 3 months for physically assaulting an opposition city council member in his city. At the end of his term, he managed to reduce the municipality’s deficit and decrease its public debt. However, according to official data, crime rates in the capital were higher when he took office.
Surprise in the 2022 Presidential Elections
He announced his candidacy as an independent for the presidency of the Republic in the 2022 elections. Although initially not seen as a strong contender compared to front-runners like leftist Gustavo Petro and conservative Federico Gutierrez, Hernandez gained popularity by denouncing corruption among the traditional political class.
He surprised many by securing 28% of the votes in the first round and the second position that allowed him to challenge Petro for the presidency. In the final vote, he lost the presidential race but garnered 47.31% of the votes. He conceded defeat in a video message recorded in his kitchen.
As the defeated second-place candidate, electoral law allowed him to assume office as a senator of the Republic, a position he resigned from after a few months, claiming that he was “a man of action and not of dialectics.”
However, at 78 years old, the veteran politician says he will continue to fight until the end of his legal options. Rodolfo Hernandez’s final political card has yet to be played.