Former presidential candidate Rodolfo Hernandez, who lost in the 2022 elections to current president Gustavo Petro, faces charges of illegal financing of his campaign, along with his wife, Socorro Oliveros, who was the campaign manager at the time of the events. This was ruled this morning, January 12, at an indictment hearing, following a complaint filed in June 2022 by lawyers Oscar Fuentes and Indemaro Lujan Lozada.
The complaint is essentially based on alleged contributions amounting to 127 million Colombian pesos from one of Hernandez’s companies, in which his wife is listed as the legal representative. This type of contribution is illegal when, as in the case of Hernandez, there is an open criminal case, as established by law 1475, which regulates the organization and operation of political parties and movements and electoral processes.
Both defendants pleaded not guilty and did not accept the charges. A Bucaramanga court declared the indictment as having been made.
Rodolfo Hernandez’s legal problems
The legal problems of the leader of the League of Anti-Corruption Rulers, Rodolfo Hernandez, are not new. The former candidate is also accused by the Prosecutor’s Office for the crime of undue interest in the conclusion of contracts by demanding bribes to favor third parties, including his son, and deliver a multi-million dollar contract for waste management to the Temporary Union Vitalogic.
Precisely because this charge was pending during the 2022 campaign, the former senator was forbidden to use his own resources to contribute to his campaign, something that, according to the complainants, Hernandez did by accepting the funds from one of his companies represented by his wife.
“It is declared that Mr. Rodolfo Hernandez Suarez and Socorro Oliveros de Hernandez have been charged. Likewise they are made aware that from this moment on they will not be able to trade goods subject to registration that they have in their name,” said the judge of court number eight of Bucaramanga, the city of which Rodolfo Hernandez was mayor until 2019.
If found guilty, they could face a prison sentence of four to eight years, a fine of 520,000,000 to 1,560,000,000 Colombian pesos, as well as disqualification from the exercise of public functions for the period of the sentence.
End of political life of former candidate
Rodolfo Hernandez, who will be 79 years old in two months, rose to national fame when he decided to run as an independent candidate for the 2022 presidential elections, after having held several positions in his region, including that of mayor of Bucaramanga. Although few were betting on his options, he managed to beat all the right-wing candidates, competing against Gustavo Petro in the second round in June.
In the end, and in spite of obtaining more than ten million votes, he was defeated, because although he obtained the support of the entire right wing and the traditional political forces, clearly defeated in the first ballot of May, Petro managed to mobilize the young and female vote in his favor. On June 19, 2022, Gustavo Petro won and became the first left-wing president of Colombia.
The law provides that the second candidate, in this case Rodolfo Hernandez, automatically gains access to a seat in the senate, from where political opposition to the president can be organized. This is what Gustavo Petro did, and with great success, in the elections that he lost to Ivan Duque, in 2018, where he achieved a remarkable role as the main opposition voice in the legislature for four years.
Initially, Rodolfo Hernandez accepted the position, but after a few weeks abandoned his political responsibilities as a senator, claiming that he was “a man of action and not of debate”. In reality what became evident was the politician’s interest in running in the local and regional elections of October 2023, aspiring to the governorship of his region, the department of Santander, his political fiefdom.
Frustrated candidacy for the governorship of Santander
Finally, the aspirations materialized in a campaign launch that was stopped by justice, as his candidacy was revoked due to the three disciplinary sanctions accumulated in the last five years by Hernandez, a situation that disqualifies political candidacies, according to Colombian law.
Despite the appeals filed, in the end Hernandez’s candidacy could not compete electorally, although he was the favorite in all polls. Even his opponent in 2022, and current president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, criticized the court decision. “The thesis of taking away political rights by administrative sanctions has been revived, in open contempt of the IACHR ruling, which is mandatory,” said the head of state at the time.