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Colombian Green presidential candidate interviewed in LA Times

From Charles Kraul at the Los Angeles Times:

Reporting from Armenia, Colombia — The surprise of the Colombian presidential campaign has been the surge of Bogota’s former mayor, Antanas Mockus, from nowhere to the top of voter preference polls in advance of first-round voting on May 30.

After twice running unsuccessfully, the cerebral Green Party candidate owes his lead to an alliance with another popular ex-mayor, Medellin’s Sergio Fajardo, as his vice presidential running mate; the support of young voters; and his use of online social media. Though Colombians admire outgoing President Alvaro Uribe, a significant number of them are fed up with political scandals and want a new direction.

A 58-year-old former university rector and the son of Lithuanian immigrants, Mockus is the quintessential anti-politician, touting ethics and good citizenship. He attributes the reduction in crime during his two mayoral stints to restricting alcohol sales in trouble zones, as well as urging Bogotanos to restrain “the rude person inside of us.” Mockus recently disclosed that he suffers from early-stage Parkinson’s disease but said his neurologists assured him that he has 10 years before the malady becomes debilitating. He spoke with The Times after a campaign rally here in the heart of Colombia’s coffee-growing district.

Speaking of Plan Colombia, the U.S.-funded program to combat drugs and terrorism, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield said he has never seen two countries more in sync than Colombia and the United States. As president, would you maintain that?

I would like a certain stepping back from current anti-drug policy so that Colombian society can explore all the implications of drug trafficking: the supposed benefits for some sectors and the costs borne by youth, the environment, the justice system and institutions. No one is going to resolve the problem of drug trafficking but Colombians. Continue Reading

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High-profile Green presidential campaign in Colombia

After surpassing expectations in recent congressional elections, Colombia’s Green Party has a high-profile candidate for president in Antanas Mockus, a popular former mayor of Colombian capital Bogotá. Recent polls placed Mockus third in a crowded field of candidates – Mockus polled at 9%, while the second-place candidate was at 17%. Since then, independent candidate Sergio Fajardo – who earned 4% in the same poll – has joined Mockus as his vice-presidential running mate. Both are popular former mayors known for their commitment to ending corruption. Mockus and Fajardo are the most popular candidates on facebook and twitter, which could be taken as a sign of their popularity with young Colombians.

If the Green Party’s Mockus-Fajardo ticket places in the top two vote-getters in Colombia’s May presidential election, the Greens could advance to a head-to-head runoff, likely against the right-wing ally of President Uribe who currently leads in the polls.