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Apr 272010

With all the usual caveats about polling in Colombia, just look at this chart of all the polls I’ve seen in the past 30 days or so. They show a steady but mounting momentum in favor of former Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus.

The latest Ipsos-Napoleón Franco poll, released late yesterday, gives Mockus the lead for the first time. Mockus overtakes the main “successor” of popular president Álvaro Uribe, Juan Manuel Santos, who a month ago was the untouchable frontrunner.

(Click on the image to see a bigger version.)

The polls show Mockus taking little support from Santos. Instead, the quirky former mayor’s surge began in early April after another popular mayor, Sergio Fajardo of Medellín, abandoned his struggling presidential campaign to join Mockus’ ticket. The unusual display of unity resonated with Colombian public opinion and made Mockus’ campaign far more viable.

Can anyone honestly say they saw this coming a month ago?

34 Responses to “Colombian presidential polls: a dramatic turn in a single month”

  1. Jaime Busos Says:

    A will miss your posts Adam. he he he. As alway I have something to say this time about the latest poll. The majority would vote for Mockus. The bad news is that the majority when asked who they think would win … answered santos. Any clues as to what this means? after all colombians know what they are up against. ;)

  2. David Attanasio Says:

    Also, these appear to all be polls for the first round of the election, not the second. Centro Nacional de Consultoria released a poll on the 23rd showing that Mockus would win the second round with 50% of the vote to Santos’s 44% even though Santos would receive 35% of the vote in the first round while Mockus would only receive 34%. I believe this is the same polling data that you have specified as from April 22, so the date I gave is probably the date of the release of the information.
    Anyway, if this polling data indicates a general trend, Mockus may currently have an even greater edge in the second round than the latest data suggests. However, his great leap from the last poll may instead suggest that he consolidated some of his second round support in the first round.
    Incidentally, I want to thank Adam for having maintained this blog. I’ve been silently reading it for a few years now and I will be very sad to see it go.

  3. Saul Lozano Says:

    No, not really. But the hope was there, it would happen. ;-) People themselves are running the campaign, spreading the voices. It is something never seen in Colombia. I believe, we are living a historical moment.

  4. lfm Says:

    Not only I did not see this coming, I’ve been getting this wrong since Mockus’s surge. (See how I admit being wrong? Classy, eh?) It appears to me that what is going on here is the collapse of the Noemi Sanin’s camp. That is typical in this kind of elections. What I did get wrong was that I thought that Sanin’s collapse would, if anything, benefit Santos and, at best, be a wash for both. Now it seems that the majority of Sanin’s voters are flocking to Mockus and, shockingly, some Santos’s supporters are doing the same as a result of some kind of bandwagon.

    Now, apparently, I’m just like the damned in Dante’s hell who could foresee events in the distant future but not the present. (I wonder which of my few sins did me in.) What I DID see coming, pretty much two years ago, is that Santos could be defeated by the opposition.

    In spite of my poor track record on this one, I’ll venture an analysis. Like any good cattle grower, Uribe knows that the cattle must be herded from the back, in this case from the extreme. For eight years he has presided over a coalition that covers from the murderous paramilitary extreme right to the neoliberal, urbane center-right. His greatest trick is that he has managed to keep all these groups together working for the extreme instead of trying to bring them to some kind of compromise.

    The risk with this strategy was that at some point the center would smart out over this and realize that they’ve been taken along for quite a ride. Colombians hate the FARC, granted. They would rather see it defeated if possible. True. But, unlike many uribistas (like the ones that frequent the discussions of this blog) they would rather get the thing done without a huge bloodbath that keeps the country on a war footing for years to come. And with unemployment back at the levels where Uribe found them in 2002, that 6% of GDP we keep spending on defense could come handy, don’t you think?

    That has always been Santos’s structural weakness. Without Uribe it was just too hard to keep the same coalition together. Although Mockus is not my knight in shining armor, if he wins, good riddance! Too bad the Polo Democratico has screwed up so many things in recent years. I don’t think it could be winning right now, but it could be driving a harder bargain.

  5. Alvaro Hurtado Says:

    The funny thing is that as Mockus surges more and more, my initial sympathy for him is starting to waver more and more.

    I’m still likely to going vote for him over Santos, no real question about it, but with each passing week I’m desperately hoping that he doesn’t end up being Belisario Betancur II:

    Someone with very good intentions whose election was seen as a blow to the traditional establishment and who introduced some comparatively progressive measures but, in the end, turned out be both too weak and too incompetent to survive the brutality, both literal and figurative, of Colombian politics.

    Granted, history doesn’t necessarily repeat itself just like that, regardless of what a lot of people think the truth is that context and circumstances definitely matter, but we must still learn from it in order to avoid making similar mistakes.

  6. Mojarra Says:

    One should note that polls in Colombia are conducted largely in the four big cities – Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla – and only to households with landlines. As such, I’m not sure how representative these polls are. Mockus clearly appeals to voters in urban areas – and overwhelmingly in Bogota and likely Medellin (especially with Fajardo on his ticket) – and while he may be popular in smaller cities, towns and rural areas, these polls won’t reflect that popularity. Many voters outside these large urban areas tend to follow their local “padrinos politicos” at the voting booths. And why not? These voters often rarely reap benefits from Bogota-led political decisions. Better to follow your local political leader and maybe get a few pesos, a bag of cement or even a free lunch. Case in point is the success of the PIN party in the congressional elections. PIN did a good job in getting out their votes, probably by any means necessary.

    That said, this election may not follow traditional trends. Santos’ strength in the eyes of most voters is his security policies. Unfortunately for Santos, many voters rank violence and insecurity low compared to other issues where Mockus has a comparative advantage. And if Noemi sides with Mockus in the segunda vuelta and splits the conservative vote, then Mockus clearly has the advantage. The big question is whether Mockus has the moxy to make the tough decisions on security or if he’ll just be another Gaviria, Betancourt or Pastrana – all unsuccessful in rolling back drug trafficking, guerrillas and violence.

  7. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Maybe Mockus won’t have the “moxy” to make tough decisions, but there’s always a trade off between policies and perhaps he can decrease corruption, state espionage, massacres of citizens and internal displacement in an ostensible manner.

  8. Alvaro Hurtado Says:


    I think you’re partially mistaken here.

    If you actually read the technical details behind most of the latest polls, the majority of them are made through personal interviews and most of them include over 30 cities and municipalities. They’re quite a bit more representative than usual.

    Your argument about polls being limited to four cities and always requiring phone lines has been absolutely valid at different points in time, no question about it but during this electoral season it’s been very easy to disprove. That said, it’s always worth looking at each specific poll and noticing these things first.

    That said, outside of the methodological question it is fair to say that traditional client politics are alive and well in rural or impoverished areas, which is sad, but even if Mockus doesn’t win I expect him to do a lot better than what has usually been the case for a candidate with his profile…that is, provided current trends last. Everything could change for better or for worse.

    Btw, small spelling nitpick…Belisario is Betancur, Ingrid is Betancourt.

  9. Camilla Says:

    I must say I was surprised, too. But I couldn’t be happier that the opposition to Santos is not named Petro.

    I think Mockus as the opposition challenger came because Colombia needs an opposition. Unlike Uribe, I do believe in the pendulum theory. Voters go left, voters go right, and each time they learn a lesson about what they like and don’t like. Each side can contribute something to democracy.

    The problem with any opposition in Colombia’s case is that it always has network ties to what is ultimately the Castroite left, the Sao Paulo Forum left, which on some level romanticizes guerrillas and in the end always ultimately supports FARC.

    Given what FARC has done to Colombia, such a left can never be accepted or a big vote drawer. There is just no way anyone who serves as an apologist for them, who coddles them, who seeks a ‘peace accord’ to allow FARC to get off scot-free for its crimes and assume guaranteed power in the legislature can get elected.

    But still, there is a need for an opposition. I think Mockus fills the spot well because he doesn’t have ties to that Sao Paulo Forum left. He really does seem independent. He’s not like other leftists. He doesn’t steal. He pays his bills, he honors contracts, he won’t go off budget. How many leftists out there are like that? To my knowledge, none among the Sao Paulo Forum left, that’s for sure. But independents, perhaps.

    And he believes in results over symbolism. He’s not in some ‘revolucion’ to transform Colombia, to create A New Colombian Man – he says he wants to build on what President Uribe has achieved. He doesn’t seem to blame others, he doesn’t seem to engage in class warfare or Alinskyite tactics, he actually seems to like to solve problems, and solve them in a sustainable way, not according to a theoretical socialist recipe that discounts human nature, but in a way that takes into account incentive, and preempts moral hazard and all the other things that gum up the leftist Utopian vision.

    With Colombians tired of war, and many of the young no longer remembering it, and with President Uribe bringing peace and prosperity to the nation, you can see why Mockus appeals as someone who will be fresh and different. I can understand why Colombians support him.

    Also, with the Obama administration rejecting Colombia, refusing to visit the country, breaking its promise to get to Colombia free trade right after health care passes, who wants to be part of that kind of humiliation and defeat? Mockus wants to draw away from the US and focus on the region, and forget about the US. That has its own logic, too, given the crappy treatment the Obama administration has given Colombia. The US will lose Colombia as an ally in the Mockus administration unless Chavez does something crazy and Mockus can recognize it as crazy.

    Mockus really isn’t part of that network.

  10. lfm Says:

    Uh oh. The reasons not to like Mockus are piling up. Now turns out that Camilla likes him! If this is a harbinger of things to come, we’re in for very unpleasant surprises as the hard right tries to ingratiate itself with him. Actually that has been my worry all along: Mockus has become so ideologically vague that at this point there is no guarantee that he will not become just a third term of Uribe. I can almost see the endorsement statement from ANDI, ANIF, SAC, and the cabinet seats for uribistas. Now for a few reactions.

    For the umpteenth time, the Polo Democratico is not an accomplice of the FARC. Not. At. All. Yes, it has defended a peace process like many mainstream parties in Colombia have done. Defending peace negotiations is not the same as coddling terrorists, not in Colombia, not in Ireland, not in Palestine, nowhere. It is a normal approach that has been tried in many places, with mixed results to be honest. If you want to look for conspiratorial tactics in Colombia, you have them in the Casa de Nari. Those are the guys conspiring to create the equation of pacifism and terrorism. You may disagree with the attempt to have a peace process. That’s an argument to have. But it is despicable to suggest that those who defend it are terrorists. In my dreams Uribe pays a heavy political price, possibly with a trip to The Hague, for having engaged in such slander and manipulation. (Then I wake up…)

    I was going to elaborate on the new ideas circulating among many socialist factions in the world, in, around and out of the Sao Paulo Forum, but it’s a waste of time. It’s clear that for Camilla the Cold War was a time of youth and excitement. Nothing will ever shake him out of that mind frame. He wants to fight Stalinists to his last breath. Problem is that there are so few of them these days that he has to invent a few more, otherwise it gets boring.

    I keep thinking that Camilla’s opinions are useful as a weathervane of the ultra right and, as such, there’s something I find interesting. A month ago, they thought that any change in policy would mean that the FARC would take over in three weeks flat. Arias, the pied piper of the moment, went out to do his “mimes and sunflowers” thing. Now that the polls are swinging, turns out that, well, after all we can live with Mockus, he’s fine, he’s decent. So here’s the question:

    Who is playing who? Are these guys playing Mockus and already found a way to hamstring into their perpetual war plans? Or is Mockus playing them and they are simply turning on a dime because they have paychecks to defend? Whatever the answer is, it ain’t pretty.

  11. Jaime Bustos Says:

    What a pathetic show Colombia is. Just after the uribismo saw the real people’s support in the poll Adam’s post was analyzing, they published another one rectifying the previous, once more heralding the winner is going to be Santos. They could not wait for another week, people were waking up from the mesmerizing lie surrounding that government. Nothing else could be expected.

  12. Jaime Bustos Says:

    This is how Mr Uribe solves problems bringing peace to the nation :lol:


  13. Jaime Bustos Says:

    And by the way you are right lfm . Something smells really fishy about Mockus (Penalosa and Fajardo smell the most)

  14. Camilla Says:

    Jaime, I think that if Mockus dropped in the polls, it was because of all his pro-Chavez, pro-extradite Uribe statements. Those were idiotic things, they were so bad Mockus had to backtrack. The other reason was probably Chavez’s and Correa’s braying across the border. Voters don’t like that sort of thing, no matter who’s doing it. I also sense that Santos did well in the last presidential debate, he certainly had me applauding. But I will await the news and see if Santos really is rising in the polls.

  15. lfm Says:

    Granted, Uribe will not be extradited. For all his talk of principles and ethics and bladiblah, I doubt Mockus would have the guts when push comes to shove. Likewise, I doubt he would even let the Colombian would-be prosecutions to advance. I just hope that at least he doesn’t pay Uribe the lawyers he might need to consult before he vacations abroad.

  16. Alvaro Hurtado Says:

    Jaime, if you’re referring to the Invamer Gallup poll…Mockus is still shown as winning on the second round, even if Santos is about 4-5 points ahead in the first. Let’s try to keep that in mind.

    I can’t really say much about Fajardo, outside of the fact you could ostensibly give him partial blame for the mafia “truce” in Medellín under Don Berna, at least to some extent….but Peñalosa, while not exactly a “man of the people”… has actually been fairly progressive as far as his public works are concerned. If anything, it should be considered that some of the richest people in Bogotá hate him..

    Regarding Uribe’s extradition, I would only care if he’s being requested on behalf of the International Criminal Court.

    But to Ecuador or, say, Venezuela? I don’t think you can make a credible case for the impartiality of Venezuelan or Ecuadorian justice, to say the least. Ethics and principles have to cut both ways.

  17. lfm Says:

    Alvaro: As regards extradition I’m also of the “ICC party” but let’s not waste more pixels on that. It’s just not going to happen.

    I wonder if we can have some exchange about Fajardo and Pennalosa. First, what role are they already playing? Especially Fajardo. My sources (not always very good and in this regard even worse) tell me that the “House of Uribe” had a special place in its heart (such as it is) for Fajardo. If true, I would find this disquieting. I’ve never thought of Fajardo as a progressive of any kind but I don’t know anything about Medellin.

    Pennalosa is another interesting topic of discussion. There are many things I like about him. He is in many ways “his father’s son” which in this case means one of the last “Lleristas” that believed in a combination of markets, technocratic government and some bold redistribution. In urban matters, for instance, he has interesting things to say about, gasp!, land reform. As major of Bogota he was arguably better than Mockus, probably by a lot. (It kin’a pains me to say it because I’ve had this discussion many times with close friends that worked with Mockus.)

    But on many occasions Pennalosa has disappointed me. He just panics at the idea of being the ultimate “class traitor” which is interesting in light of what Alvaro says about how he’s hated by some rich. Having already earned that hatred, he could simply go for broke and make a decisive break with the neoliberal, uribista right. But he didn’t or when he did it was like pulling teeth.

    This makes me wonder if he is a progressive on local matters, especially urban, but rather conservative on national issues (say, rural land tenure, agroexport model, macroeconomic policy and so on). If true, that combination is not something to keep you at the edge of your seat right now. I think that, if anything, we are seeing that progressive policies in the cities can become of limited reach if the larger national context is not going in the same direction. I think that if you want to move forward in places like Bogota, or even if you want to preserve the advances that have been obtained in terms of social inclusion, you need to also bring progress, redistribution, good labor relations and so on, to the countryside as well.

  18. Jaime Bustos Says:

    DAS detectives: Juan Manuel Santos knew about DAS espionage on Embassies (Spanish)


  19. Camilo Wilson Says:

    Very interesting link Jaime Bustos. Thanks. Does this report really surprise anybody? I suspect that JMS knows a lot more. But will this translate into sanctions at the polls? Probably not…

  20. Alvaro Hurtado Says:

    No, it doesn’t surprise me.

    The thing is, I don’t think this will be seen in quite the same negative light as the spying on Colombian magistrates, journalists or opposition figures.

    Why? For the simple reason that Venezuela, Ecuador and/or Cuba are foreign powers considered hostile by the Uribe administration…and who are probably conducting spy or surveillance operations of their own.

    In other words, Santos wouldn’t have to do too much in order to justify this before public opinion, even if it’s still breaking the law and, of course, that’s something that should have consequences. But most people won’t really care about that.

  21. Jaime Bustos Says:

    DAS speaks out: Uribe’s secret police


  22. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Democratic Security myth debunked

    Homicides in Colombia increased by 16 percent over last year : Forensic Medicine (Spanish)


  23. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Colombia protests Spain’s TV documentary “baby hitmen” The film was broadcast last weekend in the Spanish “canal 4″.

    “baby hitmen” documentary


  24. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Sorry this is the original documentary baby hitmen. The previous post links to the outraged response by Colombian tv


  25. whatever Says:

    Ha! I was right about that freaking little CIA mole:

    @Votebien2010 http://www.terra.com.co/elecciones_2010/votebien/html/vbn874-detective-del-das-dice-que-santos-sabia-de-espionaje-ilegal.htm

  26. whatever Says:

    Since this is the last hurrah for CIP’s Plan Colombia, why not end with a bang, eh? Waddayasay?

    The truth, for once! This one’s for you Camillita:

    The real War on Drugs:





  27. Alvaro Hurtado Says:

    Well, you can certainly go right ahead.

    Though for some reason I can’t access a couple of the links posted up there. I’ll try that again later or using different methods.

    But as someone who vehemently opposes the drug war as well as Prohibition in general and who has no personal or professional association with any of the individuals or organizations mentioned above…I must nevertheless say that Mrs. Yolanda Zakuk’s description of “La Violencia” as a “misnomer” and part of some sort of “genocidal, ethnic cleansing journey” orchestrated by the Rockefeller Foundation and the International Monetary Fund based around the implementation of birth control doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence, all things considered.

    That said, reading a bit further…I do think she has valid complaints and mentions relevant issues, but jumping from one subject to another without enough focus and insufficient attention to detail does her cause no favors regardless of its underlying moral value.

  28. whatever Says:

    dude, I’m laying out a purposefully hidden, CIA initiated and carried out, ethnic cleansing and genocidal campaign of imperialism that has devastated the PEACE and LIVES of millions of Colombians and Americans and ur freaking complaining about my clarity? I was pissed at that woman for what she was doing to some poor, and I believe, decent folks in the Colombian country side who’ve had hundreds, hundreds, of their community massacred, people like my family whose LIVES have been broadsided by these fascist scum… what a jackass. Ur actually Colombian? With the information in those links you should be completely and totally outraged at what the actual truth behind the so-called war on drugs really is! Lost in lala land.

    All of the links work for me.

  29. Alvaro Hurtado Says:


    Not just clarity, but clarity and focus. If you want people to understand all of your points, without being already convinced or inclined to be sympathetic, that is an essential part of persuasion.

    I’m not arguing that you are wrong and “that woman” is right, far from it, but my point is there are statement in that text worth reconsidering or revising.

    For instance, “La Violencia” is a very specific period of Colombian history and there is no shortage of academic work detailing its causes, characteristics and consequences. In light of this and its violent nature, the name is not a misnomer at all.

    The birth control or population management policies of the time, as questionable as they might be (I am not an expert in the field so I would defer to others), aren’t the main factors that governed the outbreak of “La Violencia” nor its subsequent development .

    When I was reading your description -if you are indeed the author of said piece- that statement immediately called out to me as something that should be revised and corrected. I hope my point is clearer now.

    The Youtube links in particular weren’t working for me earlier, but I switched browsers and they’re fine now.

  30. lfm Says:

    Slow trickle of comments… thus the blog ends, with a whimper not a bang!

  31. Jaime Bustos Says:

    This article would explain why the US media has not said a word about Mr Uribe’s latest wiretap scandal. It also could account for Adam suddenly shutting down his blog. (Spanish ONLY)


  32. Alvaro Hurtado Says:

    I’d hope you are wrong about at least one of those, Jaime, but then again we never know, with all the dirt that keeps coming out these days and all that remains to be unearthed.

  33. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Alvaro most of the news you can find about the raging scandal are written in Spanish, or are published by English independent media. The mainstream has been keeping a suspicious silence about this otherwise outrageous scandal that could have disastrous consequences should human right activists continue excerpting pressure in their quest for exposing the horridness of misdeeds by the Colombian government. All I could find was this video by a Colombian mainstream media, with its muppet voiced news lady.


  34. Jaime Bustos Says:

    A must read : the name of the game


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