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Who Are the Economic Advisors Behind Colombia’s Presidential Candidates?

Amid the debates and the candidates’ proposals, well-respected and experienced economic advisors are playing a hand behind the scenes

Colombia's presidential candidates: Gustavo Petro, Sergio Fajardo, Ingrid Betancourt and Federico Gutiérrez.
April 28, 2022 | 06:25 pm

Bogotá — Colombia’s presidential elections are at a decisive point just a few weeks before the May 29 first-round vote, and each candidate is fine-tuning their strategies by adding political endorsements and well-known names to their team.

Economic advisors are becoming more and more relevant in the final stretch of the elections as the candidates seek to impose their proposals regarding key issues such as tax or pension reforms, but which have not been exempt from controversy.

Some of current poll leader Gustavo Petro’s proposals, such as forgiving debts to student loan institution Icetex, adopting a new pension model, or reforming the central bank (Banco de la República) have divided opinions in the country.

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Petro’s People

And It has been precisely Petro’s economic advisors who have sought to quell the fears of investors in Colombia in the event of an eventual victory by the leftist candidate, and who have pledged that his would be a fiscally responsible government.

Behind this economic team is the former Secretary of Finance of Bogotá, Ricardo Bonilla, a renowned academic, researcher and economist trained at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, where he was also a professor.

Other well-known figures on the team include Luis Fernando Medina, who holds degrees in economics from the Universidad de los Andes and in philosophy from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, with a PhD in economics from Stanford University, and who has taught at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world.

Likewise, Petro has the support of Diego Guevara, a professor of economics at the Universidad Nacional.

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On the other hand, the center-oriented candidate Sergio Fajardo has gained the support of former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Juan Camilo Restrepo, who served in government from 2010-2013), and who is leader of the conservative party.

“In a polarized country full of aggression, Fajardo represents both weight and tranquility. In a country that seeks administrative efficiency and equity, those two factors sum up the political history of Sergio Fajardo. And in a country that wants to look to the future and not to the quarrels of the past, the best option is Fajardo,” Restrepo said in a video posted on Twitter.

Fajardo’s Former Ministers

Another of Fajardo’s advisors include José Antonio Ocampo, who has held the posts of Minister of Finance and Public Credit (1996-1997), director of the National Planning Department (1994-1996) and director of the Banco de la República.

The Colombian academic and former Minister of Health Alejandro Gaviria, who was pre-candidate to the presidency for Fajardo’s Centro Esperanza party after resigning from his position as dean of the Universidad de los Andes, has also joined Fajardo’s campaign.

Gaviria studied civil engineering and holds a master’s degree in economics from the Universidad de los Andes and a PhD in economics from the University of California, San Diego.

Gutiérrez, Among Right-Wing and Liberals

For his part, right-wing candidate Federico Gutiérrez has the support of Colombian economist Juan Carlos Echeverry, who was Minister of Finance of the government of former president Juan Manuel Santos, and is a former president of state-owned oil company Ecopetrol.

Gutiérrez’s campaign has also been associated with the former deputy director of National Planning, Manuel Castro, among others.

Gutiérrez will also have the support of the Liberals, after congress members from that party encouraged former president César Gaviria, who was in office from 1990-1994, to support his campaign.

Betancourt’s Second Attempt

Ingrid Betancourt, candidate of the so-called Green Oxygen party, and who spent six years as a hostage between 2002 and 2008 at the hands of the Marxist FARC guerrillas, having been kidnapped during her presidential campaign for the same party, has not disclosed the names of her economic team.

Her campaign team has commented however that she has the support of specialists who have been part of trade unions and the public sector.

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The campaign of outsider Rodolfo Hernández, who is running on an anti-corruption ticket, has not responded to requests for information regarding his aides.

Petro has widened his lead in the polls, and would likely win in a second round against right-wing Gutiérrez with a difference of almost eight percentage points, according to the latest poll by the Centro Nacional de Consultoría (CNC).

According to the poll, Petro would win the first round with 38% of the votes, but which would not be enough for him to be president, while in the second round he would garner 44.8% of the votes.