Hernandez in his castle amid scandals and referendums

Bucaramanga (Colombia) (AFP) – In this impoverished neighborhood of Bucaramanga in northern Colombia, it seems like yesterday: in 2015, mayoral candidate Rodolfo Hernandez, a millionaire engineer, promised free housing for all if elected. Today, he is running in the second round of the June 19 presidential election.

In 2015, the operation was a success for candidate Hernandez, who won the town hall, especially thanks to these letters promising free housing.

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“Everyone was happy to receive their letters and kept them. I still have one,” recalled Paulina Figuero, a housewife in El Pablon.

Four years later, the city councilor left the office without any of the promised houses being built.

It was “another promise that a junk politician did not keep!”

Today, he lives “narrow and rented”.

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Paulina, she pays 150 150 a month, half of her monthly income, for a loan contracted to buy a howl in El Pablon.

“Rodolfo just lied, and now he’s going to be president?” He criticizes.

“Evidence” in hand, retired Sergeant Saul Ortiz Hernandez condemned the “fraud” suffered by a hundred military families who bought homes from construction companies.

They started paying in 1995, but the company ended up demanding 50% more than the original price. “Most homeowners lost their homes because they couldn’t pay,” Ortiz said.

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Houses were also built very close to the river. “The neighborhood was completely flooded, there was a lot of mud, people lost everything and didn’t get compensation.”

A wall is currently under construction to protect the district, with work supported by the state for 60 760,000.

Mr Hernandez “is not what he claims to be (…). He is another corrupt member of the political class that has plunged Colombia into poverty”, Sergeant annoyed.

– “Good guy” –

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The 77-year-old former mayor, who surprised everyone by facing leftist Senator Gustavo Petro in the second round of the June 19 presidential election, is still popular in his stronghold, where he received 64% of the vote. May 29

His smile is displayed on all the streets of the city of 500,000 inhabitants where his family business, HG Constructora, started its activities in the 1970s. It now weighs 100 million, according to its leader, and has built 18,000 homes in the country and in Ecuador.

In his hometown, he is praised for his political courage as well as for cleaning up public finances. We think he paid his salary as mayor for social work, we remember his daily interventions on Facebook to report on his management.

“He is a man who has done a very good job, even when the municipal councilors are fighting against him,” said Abel, a 47-year-old taxi driver who voted for him.

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“He’s a man who knows how to run a business. That’s enough for me. Since he was young, he was taught to work, that’s what we want for the country,” he said.

“Rudolf was opposed to a corrupt political class that virtually enslaved the city (…) which is why people love him,” explained engineer Felix James, his adviser at the time of his order (2016-2019).

In retaliation for his fight against the bureaucracy, the old aristocracy of the municipality blocked the project of 20,000 free housing units promised during his campaign, the councilor assured.

The killer of corruption, the candidate is in the crosshairs of justice for “undue interest” in a deal with a third party while he is mayor.

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One of his three sons was involved in the case after receiving 200 200,000 to recommend a company interested in waste management in the city.

Cecilia Suarez, 97, the candidate’s mother, dismissed the allegations

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“Let them say what they want,” he says in the backyard.

Of peasant descent, he taught his son to “respect the people,” especially the poorest. “I taught him to be a good man, not a politician,” he told AFP.

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