Monday, 10 April 2017

Colombia decides 2018: What'll yours be?

After eight years of the good, the bad and the ugly with Juan Manuel Santos, next year the Colombian electorate will vote for a new president.

There's still a bit to go before we know the, um, range of candidates on the actual ballot paper, but there are a few who have already indicated their intention to run for the highest office in the land.

Plus, considering there's generally very little ideological difference among those who do put their names forward -- due largely to an old policy of murdering any politician with just a hint of socialism about him/her -- it's very much like choosing you're favourite, bog-standard Bavaria beer, 'the' beer company of Colombia (owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev as it is now).

Colombia's former Inspector General, the conservative Alejandro Ordóñez ...
'Aguila' Ordóñez, what Colombia 'should' be about ...
We all tend to prefer one over the other, but they're essentially the same not-very-classy poison that may leave us with a headache and regret if we get too involved and put too much faith in them as instruments of change in our mediocre lives. (OK, that's a bit harsh on the beer, and at least it's not the ridiculously overpriced Bogotá Beer Company.)

With that as a guide, here we look at some of those in the mix at this early stage (subject to much change):

Gustavo 'Poker' Petro
Poker Petro is at home in Bogotá, where it has held sway for much of the working-to-middle classes for some time, a few 'flat', controversial moments notwithstanding.

The problem is, this populism doesn't tend to transfer to the other major urban centres. The label is seen as a little bland elsewhere, a tad bitter even. Thus, we'd expect it to do well in Bogotá along with a smattering of other towns and could go close. Yet a decent volume of support doesn't always turn into votes. The Poker grande (750 ml) might be popular and look impressive, but it's just one bottle. Two standard 330 ml Aguila bottles appear better on the table in the minds of some Colombians.

Alejandro 'Aguila' Ordóñez
At this remove it's all a bit clustered and hazy on Colombia's right, where you'll find all the 'políticos Aguila'. Yet for the moment an Aguila Ordóñez fits this slot pretty well (as does any one coming out of the ideologically-similar Centro Democrático). That is to say, the beer of Colombia. It matches, in a typical paradoxical way, what the country should be about. Aguila has the Colombian colours, the chicas, the vibrancy; Ordóñez the old-school Catholicism, the traditionalism, the elitism. A perfect match.

Foreigners often fail to get the appeal; it's a Colombian thing, we wouldn't understand.

Jorge 'Costeña' Robledo
The beer that could be king. However, in a significant part of the country it's not even known about. Ask for a Costeña Robledo and you'll get a strange look. Where you can get it, it suffers from not sharing in the same sort of lofty limelight as our Pokers and Aguilas, even though it's just as 'good' if not a bit better. Yet it's the black, 'potentially dangerous' sheep of the family, with its funny little shape. Knock back this brew and god knows what kind of crazy socialist path you might stumble down.

Sergio 'Pilsen' Fajardo
We're in Medellín/Paisa country and surrounds with this one. In its own backyard, a Pilsen Fajardo more or less beats all the other Bavaria beers put together; it gets its people. The thing is, it doesn't travel well. In fact, it doesn't really travel at all.

Sure it's recognisable to those who aren't in its catchment area. Indeed many Aguila and Poker stalwarts have dabbled in it and spoken highly of it. Nonetheless, it's still a little different and a bit too regional, self-centred even. If Pilsen Fajardo broadens its horizons, it could be a force to be reckoned with.

Germán 'Aguila Cero' Vargas Lleras
This ticket has a strong name behind it, but it lacks any real punch and tastes rather odd. If you were going to pick a 'beer', you'd have to ask why would you go for this one? The other ones out there are more exciting and give you a little high, at least for a while before it all starts going downhill. An Aguila Cero Vargas might turn out to be the safest option (scientific research pending), but it seems a kind of a 'last resort' this. The dregs of Santos in a way.

Current Colombian senator & presidential hopeful Claudia López.
Aguila Light López tends to leave you disappointed ...
Claudia 'Aguila Light' López
It almost seems like a great deal. An alternative to the traditional 'Aguilistas', an Aguila Light López speaks for a new, brighter Colombia, but not in ridiculously radical ways. A sensible, middle-ground option we might say, yet refreshingly different enough from the old-school popular boys.

That's the theory anyway. The reality is, it generally leaves you a little disappointed. It promises a high, but you tend to get too tired and lose patience before you reach it. What's more, you end up with a bigger hole in your wallet than if you'd just stuck with the old normal ones.

So there we have it. The not-very-definitive guide to some of the potential candidates for the Colombian presidency. Merry times ahead indeed.
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