Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus - a mathematician,
philosopher, and former mayor Bogota - has seen a surge in
popularity in the Colombia election. What sets him apart, he tells
the Monitor, is his 'decency.'
The airport security guard's wand squealed when it passed over
the pocket of presidential candidate Antanas Mockus's trousers as he
prepared to embark on a recent campaign trip.
Puzzled, Mr. Mockus reached in and pulled out a No. 2 pencil with
a metallic band around the eraser.
"They discovered my weapon," he says, recalling the incident with
an impish smile. The pencil is one of the symbols of his campaign,
which emphasizes education as a tool to transform society.
A few months ago, no one thought Mockus - a mathematician,
philosopher, and former mayor of Colombia's capital, Bogota - had
much of a chance in the elections, but his unorthodox campaign style
has turned Col-ombia's race for the presidency on its head.
Rising from a distant 3 percent in opinion polls in March, Mockus
has surged over 30 percent, placing him in a dead heat with former
Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, considered the heir to the
legacy of the famously popular president, Alvaro Uribe.
The latest Ipsos-Napoleon Franco poll gives Mr. Santos 34 percent
of the vote in the first round, compared with 32 percent for Mockus.
But if neither candidate secures the 50 percent of the vote needed
to win outright in the first round, Mockus would win a run-off with
45 percent to Santos' 40 percent on June 20, according to the May 23
'Super Citizen' antics
Mockus's political career has been marked by his steadfast
refusal to participate in traditional party politics. As mayor of
Bogota, he made a name for himself with his wacky antics, such as
dressing up in spandex tights as "Super Citizen." But he is also
recognized for his uncompromising honesty and zero tolerance for
It is that quality that appears to have captured the imagination
of a nation that has tired of corruption, vote buying, and an
"anything goes" attitude.
"Mockus represents a new way of doing politics," says analyst
Ricardo Garcia, "and he has managed to act as a catalyst for the
desire of voters to do away with the political favors and short
cuts" that have historically plagued politics in Colombia.
That has allowed him to win over followers from both the pro-
Uribe camp and the opposition. "Some Uribistas see him as a good
follow-up to Uribe, and the opposition sees him as a much-needed
change," Mr. …