Presidential candidates: Germán Vargas Lleras

By bogotapost May 22, 2018

Germán Vargas Lleras

Germán Vargas Lleras

Nomination: Independent (Cambio Radical)

Slogan: Mejor Vargas Lleras

In one word: Establishment

Who is he?

Having stepped down from his position as vice president in the Santos administration in order to run for the presidency, Germán Vargas Lleras was at one point seen as the frontrunner, although he has now fallen behind in the polls.

However, the conservative politician is no stranger to this game and has some strong political machinery behind him. Regarded as ‘Santos’ candidate’, he will be counting on strong support from his allies, especially on the coast, to push him to the second round.

What he stands for:

Positioning himself as the experienced candidate, Vargas Lleras says he will build on what has already been put in place, with many of his proposals around topics like health and justice based on improving the current system.

For example, he is committed to finishing the 4G road network, infrastructure development that he and the current administration claim is essential for economic development, and with which he had been closely involved with as vice president.

He does, however, disagree with the current government on several economic topics. He is proposing to introduce a new tax reform with lower taxes and also promises to stimulate foreign investment and create a positive climate for entrepreneurs by lowering taxes.

He has taken a strong pro-mining stance, arguing that the current systems for consultation are overly onerous.

He wants to increase the education resources from 4.5% to 6% of GDP. He has been lukewarm on the peace process with the FARC, distancing himself from Santos’ campaign.

Find out about the other candidates:

Everything else you need to know about the presidential elections.

His supporters:

His supporters have been less vocal than those of Duque or Petro, which is why a number of commentators see him as the dark horse in the race.

His popularity on the coast should not be underestimated. His supporters praise his experience; his clear manner; his promises to complete the infrastructure developments and his economic policies. Plans to create a Family Ministry have also gone down well.

After much speculation, the Partido de la U announced in April that they would support Vargas Lleras. The deal came after they’d elicited promises from Vargas Lleras to guarantee compliance with the peace deal and its implementation, as well as other matters.

He will also count on support from parts of the business community.

His critics:

His detractors scorn his stance on anti-corruption, claiming that his party (the Cambio Radical) have been the most tainted by both corruption and paramilitary connections.

The financial newspaper Bloomberg have raised questions about the sustainability of his tax reform, suggesting that it would damage the country’s credit rating. Others say that that the reforms will only exacerbate the rich-poor divide.

His position in the Santos coalition could be seen as a mixed blessing, given the incumbent president’s low popularity right now. It opens him up to blame for any criticisms of the status quo.

It also gives him a difficult circle to square. He was part of the government that reached the peace agreement with the FARC (one that he has now agreed to honour), but he himself was not openly in favour of the deal.

He has also taken flack for his ‘difficult’ temperament – exemplified in several instances of videoed aggression towards his bodyguards.

By Emma Newbery, Oli Pritchard and Freek Huigen. This article first appeared in edition 54 of The Bogotá Post.