Rodolfo Hernandez: Who is the Colombian old man on TikTok who could be the next president?

Recently in America, a few populist outsiders have stirred up national politics, and Hernandez is aiming to do the same in Colombia. He doesn’t mind being compared to far-right populist Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro or former US President Donald Trump, telling CNN in early June: “What I will do is defeat corruption. . “

Hernandez, 77, is known as el ingeniero (engineer) for his civil engineering degree from the National State University of Colombia, or el viejito del TikTok (TikTok old man) for his active social media presence.

His presidential campaign eschewed traditional televised debates and political rallies, focusing instead on reaching out to voters through their phones.

As a result, apart from familiarizing the electorate with his gaffe-prone style (he once called Adolf Hitler a great German thinker and later apologized by saying he meant Albert Einstein), few really know what Hernandez’s presidency will look like.

A man views Rodolfo's TikTok account in Bogotá earlier this month.

His platform contains several specific reforms to be carried out when he is in office, while Hernandez himself admits that even he is not aware of all the issues on the government’s agenda.

To describe his presidency, he compared himself to an airline CEO, explaining that he may not know how an aircraft engine works, but he has the skills to run a company for profit.

His personal history is a rags-to-riches story. Born in 1945 to a lower-middle-class family, Hernandez made his fortune building real estate in the 1990s as millions of Colombians migrated from the countryside to urban areas. He later entered politics, becoming mayor of Bucaramanga, Colombia’s seventh largest city, in 2016.

Hernandez also experienced firsthand the tragedy of Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict that killed at least 220,000 people. In 2004, his daughter Giuliana was allegedly kidnapped by the National Liberation Army (ELN), one of several left-wing guerrilla groups that have mutinied against the Colombian state over the past 60 years. Hernandez recently revealed that her body has never been found.

Series of reversals

Hernandez’s most striking pitch was his promise to “get rid of corruption.” It’s a pressing issue: According to a recent Gallup poll, 80% of Colombians say government corruption is rampant.

But how Hernandez is going to do it remains a mystery. He promised to cut government spending, such as grounding the presidential plane or turning the presidential palace into a museum. However, he did not offer any legal solutions to fight corruption more broadly, though he told CNN he would impose a state of emergency to expedite any necessary legislation.

Hernandez has had his own problems with corruption allegations, and some of them continue. By his own admission, Hernandez is the subject of 38 corruption investigations, including one that is expected to go to trial next month.

Hernandez is escorted by security ahead of the second round of voting in Bogota, Colombia, in early June.

Hernandez denied the accusation, telling CNN that “with the laws in place, every candidate can be sued by anyone.” If he wins this Sunday’s presidential election, the case will likely be dropped as Colombian laws require congressional approval to bring an incumbent to trial.

Much of Hernandez’s political trajectory can be described as a series of reversals.

Colombian Presidential Election: Shocked Country Looks Left, But Will Voters Make Historic Turn?

In 2016, he revealed that he voted against the historic peace deal between the Colombian state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). But in his campaign promise, he said he would honor the deal, and even offered to “copy-paste the solution” to negotiate with the ELN, the same group that allegedly killed his daughter 18 years ago.

Talking about the environment — especially in regards to hydraulic fracturing — Hernandez changed his mind throughout his campaign, first declaring his support for exploration projects, then appearing in a TikTok video shouting “F**k fracking!”

When it comes to foreign policy, his campaign has been opaque. One of Hernandez’s closest advisers, Ángel Beccassino, told CNN that Hernandez planned to merge his administration with left-wing leaders such as Brazil’s Ignacio Lula da Silva or Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez. But Hernandez himself also said his focus would be on improving Colombia’s relationship with the United States.

Constantly shifting his positions, the self-proclaimed “King of TikTok” may seem indecisive, but ideological leapfrog is also part of his brand.

For example, he advocates a thaw in Colombia’s relations with Venezuela and an end to the war on drugs, two issues that are important to the Colombian left. However, from an economic standpoint, he advocates the free market as the country’s central tenant of law.

And on other key issues, including safetyfiscal reform or infrastructure, he said almost nothing.

As a seasoned salesman, Hernandez managed to sell himself to enough Colombians to make it to the final ballot.

But with all its intricate branding and marketing strategies, it remains a blind sale.