Politics in Colombia

When you hear the name Antanas Mockus, do you imagine him as the character in some strange fantasy novel?  Well, he is running for President of Colombia and so far he is in the lead:

Responsible is not always the first word that comes to people’s minds here about Mr. Mockus. He became well known in 1993 after dropping his trousers and mooning an auditorium of unruly students, forcing him to resign as rector of the National University.

“Innovative behavior can be useful when you run out of words,” Mr. Mockus said of the uproar that followed, explaining that he viewed the episode within the concept of French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu’s “symbolic violence.”

He leveraged the publicity from that episode to run for mayor of Bogotá, a city then on the verge of chaos. In two terms, Mr. Mockus merged lofty political theory with projects to improve quality of life here and got attention by dressing up, with a hint of self-mockery, in a superhero costume as “Supercitizen.”

Beyond that, he used mimes to mock scofflaw pedestrians, held disarmament days for people to turn in guns and even asked people to pay more in voluntary taxes. To nearly everyone’s surprise, some 63,000 people did.

Here is his self-description:

“I’m battling for the integration of ideas from the left and right,” he said, explaining that he was in favor of higher tax collection and a strong government role in society, while also advocating the closing of inefficient state enterprises, cutting the public payroll and supporting private industry.


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