NewsPalm Beach County


Colombians in Palm Beach County watching presidential race

Gustavo Petro, Rodolfo Hernandez headed to runoff on June 19
Posted at 9:59 AM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 10:40:02-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — It's a race many in South Florida are watching closely.

Colombia is expected to see a dramatic shift in presidential politics. During the country’s Presidential election Sunday, two anti-establishment candidates took the top spots and will face off during a runoff.

Hundreds of Colombian Americans in Palm Beach County cast their vote for their home country's presidential election at Supermercado El Bodegon in Lake Worth Beach on Sunday.

Out of the six candidates running — leftist and former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro came on top with 40% and outsider populist businessman Rodolfo Hernandez with 28%. All promising various degrees of change amid rising inequality, inflation, and violence.

Local Colombianos who voted, like Claudia Mendoza of Delray Beach, explained that Sunday's results are sending a strong message of change.

"The two candidates who are coming for their second part of the election are not part of the traditional parties,” said Mendoza. “Which is absolutely great, because that means the people are changing after 212 years of the same people and same parties."

Presidential candidate Hernandez didn't participate in the country's debates or ran in the primary but came in second.

Claudia Ruiz Levy, who is a Colombian American marketing expert, says Hernandez gained momentum through social media videos like on tik-tok and anti-corruption promises.

"It was a total surprise,” said Levy. "I think he really connected with those people. I think the biggest challenge is to translate those followers on these platforms into voters and he managed to do that yesterday."

Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro has promised to make significant adjustments to the country's economy, including tax reform, and to change how Colombia fights drug cartels and other armed groups.

But other local Colombians like Yahaira Gonzalez of West Palm Beach, she is concerned he could drive the country into socialism.

"Obviously for us, Petro represents that. Petro represents what we don't want to happen to us like in other countries,” said Gonzalez.

"People are tired of the corruption of bad governments. This is the time to change and we need to give other people opportunities to make that change,” said Mendoza.

Since Petro and Hernandez didn’t meet the 50% threshold to be elected into office, both are now expected to face each other during a second round of voting on June 19.