What is Uribismo and why do Colombians vote against it?

When Colombia chooses its next president on Sunday, the pivotal election will represent a blow to the country’s dominant political force, as voters grow increasingly disillusioned with chronic poverty, inequality and growing insecurity.

Colombia’s driving political dynamic was born under the popular presidency of Álvaro Uribe, a conservative who led the country from 2002 to 2010.

The right-wing leader quickly gained widespread goodwill through his brutal tactics in Colombia’s fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a left-wing insurgency in the country’s decades-long internal conflict.

The army, under the leadership of Mr. Uribe, effectively pushed back the rebel group, reducing the violence in the lives of many Colombians, especially in the cities.

This made him one of the most powerful politicians in the country and a kingmaker who could propel candidates to power with his support.

But the former president’s political movement has been marred by controversy, perhaps most importantly by the false positive scandal in which the Colombian military is blamed by a transitional justice court of having killed more than 6,400 civilians between 2002 and 2008, and pass them off as enemy combatants to increase his kill count.

Although the scandal was never directly linked to Mr. Uribe, many of his close aides in government have been linked to the case.

Now, with two candidates who have both avoided the political establishment face-to-face in a neck and neck campaign for the presidency, Uribismo is once again a key part of the race.

But this time, the candidates are trying somehow to distance themselves from the former leader.

One candidate, Gustavo Petro, a leftist who was once a member of an urban guerrilla group, has come to represent a kind of polar opposite of Mr. Uribe.

His opponent, Rodolfo Hernandez, a wealthy businessman who has used TikTok to help promote his campaign and has conservative support, posted a list on Twitter detailing 20 “differences I have with Uribe”.

Arlene Tickner, a professor at Rosario University in Bogotá, said “the association with Uribismo has become a handicap in this election”.

Mr Uribe did not back anyone in Sunday’s race, although he said a vote for Mr Petro would be a vote for socialism.

Many young Colombians know little about Mr. Uribe’s tenure and associate him more with the country’s current challenges.

Hilda Robles Camacho, 22, a college graduate with a degree in health administration who has yet to find a job, said she blames Mr. Duque, and by extension Mr. Uribe, for many misfortunes of his country. She said family members who were once staunch supporters of Uribe have now shifted their support to Mr Petro.

“People are waking up,” Ms. Robles Camacho said. “They see all the bad things that Uribismo has caused.”

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