Paul Jay: So, what happened in the Colombian elections on Sunday? . . . Before the runoff election, the last time you and I talked, which is I guess just over a month ago, the other candidate, Mockus, looked like [trending up] — in fact, I think the headline of our story was “Upset in Colombian Elections Coming?” with a question mark — and it sure was no upset. Mockus got clobbered.
Forrest Hylton: He got clobbered, and that was certainly predictable after the first round of voting in which Mockus did not perform . . . according to what the opinion polls had predicted. That has a great deal to do with certain inherent weaknesses of opinion polls, but it also has to do with the fact that Mockus never had presence outside the nation’s capital, in the country’s regions, which is where the last presidential elections in 2002 and 2006 had been decided. Juan Manuel Santos took 31 of 32 of Colombia’s departments, which is to say he had alliances in all of Colombia’s regions, and he also took Colombia’s major cities. So, what was really surprising was his margin of victory [46.68% for Santos vs. 21.51% for Mockus] that we saw on May 30th in the first round of voting. By the second round of voting, Juan Manuel Santos had effectively lined up a series of alliances with different white right-wing groups in Colombia, such as the Conservative Party as well as Cambio Radical, the Radical Change Party, which represents the exact opposite of what Radical Change would lead you believe it stands for and which took 12.5% in the first round of voting. Santos was able to bring that 12.5% from the Far Right into his camp. In the second round he also took 6% that the Conservatives got in the first round. He brought that into his camp, whereas Mockus was completely isolated and was unable to consolidate alliances with any group or faction that matters and in fact spurned alliances with the Colombian Left, which picked up roughly 10% in the first round of elections, such that, had Mockus been willing to make alliances, he would have had at least 30% going into it. As it was, he picked up 27% of the vote, whereas Santos picked up 60.9%, with 9 million votes, as opposed to only roughly 3 million for Mockus, which is about what Mockus got in the first round, which is to say 3 million. Santos managed to increase his vote from 6 million to 9 million between the first round and the second round. So, that really shows how powerful a coalition he was able to put together. And it’s worth stating that in Congress it’s expected that he has about 86% of the legislature in his favor, so he will obviously be able to move things through there very quickly.
Forrest Hylton teaches history and politics at the Universidad de los Andes, Bogota. He is the author of Evil Hour in Colombia (Verso, 2006), and with Sinclair Thomson, co-author of Revolutionary Horizons: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics (Verso, 2007). His first novel, Vanishing Acts: A Tragedy, which won the Ben Reitman Award from CityWorks Press, is forthcoming in 2010. This video was released by The Real News on 21 June 2010. The text above is an edited partial transcript of the interview.