In 2015, the operation had succeeded for the candidate Hernandez, who had won the town hall, in particular thanks to these letters promising free housing.

“Everyone was happy with their letters and kept them. I still have one,” recalls Paulina Figueroa, a housewife at El Pablon.

Four years later, however, the city councilor left office without having built any of the promised houses.

It was “one more promise not kept by a junk politician!”, castigates Jaime Nuñez, who had then convinced around fifty other people to vote for “the engineer”.

Today, he lives “cramped and rented”.

Paulina, she pays 150 dollars a month, half of her monthly income, for a loan contracted to buy a hovel in El Pablon.

“Rodolfo only lied, and now he will become president?” she criticizes.

“Evidence” in hand, retired sergeant Saul Ortiz denounces the “swindle” suffered by a hundred military families who bought houses from the Hernandez construction company.

In 1995 they started paying, but the company ended up asking 50% more than the original price. “The majority of homeowners lost” their homes because they couldn’t pay, accuses Mr. Ortiz.

The houses were also built too close to the river. “The neighborhood was completely flooded, there was tons of mud, people lost everything and weren’t compensated.”

A wall is currently under construction to protect the district, work supported by the State for 760,000 dollars.

Mr. Hernandez “is not who he claims to be (…). He is just another corrupt member of this political class that has plunged Colombia into poverty”, the sergeant annoys.

– “Good person” –

The 77-year-old ex-mayor, who to everyone’s surprise will face left-wing senator Gustavo Petro in the second round of the presidential election on June 19, is nonetheless popular in his stronghold, where he won 64% of the vote. May 29.

His smile is on every street in the city of 500,000 where his family business, HG Constructora, began operations in the 1970s.

It now weighs 100 million dollars, according to its leader, and has built 18,000 homes in the country and in Ecuador.

In his city, he is praised for his political audacity as well as for having cleaned up public finances. We remember that he gave his salary as mayor to social works, we remember his daily interventions on Facebook to report on his management.

“He is a person who did things very well, even if the municipal councilors made war on him,” says Abel, a 47-year-old taxi driver who voted for him.

“He’s a person who knows how to move a business forward, that’s enough for me. Since he was a child, he was taught to work, that’s what we want for the country,” he says.

“Rodolfo opposed a corrupt political class that practically enslaved the city (…) That’s why people love him”, explains engineer Félix Jaimes, his adviser during his mandate (2016-2019 ).

It was precisely in retaliation for his fight against bureaucracy that the old elites of the municipal council blocked his project of 20,000 free housing units promised during his campaign, assures the councilor.

Slayer of corruption, the candidate is himself in the crosshairs of justice for “undue interest” in favor of third parties in a contract when he was mayor.

One of his three sons is implicated in this affair for having received 200,000 dollars to intercede in favor of a company interested in the management of the city’s garbage.

Cecilia Suarez, 97, the candidate’s mother, brushes off the charges.

“Let them say what they want,” she says in the backyard of her house.

Of peasant origin, she taught her son to “be honorable with people”, especially the poorest. “I taught him not to be a politician but a good person,” she told AFP.