Former Colombian presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo speaks at UC Berkeley

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Former Colombian presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo spoke to a group of students and community members about his 2018 campaign at a Center for Latin American Studies, or CLAS, event Tuesday.

Fajardo spoke to a crowd of about 50 people about the pathway of his life, from growing up in Colombia to receiving a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to his eventual political endeavors and the 2018 Colombian presidential campaign.

“He defined in new ways what it means to be a citizen of Colombia, what it means to be a citizen of the world, how people can work together and, out of the most difficult of circumstances, make a difference,” said Harley Shaiken, director of CLAS, as he introduced Fajardo and welcomed him back to Berkeley.

The lecture and discussion was Fajardo’s first time publicly speaking about his presidential campaign.

Back in May, Colombia held its first presidential election since the government signed the 2016 peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a guerrilla movement involved in the Colombian armed conflict from 1964 to 2017.

The two leading candidates were Iván Duque Márquez, a populist conservative who led with 39 percent of the vote in the first round, and Gustavo Petro, leader of the Progressive Movement with 25 percent of the vote. Centrist Fajardo came in third place with about 24 percent of the votes.

Fajardo began his political career by running for mayor in his hometown, Medellín. He held office from 2004 to 2007. After ending his term as mayor, Fajardo continued his political career as governor of Antioquia from 2012 to 2015.

“The problems we want to solve in this city, Medellín, are inequality. This city is very unequal, in many senses,” Fajardo said during his speech. “We went out directly to people, walking the streets, we listened to people, and we talked to people. We managed to get the city into our hearts, our skin and our brains.”

Fajardo placed himself as a centrist politician between the extremes of Duque and Petro during the presidential campaign. According to Shaiken, Fajardo was respected for his work as mayor of Medellín and governor of Antioquia. Fajardo’s platform consisted of creating a less polarized society.

He said during his speech that he focused on education and the environment during his campaign, viewing education as the basis for development within the country. He said he believed in the agrarian policy and the process of peace, including honoring the agreement made with FARC.

“He has like a different voice and he brings a new message to a country that has been blighted with corruption,” said community member Diego Molina, who attended the speech. “It’s just been a breath of fresh air to hear his standpoint from a different voice.”

In the open discussion after his lecture, Fajardo answered questions asked by students and community members. He shared his thoughts on the current political environment and the Venezuelan crisis.

“I’m Venezuelan. I came to get educated and really learn about Colombian politics,” said community member Carla Barraez. “There’s something to be said about the way the culture and political atmosphere of the surrounding countries affect everyone around.”

At the end of the event, Shaiken announced that Fajardo will be back in the spring for one month to teach a special seminar at CLAS.

Contact Thao Nguyen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tnguyen_dc.