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Elections

Profile: Antanas Mockus

posted by Kirsten Begg

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Colombia news - Antanas Mockus

Name: Antanas Mockus

Born: March 25, 1952 in Bogota, D.C.

Education:

  • Masters in Philosophy from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia
  • Mathematics Degree from the University of Dijon, France
  • Honorary PhD from the University of Paris XIII, France

Political Party: The Green Party

Vice Presidential candidate: Sergio Fajardo

Most recent position: Colombian senator

Links: Twitter, Facebookwebsite

Quirky fact: Where to begin? Winning the award for the presidential candidate whose name most sounds like a Harry Potter character, Aurelijus Rutenis Antanas Mockus Šivickas has made a career out of quirky stunts. Highlights include mooning an auditorium of students, when he was rector of the Universidad Nacional; marrying a social worker in a circus while riding an elephant; dressing as a superhero and improvising rap songs.

Background

The son of Lithuanian immigrants, Antanas Mockus is a Colombian mathematician, philosopher and politician. After serving as rector at Bogota’s Universidad Nacional, Mockus went on to become mayor of Bogota twice. He is renowned for his eccentric, outside the box thinking, which has led him to perform some unusual but thought-provoking stunts.

History

1969: Mockus graduates from Bogota’s Liceo Frances high school.

1972: Keen on a career in academia, Mockus heads to France to study mathematics and philosophy.

1988: Mockus begins a Masters in Philosophy at Bogota’s Universidad Nacional.

1990: Mockus is appointed rector at Universidad Nacional. During his time in the university’s top job, he receives recognition for advancing academic reforms and welfare policies.

1993: To gain the attention of students in a noisy auditorium, Mockus drops his pants and moons the crowd. He explains the act as an example of “the resources which an artist can use.” Not long after, Mockus resigns as rector.

1995: Mockus runs for and wins the position of Bogota mayor. Throughout his mayorship Mockus uses theatrical and thought-provoking stunts to promote his policies. He appears in the shower in a TV commercial to encourage people to conserve water, he hires mimes to poke fun at traffic violators, based on the principle that Colombians are more afraid of being ridiculed than being fined, and walks the streets dressed in spandex and a cape as “Supercitizen.” He gains political support, but mainly from Bogota’s middle and upper classes.

1997: Mockus resigns as mayor so that he will be eligible to run for the 1998 Colombian presidency.

1998: Mockus runs for the presidency but is unsuccessful.

2001: Mockus returns to the Bogota political scene to run again as mayor and is re-elected.

2003: Mockus resigns as mayor and takes a year’s sabbatical to travel

2004: As a visiting professor, Mockus teaches two Spanish classes at Harvard University for the Fall 2004-2005 semester.

Lithuanian publication Draugas votes Mockus 2004’s Lithuanian of the Year.

2005: Mockus announces his 2006 presidential candidacy and plans to run with the Indigenous Social Alliance Movement.

2006: Mockus’ presidential bid is unsuccessful and he polls fourth in the election.

2009: Along with two other former Bogota mayors, Mockus forms political movement the Green Party. The mayors decide that one of them will run in the 2010 presidential elections.

2010: Mockus is elected presidential candidate for the Green Party following the party’s primaries in March.

Policy

2010 campaign slogan: “Con educacion todo se puede” – With education, everything is possible

Antanas Mockus believes that ideas win votes. And the Green Party presidential candidate is very creative in how he expresses his ideas. Colombian political analysis website La Silla Vacia compares him to Spanish artist Salvador Dali. “Like the surrealist artist, Mockus, through the symbols he uses, establishes an emotional connection with an audience, so even if they don’t understand his words, they understand his message.” Mockus himself expressed a similar sentiment in an academic article he wrote, commenting that “When words run out, what’s left is art.” In Mockus’ case, art is politics.

Mockus is best known in Colombia for his wacky stunts. But will Colombia understand and embrace the, at times, very abstract ideas behind such stunts? Critics fear democratic security would flounder under self-proclaimed pacifist Mockus’ leadership, with Uribe himself blaming a 2002 FARC attack in the capital on the then-Bogota mayor. La Silla Vacia recounts how, when faced with FARC death threats during his time as mayor, Mockus did not respond with violence or shows of force. Instead he began to wear a jacket with a heart-shaped hole cut out over his left breast. In doing so he demonstrated how absurd it would be to attack a person who refused to defend himself.

With such stunts during his time as Bogota mayor, Mockus showed that there is an alternative path Colombia could take to deal with its internal conflict. However, even if Mockus does manage to win over the people with his “Mockucratics,” analysts suggest his Achilles heel may be winning over Colombian Congress, to pass his reforms.

Platform

Mockus’ platform is based on the ideas of the “Visionaries for Colombia” movement, which rejects the concept that it doesn’t matter how change is achieved, as long as it is achieved. Mockus believes that this attitude has led to a culture of violence and corruption in Colombia. For him, how change is instituted is fundamental, and he seeks “change without violence, supported by respected institutions and citizens who believe in the fulfillment of social norms and laws.”

  • Complete respect for life
  • Stop taking “short cuts” – greater cohesion between means and ends
  • Coherence between laws, norms and customs: “When the state has not earned the respect of citizens, it is easy to create norms or practices that are socially accepted but legally and morally unacceptable. In order to restore respect for laws and norms, customs need to have moral implications.”
  • Greater equality in education
  • Respect for the justice system

Despite critics’ insinuations that Mockus is unequipped to deal with the FARC and security issues, the Green Party candidate maintains that the guerrilla organization must be “cornered and finished.” Mockus agrees with Uribe’s stance that a dialogue with the FARC is not possible whilst the guerrillas continue to engage in kidnapping. He is opposed to a humanitarian exchange under the current circumstances.

During Mockus’ second term as Bogota mayor, the city experienced some of the worst terrorist attacks in its history. While Mockus agreed with Uribe that the state needs to regain its authority, he disagreed with Uribe’s formation of a network of paid informants to combat terrorists. “It is impossible for the state to compete with the funds of these armed groups and drug traffickers. They can always offer more. The state must compete with and for its legitimacy,” Mockus said. This statement sums up his stance on the conflict – that the FARC must be fought within the law and with citizen support.

Foreign policy

In a recent live debate Mockus said that he would never pursue the FARC onto another nation’s sovereign territory, as Partido de la U’s candidate Juan Manuel Santos did in Ecuador, during his time as defense minister.

In terms of Colombia’s rocky relations with Venezuela, Mockus has a called for a bilateral solution that would “respect the Venezuelan process and be carried out through institutions.”

Mockus’ overarching foreign policy is one “governed by the constitution, respectful of human rights and international agreements and which prioritizes regional relations, especially with neighboring countries.”

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