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Editor’s Note: Each week, Colombia Focus will profile another candidate for the 2018 Colombian Presidential Election. This week we profile Roy Barreras, candidate for the Partido Social de Unidad Nacional. Please visit our 2018 Colombian Presidential Election Headquarters for information about all of the candidates in the election.
Roy Barreras looks to be a favorite to win Colombia’s 2018 Presidential Race. But will he win the nomination of his own party?
Roy Barreras begins the 2018 as one of the favorites to represent the legacy of current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the so-called “Party of the U”. He is a sitting senator and strong proponent of the government’s treaty with FARC guerrillas. He was the head of the peace commission in the Colombian Senate, and served as part of Santos’ negotiation team in Cuba.
Barreras has humble roots, his mother a farmer whose family was displaced during the country’s civil war and his father, a doctor, was forced to travel to find work in other parts of the country. From driving a taxi and working in a bakery to following in his father’s footsteps, Barreras worked nearly two decades as a doctor before becoming a senator, and now candidate for the presidency of Colombia in 2018.
The political ideology of Roy Barreras is complicated, having both served Santos during the peace negotiations and represented the hard hand of Álvaro Uribe. His views are forged through various life experiences, including his time on the Pacific coast, working as a medical student in Chocó and a witness to the bloody civil war that plagued the country during the 80’s and 90’s.
Senator Barreras is likely a consensus candidate. He is a student of history, often quoting Greek poets and philosophers, and is well liked by both the right and the left. He has a plain manner of speaking, a humble upbringing, and congressional experience, a unique combination among the candidates. Opponents will likely try to tie Barreras to Colombia’s unpopular President Juan Manuel Santos, and his greatest challenge will be to separate his ideals and vision for the country from the current president.
Overall, Barreras should be considered one of the favorites to become the next president of Colombia. But first, he must consolidate his support among his own party and emerged as their candidate.
The 2016 Peace Accords with FARC Guerrillas
Colombians who support the 2016 accords with FARC guerrillas will find a friend in Senator Barreras, who has strongly supported both Santos and the accords. He has railed against populism, which he sees as the primary opponent of the peace accords, likeningthose who spoken out to Cleon’s prosecution of Pericles and his peace accord with the Persians.
Cleón de Atenas jurista y demagogo hizo daño inmenso a la Paz de Pericles. Los populistas violentos en todas las epocas llevan a la guerra
— Roy Barreras (@RoyBarreras) July 10, 2017
Corruption in Colombian Politics
Barreras has defended President Santos against accusations of corruption. In a debate with prospective presidential candidate Paloma Valencia on CaracolTV, he stated that corruption is a problem that has faced every Colombian administration and not attributable to the current one. Despite Santos’ support levels, which have at times fallen below 20%, Barreras has been unwavering in his support for this friend and colleague, tweeting in July that “there is a trend in Colombia that is distancing itself from President Santos and the peace process, that is wrong“.
"Hay una moda en Colombia que es distanciarse del presidente Santos y del proceso de paz, eso está mal", dice @RoyBarreras
— VocesRCN (@VocesRCN) July 6, 2017
Like other candidates, he has denounced corruption in Colombian politics, though he has yet to offer any specific solution.
As a senator, Barreras has a legislative track records which provide a guide to his policy positions. The positions generally involve government intervention for private citizens, including bankruptcy laws to allow citizens protections from creditors and a form to renegotiate their debt, more benefits for veterans and family pension plans.
However Barreras has also advocated for laws that bring stricter penalties upon criminals, including tougher drunk driving laws, stricter sentences for sexual predators and a law that allows a kidnapping charge for the so-called “paseo millonario”, or express kidnappings, abductions where criminals drive their victims to ATMs and demand that they withdraw cash.
Gay Marriage and LGBT Rights
Barreras’ positions on LGBT rights and gay marriage are conflicting. He has made clear that he believes the institution of marriage should be between a man and a woman only in 2013, stating “I think like most Colombians: yes to civil union and respect for civil rights of the LGBT community, but not to marriage and adoption of children“. Laws intended to provide equal rights to marriage collapsed in the Colombian congress, due in part to Senator Barreras’ opposition.
However in 2015 when the issue of adoption was raised in congress, the senator supported a bill to allow gay couples to adopt, stating, “Sadly, the majority of abandoned and abused children are heterosexual adults“. In May 2017, he came out even more strongly for LGBT rights on Twitter.
Ganó el respeto. Ganó el amor, que debe ser la única condición para ser padre o madre pic.twitter.com/Sf4zEfNEii
— Roy Barreras (@RoyBarreras) May 11, 2017
The senator was interviewed on “Confessions”, a 45-minute program that delved into his family background and roots. Note that the video is only available in Spanish language.