On Sunday, October 29, 2023, the elections will be held to choose the next mayor of Medellín. This will ultimately dictate the destiny of the City of Eternal Spring for the next four years. The new mayor will begin his administration on January 1, 2024, for the period 2024-2028.
In this article, we will introduce you to the main candidates seeking to occupy such an important position. We will also share their main proposals as well as the main challenges that the new government of the city will face.
Then we will dive into the profiles of the main candidates. Who will compete this time to reach the highest position in the city? Join us for this special edition of politics.
Medellín Mayoral Election Pattern in 2023
According to the Registraduría Nacional del Estado Civil, there are 1,743,526 eligible voters in Medellín for the October 2023 elections. Of these, 949,152 are women and 794,374 are men. It is worth noting that voter turnout in Medellín in the 2022 presidential elections was only 51.24% (approximately 893,382 voters). So it is likely that voter turnout in the 2023 elections will decrease. It is worth noting that voter turnout in Medellín in the second round of the 2022 presidential elections was 62.7% (approximately 1,138,298 voters). Therefore, it is likely that turnout in the 2023 elections will be lower.
In Colombia, there is a tendency that when local governments are elected, people are less interested in going out to vote. This situation is known by the strongest candidates. They therefore try to encourage people with visits to neighbourhoods, tours, and participation in debates and interviews, with the idea of preventing abstention levels from rising. The candidate who manages to mobilize their voters will be the winner. In a real race against time and where every vote counts. In addition to the mayor, 21 members of the District Council members of the Local Administrative Boards of 16 Communes, and the Governor of the Department of Antioquia will be elected.
Current Management Results of the Government of Medellín
Daniel Quintero Calle, current mayor of Medellín, was elected in 2020 representing the Independents. He had the support of broad popular and leftist sectors of the time and managed to win with 304,034 votes (38.56%) over the candidates of the right and the political sector of “Uribismo”, thus initiating the “Medellín Futuro” Program.
Mayor Daniel Quintero’s administration is controversial for many and arouses intense passions. On the one hand, he has made important investments in the areas of education and health, providing greater access to opportunities for the poorest people. On the other hand, he has maintained a tense relationship with the interests of Medellín’s thriving business sector and opponents of his government.
Outstanding Achievements of Daniel Quintero as Mayor of Medellín
1). Progress in expansion works of the Medellín Metro: The work of Metro de La 80, as well as the design of new Metrocables lines. 39 billion pesos have been invested in 4 years (Approx. 1,030 million USD).
2). Unprecedented social inclusion: The city allocates 22.5% of the annual budget to education. In 2022, 1.12 billion pesos (approx. USD 265,000,000). Additionally, the Mayor’s Office carries out various social programs, among them:
3. Matrícula Cero and Créditos Condonables: Have benefited more than 300,000 students in Medellín, representing 30% of the total number of students in the city. The total amount invested in these programs is 10 billion pesos, equivalent to approximately $2.5 million U.S.
4. Computadores Futuro: Has delivered more than 100,000 computers to students from low-income sectors, representing 10% of the total number of students in the city. The total amount invested in this program is 5 billion pesos, equivalent to approximately US$1.25 million.
5. Construction of New Health Centers: The government has supported the construction of 20 new health centers and the acquisition of medical equipment worth 1 billion pesos (Approx. US$250,000). Which has improved the coverage and quality of care for more than 100,000 people.
6. Strengthening of the Software Valley in Medellín: Promotion of the City as Colombia’s First Science, Technology, and Innovation District: Strengthening of the City as a Valle del Software. Investment of 1.12 billion for infrastructure, support for research and innovation, and promotion of training in technologies.
8. Decrease in violent crime: In general, there is a progressive decrease in terms of violent crimes in the city such as homicide, femicide, kidnapping, and personal injury in the current period. The mayor’s office has made efforts to work together with the police to make progress in the area of security.
9. Recovery of money from the HidroItuango Project: In 2020 the mayor sued the builders, designers, auditors, and insurers of a failed project that caused an environmental crisis in 2018. In 2022 the Mayor’s Office won the case and recovered 4.38 billion pesos (US$983.8 million).
Critical Aspects of the Management of Mayor Daniel Quintero Calle
Confrontation with the business sector and media: Mayor Quintero has maintained tense relations with significant businessmen in the city, as well as media outlets like El Colombiano, the city’s leading newspaper. This has generated staunch opposition, which has been exploited by his detractors.
In Medellín, large companies such as: Seguros Suramericana, Grupo Argos, and Grupo Nutresa, among others, have been grouped together since 1978 through the Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño (GEA). A complex arrangement that has allowed these companies to become the most profitable and successful in the country. Logically. This immense economic power often allowed them to influence city politics. However, since Daniel Quintero became mayor, he put an end to more than 20 years of peace and collaboration between politics and the companies, being a harsh critic of them. The situation has been tense ever since
Investigation and allegations by detractors: The opposition has not relented in their scrutiny of Mayor Quintero. As a result, there are various allegations and investigations against him, regarding potential acts of corruption, as well as a growing politicization of the government’s management. Quintero has faced harsh criticism for allowing the City Hall to award contracts to relatives and close friends. All of these situations could impact Quintero’s potential candidacy in the Presidential Elections that Colombia will have in 2026.
Temporary suspension for interference in the presidential campaign: In May 2022, he was sanctioned and suspended by the Attorney General of the Nation for three (03) months due to his involvement in the Presidential Elections, publicly expressing support for Gustavo Petro’s campaign, the current president of the country. Recently, Mayor Daniel Quintero was involved in a tough confrontation with Opposition Councilor Sebastián López. Given these events, the Attorney General’s Office opened a new investigation procedure, which could lead to a new administrative sanction.
In Colombia it is illegal for public officials to actively participate in politics, thus the Attorney General’s Office has broad powers to sanction, even suspend, popularly elected officials. This is something that Daniel Quintero does not like, even the current president of the country Gustavo Petro, who has assured that it is something that violates political rights.
Popularity of Daniel Quintero Calle to Date
Despite his notable successes as mayor in favor of the poorest people of Medellín, the popularity of Daniel Quintero is now showing signs of great political wear and tear five months before leaving office, as reflected in several polls. In 2020 his popularity seemed unbeatable, so for some of his followers, this would allow him to aspire to a presidential candidacy in 2026. In fact, Quintero was successful in thwarting recall petitions for his 2022 mandate. However, after three years in office, the situation is different, and he now has high levels of disapproval from his constituents.
The Guarumo-Ecoanalítica poll published in September 2023 reveals that 71.2% of voters consider the performance of the mayor of Medellín to be poor or bad, and only 24.5% rate it as good. For its part, the renowned pollster INVAMER indicates that Quintero’s disapproval in July was 67%, therefore, his popularity has fallen to 33%, the lowest in 20 years for a mayor of Medellín. Despite the above, Daniel Quintero Calle retains an important leadership in Medellín and whatever the outcome of the mayoral elections, he will be a key factor in maintaining the governability of the city in the coming years. Additionally, his political closeness to President Gustavo Petro could project him nationally.
What are The Main Problems That the next Mayor of Medellín Will Have to Face?
One of Medellín’s main challenges is the issue of security, which is predictable in a city that has a recent past that it wants to leave behind with high levels of violence.
The second problem that most afflicts people is social inequality and economic problems, this includes poverty, the high cost of living, unemployment and lack of access to a better quality of life.
No less important is the city’s infrastructure, vehicular traffic and quality of public services.
Who are The Candidates with The Option to be the Next Mayor of Medellín?
Having talked about Daniel Quintero’s government management and the main challenges of the city, it is time to talk about the candidates to lead Medellín after the mayoral elections on October 29. Although there are formally sixteen (16) candidates registered in the Medellín electoral race, only a few have a real chance of being elected mathematically speaking, so we will only talk about the main contenders with the possibility of becoming the next mayor of the City:
1). Federico Andrés Gutiérrez Zuluaga Aspires to be Mayor of the City Again
Better known as “FICO”, he is a 48-year-old engineer, former councilor, and former presidential candidate and one of the main favorites in this race. He is widely known in Medellín as he led the city as mayor in the period 2016-2019, winning as an independent with 246,221 votes (35.81%). FICO proposes to restore peace to Medellín’s politics and work to solve the city’s problems, with special attention to children, women, youth, and older adults, among other sectors, to improve education, health, security, economic development, and social inclusion. His campaign, called “FICO El Acalde de La Gente,” is leading in all recent polls, but it is trending downward in voter preference as the days go by, so he cannot yet claim victory.
Federico Gutierrez knows that any mistake he makes could cost him dearly, so the candidate has not attended all televised and media debates. The fact is that in Colombia, it is customary for candidates who are leading in the polls to always avoid appearing in debates, to minimize the risk of making a mistake that could be exploited by their opponents to win over undecided voters.
FICO has defended itself that it does not attend Telemedellín debates, because it is a political arm of the left and its political enemy, the current mayor Daniel Quintero, and his challenger Juan Carlos Upegi. For this reason, it has only helped another debate organized by the opposition media El Colombiano, which is more related to its political ideology.
Those who oppose Federico Gutiérrez’s return to the Mayor’s Office denounces that he maintained close relations with a dangerous criminal gang from the Oficina de Envigado in his last administration. However, at the end of his term in 2020, Gutiérrez had a favorable opinion of the city’s voters with 85.8%, so these criticisms lose importance in the current race. FICO’s management as Mayor in 2016-2020 had more than 80% approval, according to all the surveys of the time, this could help him repeat in 2023, although for now, we cannot guarantee it, but it is undoubtedly good political capital.
2). Juan Carlos Upegui Vanegas - A Dolphin of Quinterismo
Juan Carlos Upegi is a 34-year-old philosopher and former Secretary of Non-Violence of the Mayor’s Office of Medellín, enters this race as an Independent and defender of the current administration since according to journalistic sources he is the cousin of Diana Marcela Osorio, wife of the current mayor of Daniel Quintero Calle.
Upegi has an ambitious Program called: “Medellín Siempre Adelante”, which it presents six (06) lines of action in economy and employment, security, public health, education and culture, right to the city, and social justice. His detractors accuse him of being Daniel Quintero’s puppet. The thing is that in general most politicians become so accustomed to power that they never want to give it up, which is why, although they cannot be re-elected by law, they have always tried to continue governing externally through friends, allies or even members of his family.
Currently, the candidate Juan Carlos Upegui, according to Analysts, is growing strongly as the days go by. However, the fatigue of the people of Medellín with the left, evidenced by the unpopularity of his friend Daniel Quintero, could be costing Upegui dearly. Everyone’s question is: Will Upegui have enough time to continue discounting differences with FICO and thus become the next mayor? We will know in a few weeks.
3). María Paulina Aguinaga Lezcano Aspires To Be The First Woman Elected Mayor of Medellín
Maria Aguinaga has a degree in Finance and International Relations at 38 years old, who has been a successful former councilor and president of the Council of Medellín in the period 2016-2019, comes to the race representing the Movimiento por Medellín, with the aspiration of being the first woman elected mayor of the city. Candidate Aguinaga proposes to lead an effective administration that improves the quality of life of Medellín residents in education, health, security, and public service.
Acianaga is gaining the growing sympathy of the people, and she has pleasantly surprised many voters in televised debates with her intelligence and eloquence. However, perhaps this time this is not enough to achieve her goal, but anything can happen in an election where polarization between two poles creates opportunities for her as an “outsider.” This happened some time ago when FICO was elected mayor in a close election in 2015 and then in 2019 when Daniel Quintero won.
So, will history repeat itself and will Maria Paulina Acianada be the surprise of the night of October 29? We cannot guarantee it, but we hope she has good results and can get votes from sectors disillusioned with the current and previous political class.
4). Albert Yordano Corredor Bustamante is an Entrepreneur Who Wants to be Mayor of Medellín
Albert Corredor is a 34-year-old business administrator. He has experience in the educational sector, as Director of the Centro de Sistemas de Antioquia (CENSA). In 2019, Corredor was elected a Medellín city councilman, a position he resigned from to run for mayor in these elections as a candidate of the Medellín Nos Une movement. This candidate proposes to be the “El Alcade del Pueblo”, as an alternative to the continuity of his former ally Daniel Quintero, through Juan Carlos Upegui or the return of the political right to the city government, represented by Federico Gutiérrez.
Albert Corredor’s government program includes several lines of action, between them:
*Fighting hunger zero, emphasizing education, security, and coexistence.
*Promoting housing and protecting vulnerable groups, including the elderly, children, and LGBTQ+ Comunity.
*One of the most daring proposals of the electoral contest is the promotion of the production and marketing of medical cannabis, to contribute to job creation and promote the development of the city.
Criticism of candidate Albert Corredor comes from all sides, so many people do not consider him a reliable leader. For the opposition, he is a traitor, as he was elected councilor for the Centro Democrático (uribismo) party, which he resigned from in 2022 to support Mayor Daniel Quintero, from whom he has also recently distanced himself to launch his own campaign.
5). Gilberto Tobón Sanín is the Oldest Candidate Running for Mayor of Medellín 2023
Gilberto Tobón is a 74-year-old lawyer, political analyst, university professor, philosopher, and writer. He ran for the Senate of the Republic in 2022, where he received the fifth-most votes in the country with 173,558, but he wasn’t elected. In 2023, Tobón is running for mayor of Medellin under the center-left party Fuerza Ciudadana
The campaign proposals of Gilberto Tobón, “Decididos Firmemente”, focus on several areas, including: education, health, employment and economic development, poverty and equity, finance and management, housing and public services, as well as the environment, security, and culture, recreation, and sports. The candidate Gilberto Tobón has been explosive and controversial in his ideas, publicly stating that: “Colombia is a country designed to be robbed.”
6). Rodolfo Andrés Correa Vargas is The Candidate Who Proposes to Bring All Sectors of Medellín Back Together
Rodolfo Correa, 45 years old, is a renowned lawyer, university professor, and former Secretary of Agriculture for Antioquia. He is also a candidate for the Mayorship of Medellín from the Colombia Renaciente Party. In his “Soñemos” Government Program, Correa proposes a centrist government that moves away from the eternal debate between right and left, focusing on reconciling all sectors of the city to work towards addressing the primary concerns of the people, such as crime, food security, and social inequality.
7). Juan Camilo Restrepo Gómez is The Defender of the Right-Wing in These Elections in Medellín
In his campaign Medellin Somos Todos Restrepo aims to restore governance for the residents of Medellín and bring together all sectors of the city for its growth and development. He places a strong emphasis on transparency, inclusion, competence, and promoting a culture of public management. However, his critics criticize his political opportunism due to his acceptance of questionable appointments by former President Iván Duque in Cúcuta and Medellín, where he assumed the role of acting mayor during the temporary suspension of Daniel Quintero in 2022 by the Office of the Attorney General, as well as during a failed attempt to recall the incumbent mayor in Cúcuta.
Latest Polls Ahead of the Medellín Mayoral Elections
Some of the survey polls reveal the clear favoritism of certain strong candidates, but this is not binding for the voters, as the real moment of truth is the day of the election, and there could always be surprises that change the political landscape, just as it happened in 2020 when Daniel Quintero, running as an independent, managed to defeat the favorites in that year’s polls. Can it happen again in 2023? For now, making an accurate prediction is difficult because anything is possible
However, unless something extraordinary happens, the opposition could reclaim the city after several resounding failures. If FICO manages to mobilize a significant portion of the people who voted for him in the first round of the 2022 Presidential Elections, he will be elected without any problems. Now, if his supporters abstain and the popular sectors turn out again, we will once again have a mayor leaning toward the left.
The Fight for Mayorship Promises to Be an Epic Battle
The campaign for the mayorship of Medellín is intensifying as the days go by. With just a few weeks to go until the elections, which will determine the city’s fate for the next 4 years, accusations and news from the opposing campaigns are emerging.
Federico Gutiérrez has publicly denounced that sectors linked to the current left-wing government are offering 2,500,000,000 million pesos to dangerous criminals to attempt to assassinate him and thus prevent him from becoming mayor. The police have reinforced the candidate’s security.
On the other hand, on October 1, incumbent mayor Daniel Quintero Calle publicly announced his resignation from office, to join the campaign of candidate Juan Carlos Upegui. Quintero Calle intends to defend his administration in the streets, in a desperate attempt to reverse the clear trend of all the polls. People are wondering: Can Upegui make up the more than 30-point disadvantage that FICO, has over him in just four weeks? We don’t know, but without a doubt, this battle for political power in Medellín will be epic.
Conclusions and Aspirations for the Next Mayor of Medellín
Medellín needs the next mayor to focus on solving the most urgent problems, thereby reducing the confrontation and divisiveness that characterized Mayor Daniel Quintero Calle’s four-year term. This constant tension has brought more problems than benefits to the common people. It is very difficult for the next mayor to achieve their objectives without strong support from the business sector. Mayor Daniel Quintero has raised the political tension in Medellín so high, accusing anyone who criticizes him, that now a large part of the businessmen, journalists, and people disapprove of his management.
It’s worth remembering that the city had maintained a successful formula for its growth and development for more than twenty (20) years, which was the unity of the public and private sectors, composed of companies, universities, social organizations, and the Mayor’s office. Medellín’s companies generate thousands of jobs and millions in revenue for the country, so it’s natural that they have representation, a voice, and some influence in local government. This should not be seen as something negative.
Logically, the elected mayor always has the final say in public policies and decisions that are of transcendental benefit to the most needy people. We hope that the Candidate who wins these elections, regardless of their political ideology, will work to continue advancing in this direction and that Medellín will continue to be a model and example of resilience for the country and other cities around the world.
Who do you think will be the next mayor of Medellín? What are the main challenges facing the new local government of the city? Please leave your comments here, we would be happy to hear your opinions and clarify any questions.