Rodolfo Hernandez, the construction mogul turned social media star who emerged as a surprise candidate in the Colombian presidential election, has been largely absent from public life in recent weeks.
He refused to attend debates and did not hold any rallies, preferring live broadcasts collected by his social media team.
But on Sunday, as the polls opened, Mr. Hernandez got off a white car in his hometown of Bucaramanga, surrounded by bodyguards, amid a massive crowd of voters.
“Long live Rodolfo!” Supporters shouted, and many raced to peek at the candidate as he walked into the polling station.
Mr. Hernandez rushed through the package with a broad smile. His opponent, Gustavo Petro, a longtime senator and former rebel trying to become the country’s first leftist president, cast his vote more than 250 miles to the south, in the capital, Bogota.
In Bucaramanga, a medium-sized city Where Mr. Hernandez built his fortune and served as mayorHis candidacy has created political enthusiasm and deep regional pride among the voters who believe he represents them.
Carlos Gamboa, a 42-year-old businessman, was among the group of voters waiting in line when Mr. Hernandez arrived to vote.
“Most of us are with Rodolfo,” he said, adding that he did not trust Mr Petrodue in part to the candidate’s time as a member of the M-19 rebel group.
Mr. Hernandez worked on an anti-corruption platform, despite being accused of corruption and accused of paying his subordinates to award a debt contract to a particular company, a deal that would have benefited his son.
He said he is innocent.
At the polls in Bucaramanga, not many voters seemed to be alarmed by the accusation.
“No one is going to come to power here clean,” said Gilma Becerra, 58. “But Rodolfo is the least corrupt.”
In Bogotá on Sunday morning, Adriana Martinez, 24, queued outside a high school in the working-class neighborhood of El Sucego.
She had just finished her night shift as a health department assistant and went straight to the polling station by bus.
Ms Martinez said she supported Mr Pietro, and that the decision was particularly influenced by his choice Francia Marquez for vice president, who could become the first black woman vice president.
Ms. Marques is an environmental activist who has moved out of poverty to become a national phenomenon, and during the campaign speaks about race, class and gender in a direct way that is rarely heard at the highest levels of Colombian politics.
“It’s someone we came from where we came from, and she had to fight to get where we were,” said Ms. Martinez.
Ms. Martinez said she did not give much weight to the argument that Mr Petro’s policies would lead to the same kind of economic, humanitarian and democratic crisis that occurred in Venezuela.
In Colombia, “You don’t have enough money to buy potatoes. In this sense, we are already in extreme poverty.
at the same polling station, Ingrid Forero, 31, said she has seen a generational divide in her community, with young people supporting Mr Pietro and older generations in favor of Mr Hernandez.
Her family calls her a “little rebel” because of her support for Mr Petro, whom she said she prefers because of his policies on education and income inequality.
“Young people are more inclined towards revolution, towards the left, towards change,” she said.
“Amateur organizer. Wannabe beer evangelist. General web fan. Certified internet ninja. Avid reader.”