Mockus, the politician who fights violence with artistic flair, returns to battle for Colombian peace

Antanas Mockus cut a heart-shaped hole in a bullet-proof vest he wore when threatened by Colombian guerrillas for his work as Bogotá mayor.

Antanas Mockus by Julián Ortega Martínez / equ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia) Antanas Mockus by Julián Ortega Martínez / equinoXio

The former mayor and presidential candidate said the attention his dramatic move attracted protected him more than the bullet-proof vest.

Now, despite the dangers facing left-wing candidates in the rough-and-tumble, often fatal, world of Colombian politics, Mockus announced he will return to politics to work toward bringing peace to the war-ravaged South American nation.

Mockus will run for a seat in the Congress in the 2014 Colombian elections where he said he hopes to help build post-conflict Colombia.

The unconventional politician finished second in a runoff against then defence minister Juan Manuel Santos in the 2010 presidential campaign. If elected, Mockus could be working with his former opponent as Colombia attempts to rid itself of the fierce internal conflict that has cursed the nation for a half century.

Mockus has long been known for his imaginative political tactics.

When asked to explain the heart-shaped hole in his bullet-proof vest, he explained: “I believe this kind of gesture, gave me indeed more protection.”

To combat the lack of respect and risks pedestrians faced on Bogotá streets, Mockus hired hundreds of mimes and clowns to chastise drivers and pedestrians alike who did not obey traffic laws. Mimes followed offenders and flashed signs which read: “Incorrecto”.

His reasoning behind this move was simple. In his estimation Bogotá´s citizens were more afraid of humiliation by mimes and clowns that they were of punishment or fines levied by armed police officers.

“It was a pacifist counterweight. With neither words nor weapons, the mimes were doubly unarmed. My goal was to show the importance of cultural regulations.”

His efforts at handgun control included a plan where firearms could be exchanged for food stamps. He enlisted priests, who made the exchanges. Few guns were exchanged, but the homicide rate fell significantly during his tenure.

Whether Mockus will be elected or not (and barring tragedy, he most probably will), Colombian politics will be richer and more entertaining.

For more information please read, in English:

In Spanish:


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About Connecting Colombias

Recently retired newspaper reporter with one foot in British Columbia, Canada, the other in Colombia, South America. Fascinated with Colombian culture, Canadian connections, and heroic efforts to return millions of displaced Colombians to lands stolen by paramilitaries, guerrillas and organized crime.

6 responses to “Mockus, the politician who fights violence with artistic flair, returns to battle for Colombian peace”

  1. Leslie Dyson says :

    I really like this.

    • Connecting Colombias says :

      He´s a brilliant man, an amazing inspiration. And he finished second in the presidential elections in a campaign that was fought with volunteers and social media and not much money. I don´t think Colombia was ready for him, sad.
      Thank you for reading.

  2. Holly Nathan says :

    Thanks for your posts, David – it’s been a while since I’d followed Colombian politics, mostly, during that weird time, through the Economist. Your columns bring a rare focus to the (amazing) human angle, and shine a light on hope for peaceful outcomes….
    Now – if only I’d had a clown informing me of two overdue parking tickets, rather than being arrested in downtown Victoria, etc. etc. INCORRECTO!!

    • Connecting Colombias says :

      You were arrested for parking tickets. I think we should just be thankful they left their tasers at the station.
      Seriously though, Mockus is a rare politician. Courage and creativity are rarely contained in a single person in such a way. Thank you for your reading and for your kind words.

  3. colombiadiaries says :

    Thanks for reminding me of how creative this man is in your (as always) well-written post. Good luck to him in the elections. Colombia, like anywhere else, would benefit from such a wide thinking politician. I love the mimes and clowns – I can imagine how much embarrassment they must have caused!

    • Connecting Colombias says :

      It now looks like Mockus might run as a candidate for mayor of Bogotá if Gustavo Petro cannot hang on to his job. Mockus would perhaps be the ideal candidate in a battle to keep Uribe allies from taking over Bogotá.

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