Colombia elections: Gustavo Petro defeats Rodolfo Hernández for president

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla fighter who rallied younger and poor voters with guarantees of remodeling an unequal society, was elected Sunday as Colombia’s first leftist president, in a convincing rejection of the political institution that has dominated the South American nation for Two centuries.

Petro acquired greater than 50 p.c of the vote, in response to preliminary outcomes, driving a wave of help from Colombians determined for change in a rustic battling excessive ranges of poverty. The 62-year-old senator defeated exterior candidate Rodolfo Hernández, a rich businessman who gained about 47 p.c of the vote in a race that was initially anticipated to be shut.

Colombia, the third largest nation in Latin America, now turns into the newest nation to show left in a area devastated by the financial assault of the coronavirus pandemic. Petro’s triumph, in one of many continent’s traditionally most conservative international locations, is a placing instance of how widespread discontent has shaken the established order.

His victory is notable not just for his political ideology, but in addition for his life story: a former underground guerrilla, who was imprisoned within the Nineteen Eighties for his involvement with a insurgent group, will now turn out to be president of a rustic that’s nonetheless reeling from armed prison violence. His presidency might have profound implications for Colombia’s financial mannequin, the position of the federal government, and its relationship with different international locations within the hemisphere, together with the USA, its most necessary ally.

Talking from a packed stadium within the nation’s capital, he stood subsequent to the lady who will turn out to be Colombia’s first black vp, Francia Márquez, an environmental activist who energized an Afro-Colombian neighborhood that had lengthy felt forgotten by those that have been within the energy. Petro referred to as for a “nice nationwide dialogue” to unify the nation and construct peace.

“Paz is a Colombian society with alternatives. Peace means somebody like me can turn out to be president or somebody like France can turn out to be vp,” she mentioned. “Peace means we must always cease killing one another.”

The group, waving Colombian flags and bursting into applause, chanted: “No extra warfare!”

The black feminist activist who could possibly be vp of Colombia

Hernández shortly accepted the outcomes on Twitter.

“I hope that this determination that has been made is useful for everybody,” he mentioned in a video tackle on social media. “I hope that Gustavo Petro is aware of methods to lead the nation, that he’s loyal in his dialogue towards corruption and that he doesn’t disappoint those that elected him.”

Petro’s snug lead allayed fears, no less than in the intervening time, {that a} shut contest may lead both candidate to query the election outcomes and spark a wave of civil unrest, a 12 months after the protests lots swept the nation.

Petro’s marketing campaign galvanized communities preventing the pandemic in a rustic the place half the inhabitants doesn’t have sufficient to eat and 40 p.c dwell in poverty. His marketing campaign tapped into the desperation and anger of those that took to the streets final 12 months in mass protests throughout the nation. And his victory is a pointy rebuke to the deeply unpopular administration of incumbent Iván Duque, who many felt did little to enhance the financial scenario in one of many area’s most unequal international locations.

However some worry that Petro’s insurance policies, together with his proposal to ban new oil exploration, might destroy Colombia’s economic system. Others say a Petro presidency might take a look at the nation’s fragile however enduring democracy. He has mentioned that if elected he would declare a state of financial emergency to fight starvation, a proposal criticized by some constitutional regulation consultants.

Analysts fear about his willingness to work with Congress and different democratic establishments to advance his agenda. Others predict that he won’t be able to maintain his guarantees with a divided legislature. As mayor of Bogotá, Petro oversaw a lot of employees departures and was criticized for refusing to take heed to his advisers.

“The query is whether or not the establishments can even have the ability to reasonable that and maintain it accountable,” mentioned Sandra Botero, a political scientist at Colombia’s Universidad del Rosario.

Petro proposes to rework the nation’s financial system by redistributing wealth to the poor. He says he’ll set up free increased schooling, a common public well being system and a minimal wage for single moms. He says he would increase taxes on the 4,000 richest Colombians and enhance the native agricultural trade.

However he delivered a blunt message to his critics from the world stage on Sunday evening: “We are going to develop capitalism in Colombia,” he mentioned.

For a very long time, the USA has thought of Colombia its most necessary and secure ally within the area. President Biden has described the nation because the “cornerstone” of democracy within the hemisphere. Now, some fear that Petro’s presidency will take a look at that longstanding partnership, significantly within the two international locations’ efforts to fight drug trafficking.

Petro argues that anti-narcotics insurance policies in current a long time have been a failure and that aerial coca eradication has carried out nothing to scale back the circulation of cocaine into the USA. He has promised to focus as an alternative on crop substitution. He has additionally instructed altering the extradition treaty between the 2 international locations.

“The prospects of continuous our regular strategy to coping with transnational crime are slim to none,” mentioned Kevin Whitaker, a former US ambassador to Colombia and now a member of the Atlantic Council.

However Michael Shifter, a member of the Inter-American Dialogue, predicts {that a} Petro presidency will contain “quite a lot of political posturing” however little actual hostility towards the USA, very similar to the presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico. Shifter says he displays a “new actuality” captured by the cut up at Biden’s Summit of the Americas earlier this month. “Latin America is on its method and the USA is on its method,” he mentioned.

On Sunday evening, Petro referred to as for a “dialogue within the Americas with out exclusions” and requested the USA to work with him on what he described as a precedence of his diplomacy: the combat towards local weather change.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned in an announcement: “On behalf of the USA, I congratulate the individuals of Colombia for making their voices heard in free and honest presidential elections. We sit up for working with President-elect Petro to additional strengthen the connection between the USA and Colombia and lead our nations towards a greater future.”

Petro advised The Washington Submit that he envisions a progressive alliance with Chile and Brazil, a brand new Latin American left constructed not on extractive industries however on environmental safety. He additionally mentioned he would normalize relations with neighboring Venezuela, a big change from Duque, one of many area’s staunchest opponents of socialist President Nicolás Maduro.

Former guerrilla candidate for president of Colombia foresees a brand new Latin American left

The election marks one other blow to the political institution in Latin America, the place voters have sought to punish incumbent governments for the devastation wrought by the pandemic. In Peru, an increase in poverty helped propel rural Marxist college trainer Pedro Castillo to the presidency final 12 months. In Chile, the area’s mannequin of free markets, voters this 12 months elected Gabriel Boric, a 36-year-old former scholar activist, as president. And in Brazil, Latin America’s largest nation, former leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is main the polls to oust President Jair Bolsonaro in October.

Many Colombians who voted within the nation’s capital on Sunday mentioned they have been determined for one thing, something, not like presidents of the previous.

“We’ve got been topic to the precise and the intense proper for greater than 200 years … and issues listed here are dangerous, dangerous, dangerous,” mentioned Henry Perdomo, a 60-year-old man who works within the trade, moments after voting. by Petro in a working-class neighborhood in southern Bogotá. “We want a change”.

However a few of her neighbors feared what that change would possibly carry. Blanca Elena Timón Díaz, 52, who labored cleansing homes, frightened that Petro would jeopardize her financial savings and “flip the nation into Venezuela.” Her vote for Hernández was, greater than something, a vote towards the left.

Petro was a member of the April 19 Motion, or M-19, a political city guerrilla that later demobilized, reached a peace settlement with the federal government and have become a political celebration. Fanny Betancourt, 81, nonetheless vividly remembers how M-19 guerrillas stormed the Palace of Justice in Bogotá in 1985. Her father was killed within the assault. Petro denies involvement within the siege; he was in jail on the time. She mentioned that he couldn’t bear the concept of ​​a former M-19 insurgent being president.

For generations, many Colombians have related the left with armed insurgencies of their lengthy historical past of battle. Petro’s victory, lower than six years after the nation signed historic peace accords with its largest insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), reveals the extent to which the nation has overcome that stigma, mentioned the lawyer and political analyst Hector Riveros.

The vote got here after an electoral cycle extra tense, violent and unsure than any in Colombia’s current historical past. For the primary time, Colombians selected between two populist and anti-system candidates. Petro’s rival, Hernández, the previous mayor of Bucaramanga who had by no means earlier than held or run for nationwide workplace, introduced a singular message of eradicating corruption.

However the unfiltered message and the dearth of proposals from the development tycoon alienated voters like Luz Marina Ríos, a 48-year-old from the capital. She mentioned she was determined for a president who would discover new options to enhance the lives of struggling households like hers.

He misplaced his job at a sweet firm throughout the pandemic and has been unable to seek out work ever since. His household has needed to reduce on meals as meals prices have skyrocketed; A pound of meat that used to value about $2 is now $4, she mentioned. Her teenage son has needed to go to work on weekends to pay for the bus to high school.

“Both we repair it or we worsen,” he mentioned, “however we’d like a complete change.”

Diana Durán contributed to this report.

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