Colombia elects the first left-wing president in a fierce runoff

BOGOTA: Colombia will be ruled by a left-wing president for the first time since former rebel Gustavo Peter won with difficulty millionaire real estate in the run-off election, which highlighted the disgust of the people of traditional politicians in the country.
Petro’s third attempt to win the presidency won 50.48% of the vote on Sunday, while political outsider Rodolfo Hernandez received 47.26%, according to the results published by the election authorities.
The election came as Colombians battled growing inequality, inflation and violence, factors that led voters in last month’s first round of elections to punish longtime ruling centrist and right-wing politicians and choose two outsiders for the run-off.
Peter’s victory in the third most populous nation in Latin America was more than a defeat by Hernandez. This puts an end to Colombia’s long condemnation of the left over its alleged links to the country in half a century of armed conflict. The newly elected president was once a rebel with the now-defunct M-19 movement and was granted amnesty after being jailed for his involvement in the group.
Petro called for unity during his victory speech Sunday night and handed an olive branch to some of his harshest critics, saying all opposition members would be welcome at the presidential palace “to discuss Colombia’s problems”.
“From this government that starts, there will never be political persecution or legal persecution, there will only be respect and dialogue,” he said, adding that he would listen to those who took up arms and “this silent majority of villagers, Radically population, women, young people. ”
The vote also means that for the first time, Colombia has a black woman as vice president. Petro’s candidate, Frances Marquez, 40, is a lawyer and environmental leader whose opposition to illegal mining has led to threats and a grenade attack in 2019.
Hernandez, whose campaign was based on fighting corruption, conceded defeat shortly after the results were announced.
“I accept the result, as it should be, if we want our institutions to be firm,” he said in a video on social media. “I sincerely hope this decision benefits everyone.”
Petro’s show was the last left-wing political victory in Latin America, fueled by voters’ desire for change. Chile, Peru and Honduras have elected left-wing presidents in 2021, and in Brazil, former president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva is leading the polls for this year’s presidential election.
But the results were an immediate cause for concern for some voters, whose closest mention of the left-wing government is troubled neighboring Venezuela.
“We hope that Mr. Gustavo Petro is in line with what his government plan says, that he is leading this country to the greatness we need so much, and that (he) is stopping corruption, ”said Karin Ardila Garcia, a Hernandez supporter in the north-central city of Bucaramanga. “That it does not lead to communism, to socialism, to a war in which they continue to kill us in Colombia. … (H) e does not lead us to another Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, Chile. ”
About 21.6 million of the 39 million eligible voters voted on Sunday. Abstinence is over 40% of every 1990 presidential election.
The 62-year-old Petro will be officially announced the winner after an official census, which will take several days. Historically, the preliminary results coincide with the final ones.
Several heads of state greeted Peter on Sunday. So did the fierce critic, former President Alvaro Uribe, who remains a central figure in Colombian politics.
Pre-run-off polls have shown that Peter and Hernandez – both former mayors – are in a tough race as they led four other candidates in the May 29th primary. Neither of them received enough votes to win decisively and headed for the runoff.
Peter won 40% of the vote in the initial round and Hernandez 28%, but the gap narrowed quickly as Hernandez began to attract so-called anti-Petrista voters.
Petro proposed ambitious pension, tax, health and agricultural reforms and changes in the way Colombia fights drug cartels and other armed groups. But it will be difficult for him to keep his promises, as there is no majority in Congress, which is key to reform.
“People who support him have high hopes and will probably be disappointed pretty quickly when he can’t move things right away,” said Adam Isaacson, a Columbia expert in Washington office for the Latin American think tank.
“I think you may encounter a situation where he either has to make some deals and give up a lot of his programs just to accept some things, or the whole country can be blocked,” Isakson added.
Petro is ready to resume diplomatic relations with Venezuela, which were suspended in 2019. He also wants to make changes in Colombia’s relations with the United States by seeking a renegotiation of a free trade agreement and new ways to combat drug trafficking.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement that Biden the administration expects to work with Petro.
Surveys show that most Colombians believe the country is moving in the wrong direction and disapprove of President Ivan Duque, who was not eligible to run for re-election. The pandemic has delayed the country’s efforts to fight poverty for at least a decade. Official figures show that 39% of Colombians lived on less than $ 89 a month last year.
“Rejecting politics as usual is a reflection of the fact that people are fed up with the same people as always,” said Natalie Ameskita, a 26-year-old civil engineer waiting to vote. “We need to create more social change. Many people in the country are not in the best of shape.”
But even the two outsiders left her cold. She said she would run a blank ballot: “I don’t like either candidate. … Neither of them seems like a good person to me.”

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