For the first time, Colombia will have a left-wing president.
Gustavo Petroa former rebel and longtime senator who vowed to transform the country’s economic system won Sunday’s election, according to preliminary results, putting Latin America’s third-largest nation on a radically new path.
Mr. Petro received 50.57 percent of the vote, with more than 97 percent counted Sunday night. His opponent, Rodolfo Hernandeza construction tycoon who had loaded the country with an anti-corruption platform for scorched earth won 47.16 per cent.
Mr. Peter’s victory reflects widespread discontent in Colombia, with growing poverty and inequality and widespread dissatisfaction with the lack of opportunities, problems that sent hundreds of thousands of people to demonstrate on the streets last year.
“The whole country is begging for change,” said Fernando Posada, a Colombian political scientist, “and that’s absolutely clear.”
The victory is even more significant because of the country’s history. For decades, the government has been battling a brutal left-wing insurgency known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC, with the stigma of conflict making it difficult for a legitimate left to thrive.
But the FARC signed a peace agreement with the government in 2016, laying down arms and opening up space for wider political discourse.
Mr. It was Peter part of a different rebel groupcalled the M-19, which was demobilized in 1990 and became a political party that helped rewrite the country’s constitution.
Both Mr Petro and Mr Hernandez defeated Federico Gutierrez, a former mayor of the big city backed by the conservative elite, in the first round of voting on May 29, sending them to a runoff.
Both men have declared themselves candidates against the establishment, saying they are fighting against a political class that has controlled the country for generations.
Among the factors that distinguished them the most was how they viewed the root of the country’s problems.
Mr. Petro believes the economic system is shattered, overly dependent on oil exports and the thriving and illegal cocaine business, which he says has made the rich richer and the poor poorer. He called for a halt to all new oil exploration, the shift to other industries and the expansion of social programs, while imposing higher taxes on the rich.
“What we have today is the result of what I call ‘model exhaustion,'” he said. Petro said in an interview, referring to the current economic system. “The end result is brutal poverty.”
However, his ambitious economic plan has raised concerns. A former finance minister Called his energy plan “economic suicide”.
Mr. Petro will take office in August and will face urgent problems with global repercussions: lack of opportunities and growth violence, which has led a record number of Colombians to migrate to the United States in recent months; high levels of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon, a critical buffer against climate change; and growing threats to democracy, part of a trend in the region.
He will face a deeply polarized society in which research shows growing distrust in almost all major institutions.
Mr. Petro could also change Colombia’s relations with the United States.
For decades, Colombia has been Washington’s strongest ally in Latin America, forming the cornerstone of its security policy in the region. During his campaign, Mr. Peter promised to reassess these relations, including important cooperation in the field of drugs, Venezuela and trade.
In the interview, Mr. Peter said his relationship with the United States will focus on working together to tackle climate change, in particular halting the rapid erosion of the Amazon.
“There is a point of dialogue there,” he said. “Because rescuing the Amazon rainforest involves some tools, some programs that don’t exist today, at least not in the United States. I think that’s a priority. “
Megan Janecki contributed to the reports from Bucaramanga, Colombia, and Sofia Vilamil and Genevieve Glatsky contributed to the reports from Bogotá.