Colombia elections: Gustavo Petro defeats Rodolfo Hernández for president

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 % of the vote, in line with preliminary outcomes, using a wave of assist from Colombians determined for change in a rustic combating excessive ranges of poverty. The 62-year-old senator defeated outdoors candidate Rodolfo Hernández, a rich businessman who gained about 47 % 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 most recent 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 putting instance of how widespread discontent has shaken the established order.

His victory is notable not just for his political ideology, but additionally for his life story: a former underground guerrilla, who was imprisoned within the Eighties for his involvement with a insurgent group, will now grow to be president of a rustic that’s nonetheless reeling from armed legal 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 vital ally.

Talking from a packed stadium within the nation’s capital, he stood subsequent to the lady who will grow to be Colombia’s first black vice chairman, 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 known 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 grow to be president or somebody like France can grow to be vice chairman,” she stated. “Peace means we should always cease killing one another.”

The gang, waving Colombian flags and bursting into cheers, chanted: “No extra conflict!”

The black feminist activist who might be vice chairman of Colombia

Hernández rapidly accepted the outcomes on Twitter.

“I hope that this choice that has been made is helpful for everybody,” he stated in a video tackle on social media. “I hope that Gustavo Petro is aware of the right way to lead the nation, that he’s loyal in his dialogue in opposition to corruption and that he doesn’t disappoint those that elected him.”

Petro’s comfy lead allayed fears, at the least in the interim, {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 plenty 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 % stay 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 state of affairs 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 financial system. Others say a Petro presidency might check the nation’s fragile however enduring democracy. He has stated that if elected he would declare a state of financial emergency to fight starvation, a proposal criticized by some constitutional legislation specialists.

Analysts fear about his willingness to work with Congress and different democratic establishments to advance his agenda. Others predict that he will be unable to maintain his guarantees with a divided legislature. As mayor of Bogotá, Petro oversaw a lot of workers departures and was criticized for refusing to hearken to his advisers.

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

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

However he delivered a blunt message to his critics from the sector stage on Sunday night time: “We’ll develop capitalism in Colombia,” he stated.

For a very long time, the USA has thought of Colombia its most vital 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 check that longstanding partnership, notably within the two international locations’ efforts to fight drug trafficking.

Petro argues that anti-narcotics insurance policies in current many years have been a failure and that aerial coca eradication has completed nothing to scale back the circulate of cocaine into the USA. He has promised to focus as a substitute on crop substitution. He has additionally recommended 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,” stated 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 “a variety of political posturing” however little actual hostility towards the USA, very like 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 manner and the USA is on its manner,” he stated.

On Sunday night time, Petro known 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 battle in opposition to local weather change.

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

Petro informed The Washington Publish 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 stated he would normalize relations with neighboring Venezuela, a major 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 faculty trainer Pedro Castillo to the presidency final 12 months. In Chile, the area’s mannequin free market, voters this 12 months elected Gabriel Boric, a 36-year-old former pupil 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 stated they have been determined for one thing, something, not like presidents of the previous.

“We have now been topic to the proper and the intense proper for greater than 200 years … and issues listed below are unhealthy, unhealthy, unhealthy,” stated Henry Perdomo, a 60-year-old man who works within the business, 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 may carry. Blanca Elena Timón Díaz, 52, who labored cleansing homes, anxious that Petro would jeopardize her financial savings and “flip the nation into Venezuela.” Her vote for Hernández was, greater than something, a vote in opposition to 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 stated that he couldn’t bear the thought 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, stated 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 beforehand held or run for nationwide workplace, introduced a singular message of eradicating corruption.

However the unfiltered message and the shortage of proposals from the development tycoon alienated voters like Luz Marina Ríos, a 48-year-old from the capital. She stated 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 through the pandemic and has been unable to search out work ever since. His household has needed to reduce on meals as meals prices have skyrocketed; A pound of meat that used to price about $2 is now $4, she stated. 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 stated, “however we’d like a complete change.”

Diana Durán contributed to this report.

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