Colombia chooses first leftist president Gustavo Petro in tight runoff race

Bogota, Colombia (Associated Press)– Colombia A leftist president will be in power for the first time after former rebel Gustavo Petro narrowly defeated a real estate millionaire in the second round of elections, underscoring the distaste for the country’s traditional politicians .

Petro’s third attempt to win the presidency on Sunday earned him 50.48 percent of the vote, compared with 47.26 percent for political outsider Rodolfo Hernández, according to results released by electoral authorities.

The election comes as Colombians grapple with rising inequality, inflation and violence — factors that led voters to punish long-ruling centrist and right-leaning politicians and pick two outsiders in last month’s first round of elections participate in the runoff.

Petro’s victory in Latin America’s third most populous country was more than just beating’s over ColombiaThe left has long been linked to half a century of armed conflict in the country. The president-elect was once a rebel with the now-defunct M-19 movement and was granted amnesty after being jailed for his involvement with the group.

Petro, in his victory speech on Sunday night, called for unity and extended an olive branch to some of his harshest critics, saying all opposition members would be welcomed at the presidential palace, “discussing Colombia. “

“From this government on, 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 raised their arms and the “silent majority of farmers”, indigenous People, women, youth. “

voting also led to Colombia For the first time, a black woman was appointed vice president. Petro’s running mate, Francia Márquez, 40, a lawyer and environmental leader, whose opposition to illegal mining led to threats and grenade attacks in 2019.

Hernandez, whose campaign was based on an anti-corruption fight, conceded defeat shortly after the results were announced.

“If we want our institution to be firm, I should accept the outcome,” he said in a video on social media. “I sincerely hope this decision will benefit everyone.”

Petro’s performance was the latest leftist political victory in Latin America, driven by voters’ desire for change. Chile, Peru and Honduras have elected leftist presidents in 2021, and in Brazil, former president Luiz Inácio Lulada Silva is leading the polls for this year’s presidential election.

But the results are immediate cause for concern among some voters whose closest thing to a leftist government is in troubled neighbor Venezuela.

“We want Mr. Gustavo Petro to abide by what was said in his government’s plan, he’s leading this country to greatness, which we desperately need, and (he) puts an end to corruption,” Hernandez said. supporter Karin Ardila García said. The north-central city of Bucaramanga. “He will not cause communism, socialism, war, they continue to kill us Colombia……(H)e will not take us to another Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, Chile. “

About 21.6 million of the 39 million eligible voters cast ballots on Sunday. The abstention rate in every presidential election since 1990 has been above 40 percent.

After a few days of official counting, Petro, 62, will be officially declared the winner. Historically, preliminary results have been consistent with final results.

Several heads of state congratulated Petro on Sunday. A fierce critic, so is former President Alvaro Uribe, who remains a central figure in America. Colombiapolitics.

Opinion polls ahead of the runoff showed Petro and Hernández – two former mayors – in a tight race after beating four other candidates in the first election on May 29. Neither received enough votes to win outright and advance to the runoff.

Petro won 40 percent of the vote in the first round and Hernandez won 28 percent, but the gap quickly narrowed as Hernandez began to attract so-called anti-Petrista voters.

Petro proposes ambitious pension, tax, health and farm reforms and changes Colombia Fight drug cartels and other armed groups. But he will struggle to deliver on his promises because he does not have a majority in Congress, which is key to enacting reforms.

“His supporters had high hopes, and when he can’t act right away, they may soon be disappointed,” said expert Adam Isaacson. Colombia In the Washington Office of the Latin American Think Tank.

Isaacson added: “I think you might have a situation where he either has to make some deals and drop a lot of his plans just to get some things through, or the whole country could be deadlocked.”

Petro is willing to resume diplomatic relations with Venezuela, which were suspended in 2019.He also wants to make changes ColombiaRelations with the U.S. by seeking to renegotiate free trade agreements and new ways to fight drug trafficking.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement that the Biden administration looks forward to working with Petro.

Polls show a majority of Colombians believe the country is heading in the wrong direction and disapprove of President Ivan Duque, who is ineligible for re-election. The pandemic has set back the country’s anti-poverty efforts by at least a decade. According to official data, 39% ColombiaLast year it was less than $89 a month to live on.

Nataly Amezquita, a 26-year-old civil engineer who was waiting to vote, said the usual rejection of politics “reflects that people are tired of their usual people”. “We have to create greater social change. A lot of people in this country are not at their best.”

But even these two foreign candidates were cold to her. She said she would cast a blank vote: “I don’t like either of these two candidates. … Neither of them are good people, in my opinion.”


Garcia Cano reported from Caracas, Venezuela.

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