Ex-Marxist guerrilla Gustavo Petro’s victory in Colombia accelerates left-wing shift in Latin America

Colombia, a longtime U.S. partner, has become the latest Latin American country to lean to the left, electing Gustavo Petro as its next president on Sunday.

Mr Petro’s victory on Sunday lays the groundwork for a potentially major shift in U.S. relations with Colombia and marks the region’s growing inclination towards socialism, with leftists and populists in Argentina, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Honduras in recent years and Mexico came to power.

The leaders of all these countries are cheering the Petro’s victory in Colombia. The dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro in neighboring Venezuela also rejoiced. Mr Petro has expressed a desire to restore diplomatic ties with Caracas, which Colombia halted in 2019 at Washington’s urging.

“The will of the Colombian people was heard – it defended the path to democracy and peace,” said Mr Maduro, who has been described as a dictator in successive Washington administrations because of his extrajudicial imprisonment of the opposition. figures in recent years. The opening to Colombia complicates Washington’s efforts to isolate Maduro’s regime and push the democratic opposition as the country’s legitimate leader.

Outgoing Colombian President Ivan Duque, a conservative, has acknowledged pro-U.S. opposition leader Juan Guaido’s demands for the presidency, disagreeing with former President Donald Trump. President Trump and President Biden have unanimously opposed Mr Maduro.

While it remains to be seen what official stance Mr Petro will take on Venezuela, the Biden administration offered congratulations on Sunday. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called the election “free and fair” and said the administration wanted to work with Petro to “further strengthen America’s relationship with Colombia and move our country toward a better future.”

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But analysts are skeptical, amid questions over how far the 62-year-old socialist will advance Colombian politics, challenging the country’s close ties with Washington, including trade and a polarized fight to curb Colombia’s illicit drug trade. . Some believe Mr Petro’s victory has emboldened leftists in the region to stand together against American influence.

Mr Petro’s performance was the latest leftist political victory in Latin America, fueled by voters’ hunger for change. Chile, Peru and Honduras have elected leftist presidents in 2021, and in Brazil, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva leads the polls in this fall’s presidential election Right-wing incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro.

“Gustavo Petro’s victory is the missing piece, perhaps the most worrying piece, of the new restructuring in Latin America, which leans toward a new wave of leftist governments,” Agustin Antonetti, an Argentina analyst at Fundacion Libertad, told Fox News Digital.

He added: “Amid a complex global backdrop in which the region is in the midst of a worrisome political and economic downturn, three terrible dictatorships (Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua) appear to be more active than ever and are being held back by Surrounded by a slew of populist leaders, now with strength. … The big question: Will Latin American institutions resist a new wave of governments amid the apparent rise of authoritarianism?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, home to a large group of influential Hispanic American citizens, sharply criticized Mr. Petro’s victory on Monday, calling it “very disappointing.” “.

“The outcome of that election is very, very upsetting to people who believe in freedom in the Western Hemisphere,” DeSantis, a potential Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election, said at a news conference, according to Phoenix, Florida. It would be disastrous for a drug terrorist and a Marxist to lead Colombia.”

At the same time, Washington is increasingly concerned that political shifts in Latin America are expanding U.S. adversaries in the region — especially China, which has spent significantly more on development loans in the region than the U.S. in recent years.

Mr. Petro is now looming as a polarizing figure, arriving at the center of a polarizing moment in the hemisphere.

“Despite the rising tide of populism in Latin America, a Petro victory in a region where Colombia has long been a pillar of relative political stability would have far-reaching consequences. It also speaks to the current state of Colombian politics,” said the International Crisis Group Latin America and said Ivan Briscoe, director of the Caribbean program.

“Petro has pledged to implement sweeping social changes and take steps such as halting new oil and gas exploration contracts, increasing taxes on the wealthy to pay for anti-poverty programs and improving public services,” Mr Briscoe said on Monday. wrote an analysis report. Foreign affairs. “Many of his proposed policies, including the establishment of so-called ‘smart’ tariffs to protect agricultural production in Colombia, may not be popular in Washington.”

“For his supporters, Petro is the standard-bearer of Latin American progressivism, and he will usher in a new era of representation and egalitarianism,” Mr Briscoe added. “By contrast, his critics accuse him of adopting the same elite-seducing rhetoric that has propelled Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Peruvian President Pedro Pez. The power of other populist leaders such as Dero Castillo. In fact, Petro’s record as a former mayor of Bogota, his self-description as an agent of historical change, and even some of his reported personality traits such as his The distaste for being contradicted shows many that an instigator may be lurking.”

unite on the left

On Monday, Castillo and Lopez Obrador, as well as Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, were praising Petro’s victory.

“We have a shared feeling of seeking better collective, social and regional integration for our people,” said Castillo, a village school teacher and trade unionist, according to AFP.

Mr. Obrador expressed hope that Mr. Petro could become a unifying figure in Colombia, which has been working hard after Marxist rebels signed a historic peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016 after decades of civil war achieve reconciliation. Colombia also has the most unequal distribution of wealth in the industrial world, with many people outside major urban centers suffering financially.

“Today’s victory could be the end of this curse or the awakening of this fraternal and dignified people,” Mr. Lopez Obrador said.

During Colombia’s brutal half-century civil war, Mr. Petro was a member of the now-defunct M-19 movement. He was granted amnesty after being jailed for his involvement with the group.

He has run for president three times since, and his victory this time as the first leftist to win the Colombian presidency shows that the long-standing political stigma against such groups may be over in the country.

Mr Petro narrowly defeated political outsider and real estate mogul Rudolf Hernandez in the second round of elections, underscoring the distaste for the country’s traditional politicians.

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.

In his victory speech on Sunday night, Mr Pietro 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 “to discuss Colombia’s issues”.

“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. “

The vote also led to the election of the first black woman to serve as Colombia’s vice president. Mr Petro’s running mate, Francia Marquez, 40, a lawyer and environmental leader, whose opposition to illegal mining led to threats and grenade attacks in 2019.

• This article is based in part on the Cable Services report.

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