Ex-rebel wins runoff to become Colombia’s first leftist president

Bogota, Colombia — Former rebel Gustavo Petro won the political outsider millionaire runoff by a narrow margin on Sunday, ushering in a new political era Colombia Become the country’s first left-wing president.

Senator Petro, who is running for president for the third time, won 50.48 percent of the vote, while real estate mogul Rodolfo Hernández won 47.26 percent, almost all of the votes, according to the results released by the electoral authorities. All cleared.

Petro’s victory underscores a dramatic shift in presidential politics in a country that has long marginalized the left because of its perceived links to armed conflict. Petro was himself a former rebel against the now-defunct M-19 movement and was pardoned after being jailed for his involvement with the group.

“Today is a day for the people to celebrate. Let them celebrate the first universal victory,” Petro wrote on Twitter. “May so much suffering be relieved in the joy that fills the heart of the motherland today.”

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

“From this administration, there will never be political persecution or legal persecution, there will only be respect and dialogue,” he said, adding that he would listen not only to those who raised their arms, but also to the “silent majority.” people”. Farmers, Aboriginal people, women, youth. “

Shortly after the results were announced, outgoing conservative President Ivan Duque congratulated Petro, and Hernandez was quick to admit his defeat.

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

Colombia Also elected the first black woman to serve as vice president. Petro’s running mate, Francia Márquez, a lawyer and environmental leader, whose opposition to illegal mining led to threats and grenade attacks in 2019.

The vote comes at a time of widespread dissatisfaction with rising inequality, inflation and violence — factors that led voters to turn their backs on long-ruling centrist and right-leaning politicians in last month’s first round of elections and sway Latin American populations. The third most regions chose two outsider countries.

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

“I do think it shows that the tactics of fear, hatred and stigma against the left are no longer a policy to win voters,” said senior analyst Elizabeth Dickinson. Colombia in International Crisis Group Inc.

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, that he has led this country to greatness, which we so desperately need, and that (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 United States, seeking to renegotiate free trade agreements and new solutions to combat drug trafficking.

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

Hernandez, who makes his money from real estate, is not affiliated with any major political party and refuses to form an alliance. His grim campaign, mainly on TikTok and other social media platforms, is self-funded and based largely on fighting corruption, which he blames for poverty and the loss of state resources available for social projects.

Polls show that a majority of Colombians believe the country is heading in the wrong direction and disapprove of Duke, who is ineligible to seek 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 vote blank: “I don’t like either of these two candidates. … Neither of them are good people, in my opinion.”

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