Former urban guerrilla Gustavo Petro, once jailed for his political beliefs, won Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday, expected to usher in the most left-wing government in the country’s history.
Petro won 50.5 percent of the vote to 47.3 percent for his only rival, 77-year-old populist businessman Rudolf Hernandez, according to provisional official results. His 11.3 million votes were the most in Colombian electoral history. Hernandez accepted the defeat in a short video message within hours.
This The results represent a huge change For the South American country, it has been ruled for decades by moderate and conservative politicians, mostly from an established elite.
A member of the M-19 guerrillas in the 1980s, Petro was arrested for illegal possession of weapons and said he was tortured in custody, and has since served as a senator, congressman and mayor in Bogotá.But he had lost two previous bids to crack the top job Colombiastrict political system.
His victory means that the third most populous country in Latin America, with a population of 50 million and the fourth largest economy, will welcome Francia Márquez, its first black vice president – in the West.
“It means a new model of government, unlike anything Colombia has seen before,” said Daniela Cuellar, a senior advisor at FTI Consulting, a business management firm in Bogotá.
“In Colombia, as in many countries in Latin America, inequality, unemployment and violence — all of which have been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic — people are looking for different forms of government, and Petro’s victory is just that.”
The result sent Petro supporters flooding the streets in celebration, from the scorching Caribbean and Atlantic coasts to remote towns in the Andes and Amazon basin.
In the city of Villavicencio, once a hotbed of violence by Marxist guerrillas, his supporters braved the pouring rain and rode honking motorcycles through the streets. In Pasto Heights, near the Ecuadorian border, hundreds gathered in the city center and cheered.
The business world will be less happy. Petro Petro’s radical call for an overhaul of Colombia’s economic model spooked investors.
Currencies, pesos and local assets could be affected, although Monday is a public holiday in Colombia, so the full impact may not be felt immediately.
“We will see volatility in Colombian assets in the short term,” said Ani de la Quintana, deputy director of Control Risks in Bogotá. “Clearly, the peso and the market will react negatively. The peso closed at 3,912 to the dollar on Friday. Who knows how much it will depreciate now?”
“We could also see a massive capital flight from Colombia, as in Peru’s elections last year. In the medium term, ratings agencies Moody’s and Fitch could further downgrade Colombia.”
Petro’s policy proposals include bans on oil exploration, surface mining and fracking, a country that relies on fossil fuels for about half of its export earnings. He said the country should focus on manufacturing and agriculture.
The 62-year-old has promised massive land reforms, a wealth tax on the nation’s biggest 4,000 wealthy and repealing laws that opened up the labor market two decades ago.
His tax reform plan aims to raise at least $10 billion a year, mostly through taxes on corporate dividends, offshore assets and large rural properties.The move “will affect 4,000-5,000 people in Colombia, but it will bring social justice, stimulate production and give us the funding we need,” he said. told the Financial Times in a recent interview.
He has pledged to use the proceeds to fund universal free higher education and a minimum wage for 1.3 million people, and to cut the government deficit, which hits 7.1 percent of gross domestic product by the end of 2021.
“We hope to be able to have a constructive dialogue with the new administration,” said Bruce McMaster, president of the Colombian National Business Association. “Petro is an economist. He understands economic issues. What matters now is that he named a very good cabinet.”
Despite his victory, Petro may struggle to implement his more radical proposals. His coalition history pact holds only 15 percent of the seats in both houses of Congress.
“The next few weeks will be key to see what kind of alliance he can form,” Quellar said.
Petro will take over as president on Aug. 7 following the ouster of right-wing incumbent Iván Duque.
Despite strong economic growth, Duke administration remains unpopular, Sunday’s results Marks setback for Colombian conservatismwhich has thrown its weight behind the unorthodox Hernandez in a frantic attempt to hold back the left.