Colombia elections: Gustavo Petro defeats Rodolfo Hernandez for the presidency

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BOGOTO, Colombia – Gustavo Petro, a former insurgent who rallied younger and poor voters with guarantees to remodel an unequal society, was elected Colombia’s first left-wing president on Sunday, in a powerful rejection of the political institution that has dominated the South American nation for 2 years. Centuries.

Pietro garnered greater than 50 % of the vote, in response to preliminary outcomes, connecting to a wave of assist from Colombians determined for change in a rustic with excessive ranges of poverty. The 62-year-old senator defeated an outdoor candidate Rodolfo Hernandeza rich businessman who obtained about 47 % of the vote in a race that was initially anticipated to be tight.

Colombia, the third largest nation in Latin America, is now the most recent nation to show left in a area riven by the financial disaster of the coronavirus pandemic. Petro’s victory, in one of the crucial traditionally conservative international locations on the continent, is a surprising instance of how widespread discontent has destabilized the established order.

His victory is exceptional not solely due to his political ideology but in addition due to his life story: a former secret combatant, who served time in jail within the Nineteen Eighties for his involvement with a insurgent group, will now develop into president in a rustic nonetheless tormented by armed prison violence. His presidency may have profound implications for Colombia’s financial mannequin, the function of presidency, and its relationship with different nations within the hemisphere — together with america, its most essential ally.

Talking from a crowded sq. within the nation’s capital, he stood subsequent to the lady who would develop into Colombia’s first black vp, Francia Márquez, an environmental activist who has revitalized an Afro-Colombian neighborhood that has lengthy felt forgotten by these in energy. Petro known as for a “nice nationwide dialogue” to unite the nation and construct peace.

“Peace means Colombian society with alternative. Peace implies that somebody like me can develop into president or somebody like Francia will be vp. “Peace means we should always cease killing one another.”

The gang waved Colombian flags and the group chanted collectively: “No extra battle!”

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Hernandez quickly accepted the outcomes on Twitter.

“I hope this determination made is helpful to everybody,” he mentioned in a video deal with on social media. “I hope Gustavo Pietro is aware of the best way to lead the nation, that he’s honest in his argument towards corruption, and that he doesn’t disappoint those that selected him.”

Petro’s snug lead has defused fears – at the very least in the intervening time – {that a} lean race may lead any candidate to query the election outcomes and spark a wave of civil unrest, one 12 months after mass protests swept the nation.

The Petro marketing campaign has galvanized communities battling the pandemic in a rustic the place half of the inhabitants doesn’t have sufficient to eat and 40 % of them stay in poverty. His marketing campaign has capitalized on the desperation and anger of those that took to the streets final 12 months in huge nationwide protests. His victory is an outright rebuke to the deeply unpopular administration of Evan Duque, who many felt had performed little to enhance the financial scenario in one of many area’s most unequal international locations.

However some concern Petro’s insurance policies, together with his proposal to ban new oil drilling, may devastate the Colombian financial system. Others say a Petro presidency may take a look at the nation’s long-established, fragile democracy. He mentioned he would declare an financial emergency to battle starvation if elected, a proposal criticized by some constitutional legislation consultants.

Analysts concern he’s prepared to work with Congress and different democratic establishments to advance his agenda. Others predict that he will be unable to ship on his guarantees with a divided legislature. As mayor of Bogota, Petro oversaw numerous departing staff and was criticized for refusing to hearken to his advisers.

“The query is whether or not establishments will even be capable to alter and maintain that to account,” mentioned Sandra Botero, a professor of political science on the College of Rosario in Colombia.

Petro proposes remodeling the nation’s financial system by redistributing wealth to the poor. He says he’ll set up free larger schooling, a public well being care system, and a minimal wage for single moms. He says it’s going to increase taxes on the 4,000 richest Colombians and enhance the native farming business.

However he despatched a frank message to his critics from the stage on Sunday night time: “We are going to develop capitalism in Colombia,” he mentioned.

The USA has at all times thought of Colombia a very powerful and steady 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 put strain on that long-standing partnership, significantly within the two international locations’ efforts to fight the drug commerce.

Petro argues that anti-drug insurance policies over the previous a number of many years have been a failure and that the air eradication of coca has performed nothing to cut back the stream of cocaine into america. He has vowed to focus as an alternative on changing crops. He additionally steered altering the extradition treaty between the 2 international locations.

“The percentages of constant our pure strategy to confronting transnational crime are near zero,” mentioned Kevin Whitaker, a former US ambassador to Colombia and now a scholar on the Atlantic Council.

However Michael Schefter, a fellow on the Inter-American Dialogue, expects Petro’s presidency to incorporate “quite a lot of political stances” however little precise hostility towards america, like Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s presidency in Mexico. Shifter says it displays a “new actuality” captured by the cut up on the Biden Summit of the Americas earlier this month. “Latin America goes its manner and america goes its manner,” he mentioned.

On Sunday night time, Petro known as for “a dialogue within the Americas with out exception,” and requested america to work with him on what he described as a precedence in his diplomacy – preventing local weather change.

“On behalf of america, I congratulate the folks of Colombia for making their voices heard in a free and honest presidential election,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken mentioned in a press release. “We sit up for working with President-elect Petro to strengthen the U.S.-Colombia relationship and advance our nations towards a greater future.”

Petro advised 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 mentioned he would work to normalize relations with neighboring Venezuela, an essential shift from Duque, one of many area’s staunch opponents of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

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The elections characterize one other blow to the political institution in Latin America, as voters have sought to punish established governments for the devastation wrought by the pandemic. In Peru, rising poverty charges helped propel Marxist nation faculty trainer Pedro Castillo to the presidency final 12 months. In Chile, the area’s free-market mannequin, voters this 12 months picked the publish of 36-year-old president and former scholar activist Gabriel Borek. And in Brazil, Latin America’s largest nation, former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is main in opinion polls to oust President Jair Bolsonaro in October.

Many Colombians who voted within the nation’s capital on Sunday mentioned they desperately want one thing completely different from the presidents of the previous.

Henri Perdomo, 60, who works in manufacturing, mentioned moments after voting for Petro in a working-class neighborhood in southern Bogota. “We have to change.”

However a few of his neighbors feared what this alteration would possibly carry. Blanca Elena Timon Diaz, 52, who was a housecleaner, was fearful that Pietro would put her financial savings in danger and “flip the nation into Venezuela.” Her vote for Hernandez was, greater than something, a vote towards the left.

Pietro was a member of the April 19 Motion, or M-19, a political city guerrilla who was later demobilized, made a peace settlement with the federal government and have become a political occasion. Fanny Betancourt, 81, nonetheless vividly remembers watching M-19 fighters storm the Palace of Justice in Bogotá in 1985. Her father was killed within the assault. Petro denies involvement within the siege; He was imprisoned on the time. She mentioned she could not stand the concept of ​​a former M-19 insurgent as president.

For a lot of generations, many Colombians have related the left with armed revolt in its lengthy historical past of battle. Lawyer and political analyst Hector Riveros mentioned Petro’s victory, lower than six years after the nation signed historic peace offers with the biggest insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), exhibits how far the nation has overcome that stigma.

The vote got here after an election cycle that was extra tense, violent and unsure than any in Colombia’s latest historical past. For the primary time, Colombians selected between two anti-establishment populist candidates. Petro’s rival, Hernandez, a former mayor of Bucaramanga who has by no means held or ran for nationwide workplace, ran on a singular message to root out corruption.

However the building mogul’s unfiltered message and lack of proposals alienated voters like Luz Marina Ríos, 48, within the capital. She mentioned she desperately wanted a president who would discover new options to enhance the lives of struggling households like her.

She misplaced her job at a confectionery firm in the course of the pandemic and has been unable to seek out work since. Her household needed to reduce on meals as meals costs skyrocketed; A pound of meat that used to price about $2 is now $4, she mentioned. Her teenage son needed to be part of work on the weekends to pay for his bus to highschool.

She mentioned, “We both repair ourselves or we worsen, however we want an entire change.”

Diana Doran contributed to this report.