Colombia went left: the old guerrilla Petro was elected as the new president

Former militant becomes South American country's first left-wing head of state

Former guerrilla Gustavo Petro wins Colombian elections to become the country's first left-wing president. The former M-19 fighter defeated populist business magnate Rodolfo Hernandez in the second round on Sunday.

Photo: Global Look Press

Colombia has elected former guerrilla Gustavo Petro as president, making him the first left-wing head of a South American country.

According to The Guardian, Petro defeated Rodolfo Hernandez, the former mayor of Bucaramanga and business mogul, with 50.47% of the vote in Sunday's second round of elections to take office in July amid a host of challenges, not the least of which is growing discontent over about inequality and the rising cost of living. According to the results released by the electoral authorities, Hernandez had 47.27%, with almost all ballots counted.

Petro's election marks a dramatic shift for Colombia, a country that has never before had a leftist president, and follows similar left victories in Peru, Chile and Honduras.

“Today is a party for the people,” the winning candidate wrote on social media on Sunday evening after the announcement of the results of the vote. “May so much suffering be mitigated by the joy that fills the heart of the motherland today.”

During his victory speech, Petro called for unity and extended the “olive branch” to some of his harshest critics, declaring that all members opposition will be welcomed to the presidential palace “to discuss the problems of Colombia”.

“From this government that is starting, there will never be political persecution or legal persecution, there will be only respect and dialogue,” the newly elected head of state said, adding that he would listen to everyone, including “this silent majority of peasants, indigenous people, women, youth.”

Outgoing conservative President Ivan Duque congratulated Petro shortly after the results were announced, and Hernandez quickly conceded defeat.

“Today, the majority of citizens have chosen another candidate. As I said during the campaign, I accept the results of this election,” Hernandez said in a video posted on social media. “I sincerely hope this decision benefits everyone.”

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken congratulated “the people of Colombia for having their voices heard in a free and fair presidential election.”

“We look forward to working with President-elect Peter to further strengthen U.S.-Colombian relations and move our countries towards a better future,” he said in a statement.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called the former guerrilla's victory “historic”. “Colombian conservatives have always been tough and tough,” López Obrador wrote on Twitter.

Peter's path from M-19 guerrilla fighter in the 80s to president also saw him become a senator and mayor of the capital city of Bogotá.

The losing Hernandez looked like a very real contender, but could not avoid an almost constant stream of scandals. He called Hitler “the great German thinker” and was caught on camera walking with models on a yacht in Miami. His social media posts were full of profanity and he refused to participate in any debate ahead of Sunday's vote.

The new leader's agenda will have an unstable peace process in the country with left-wing rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (RCF) , which was cemented by a 2016 agreement that formally ended five decades of civil war that has killed more than 260,000 people and displaced more than 7 million. Outgoing President Ivan Duque is accused of stalling the agreement in order to undermine it .

Another headache for Petro will be neighboring Venezuela, which has been in a social, political and economic crisis for years. At the same time, Petro advocates the resumption of relations with the Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, speaking out against the policy of isolating the Bolivarian Republic pursued by the Duque government.


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