Colombia picks 1st leftist president in tight runoff contest



BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia might be ruled by a leftist president for the primary time after former insurgent Gustavo Petro narrowly defeated an actual property millionaire in a runoff election that underscored individuals’s disgust with the nation’s conventional politicians.

Petro’s third try to win the presidency earned him 50.48% of the votes Sunday, whereas political outsider Rodolfo Hernández received 47.26%, based on outcomes launched by election authorities.

The election got here as Colombians battle with rising inequality, inflation and violence — components that led voters within the election’s first spherical final month to punish long-governing centrist and right-leaning politicians and choose two outsiders for the runoff contest.

Petro’s win in Latin America’s third most populous nation was greater than a defeat of Hernández. It places an finish to Colombia’s lengthy stigmatization of the left for its perceived affiliation with the nation’s half century of armed battle. The president-elect was as soon as a insurgent with the now-defunct M-19 motion and was granted amnesty after being jailed for his involvement with the group.

Petro issued a name for unity throughout his victory speech Sunday night time and prolonged an olive department to a few of his harshest critics, saying all members of the opposition might be welcomed on the presidential palace “to debate the issues of Colombia.”

“From this authorities that’s starting there’ll by no means be political persecution or authorized persecution, there’ll solely be respect and dialogue,” he stated, including that he’ll take heed to those that have raised arms in addition to to “that silent majority of peasants, Indigenous individuals, ladies, youth.”

The vote can also be resuling in Colombia having a Black lady as vice chairman for the primary time. Petro’s operating mate, Francia Márquez, 40, is a lawyer and environmental chief whose opposition to unlawful mining resulted in threats and a grenade assault in 2019.

Hernández, whose marketing campaign was based mostly on an anti-corruption combat, conceded his defeat shortly after outcomes have been introduced.

“I settle for the end result, correctly, if we wish our establishments to be agency,” he stated in a video on social media. “I sincerely hope that this resolution is useful for everybody.”

Petro’s exhibiting was the newest leftist political victory in Latin America fueled by voters’ want for change. Chile, Peru and Honduras elected leftist presidents in 2021, and in Brazil former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is main the polls for this yr’s presidential election.

However the outcomes have been a right away purpose to stress for some voters whose closest reference to a leftist authorities is the troubled neighboring Venezuela.

“We hope that Mr. Gustavo Petro complies with what was stated in his authorities plan, that he leads this nation to greatness, which we’d like a lot, and that (he) ends corruption,” stated Karin Ardila García, a Hernández supporter within the north-central metropolis of Bucaramanga. “That he doesn’t result in communism, to socialism, to a struggle the place they proceed to kill us in Colombia. … (H)e doesn’t lead us to a different Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, Chile.”

About 21.6 million of the 39 million eligible voters solid a poll Sunday. Abstentionism has been above 40% in each presidential election since 1990.

Petro, 62, might be formally declared winner after a proper rely that can take just a few days. Traditionally, the preliminary outcomes have coincided with the ultimate ones.

A number of heads of state congratulated Petro on Sunday. So did a fierce critic, former President Álvaro Uribe, who stays a central determine in Colombia’s politics.

Polls forward of the runoff had indicated Petro and Hernández — each former mayors — have been in a good race since they topped 4 different candidates within the preliminary Could 29 election. Neither received sufficient votes to win outright and headed into the runoff.

Petro received 40% of the votes within the preliminary spherical and Hernández 28%, however the distinction rapidly narrowed as Hernández started to draw so-called anti-Petrista voters.

Petro has proposed formidable pension, tax, well being and agricultural reforms and modifications to how Colombia fights drug cartels and different armed teams. However he can have a tricky time delivering on his guarantees as he doesn’t have a majority in Congress, which is essential to finishing up reforms.

“The individuals who do assist him have very excessive hopes, and they’re most likely going to be disenchanted fairly rapidly when he can’t transfer issues immediately,” stated Adam Isacson, an professional on Colombia on the Washington Workplace on Latin America assume tank.

“I feel you may discover a state of affairs the place he both has to strike some offers and quit numerous his packages simply to get some issues handed or the entire nation might be gridlocked,” Isacson added.

Petro is prepared to renew diplomatic relations with Venezuela, which have been halted in 2019. He additionally desires to make modifications to Colombia’s relations with the U.S. by looking for a renegotiation of a free commerce settlement and new methods to combat drug trafficking.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated in a press release that the Biden administration seems ahead to working with Petro.

Polls say most Colombians imagine the nation is heading within the improper course and disapprove of President Iván Duque, who was not eligible to hunt reelection. The pandemic set again the nation’s anti-poverty efforts by a minimum of a decade. Official figures present that 39% of Colombia’s lived on lower than $89 a month final yr.

The rejection of politics as regular “is a mirrored image of the truth that the persons are fed up with the identical individuals as all the time,” stated Nataly Amezquita, a 26-year-old civil engineer ready to vote. “We’ve got to create larger social change. Many individuals within the nation aren’t in the perfect situation.”

However even the 2 outsider candidates left her chilly. She stated she would solid a clean poll: “I don’t like both of the 2 candidates. … Neither of them looks like a great particular person to me.”


Garcia Cano reported from Caracas, Venezuela.

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