Monday, September 25, 2023

A divided Colombia begins its transition to its first leftist government

Petro proposes to strengthen the State to improve health services, education and collect more taxes from the rich.

QCOLOMBIA – Colombia began the transition to its first leftist government at the hands of senator and former guerrilla Gustavo Petro, who proposed a “great national agreement” to carry out ambitious reforms in the face of the division of the country.

Former rebel Gustavo Petro and his running mate Francia Marquez, celebrate before supporters after winning a runoff presidential election in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, June 19, 2022. (AP)

Petro broke the tradition of conservative and liberal leaders by winning the second round with 50.4% of the votes, defeating the independent millionaire Rodolfo Hernández (47.3), according to the official count.

With a lead of 700,601 votes, the opposition leader (Petro) convinced half of Colombians with his plan to transform a country with the second largest gap between rich and poor in Latin America and plagued by drug violence.

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Petro will take office on August 7 along with his vice president Francia Márquez, the first Afro woman to reach the highest echelons of power.

The victory of both resounded among the Latin American left, while the United States announced its willingness to work with the future president. The European Union highlighted the “unquestionable result” of the election.

This Monday the outgoing government of Iván Duque guaranteed a “peaceful, harmonious and transparent” transition.

“The first thing that must be recognized to defend democracy is when there is a popular pronouncement. Clearly, Colombians elected a new president yesterday,” Duque said in a virtual chat with the Spanish-Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa.

A single Colombia

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In his victory speech, Petro put radical ideas aside and invited the “two Colombias” that appeared at the polls to a “great national agreement to build the maximum consensus” around the ambitious reforms that he proposed. In bell.

“The change consists precisely in leaving hatred behind, in leaving sectarianism behind. The elections more or less showed two close Colombias in terms of votes. We want Colombia, in the midst of its diversity, to be one,” he stated.

He also maintained that under his government “there will be no political persecution” no matter how “strong and tenacious” the opposition may be.

Because it is a holiday in Colombia this Monday, the stock market and the foreign exchange market will react on Tuesday to the victory of the left in the fourth largest economy in Latin America.

Supporters of presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, with the Historical Pact coalition, celebrate after his candidate won a presidential runoff in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, June 19, 2022. (AP)

Vice president-elect reinforced Petro’s message

“The step of reconciliation is with 50 million Colombians; It is with everyone that we are going to advance in reconciliation, in peace, in closing the gaps of inequity and inequality,” Márquez assured W Radio.

The 40-year-old environmental leader announced that she will deal with these issues from a future equality ministry. Petro proposes to strengthen the State to improve health services and university education, collect more taxes from the rich and suspend oil exploration to gradually give way to clean energy. She plans to resume peace talks with the ELN, the last recognized guerrilla group in Colombia, which on Monday announced its “willingness” to restart the talks buried by the outgoing Duque government in 2019.

Supporters of presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, June 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Jaime Saldarriaga)
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The right in power, some unions and sectors of the military, fear that Petro will expropriate assets and lead the country towards a failed socialism. However, former President Álvaro Uribe (20002-2010), leader of the government party, received the victory of his opponent with restraint.

“To defend democracy, it is necessary to abide by it. Gustavo Petro is the President. Let a feeling guide us: First Colombia,” Uribe wrote on Twitter.

Majorities under construction

Although it has an important bench in Congress, the future government does not have a guaranteed majority. Senator Roy Barreras, very close to the elected president, said on Monday that the coalition that accompanies Petro will build bridges with other forces. “What follows is the construction of parliamentary majorities that allow these reforms to be thoroughly carried out,” he told Caracol Radio.

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