Colombia votes in its first leftist president–ex guerrilla rebel Gustavo Petro

Colombia recently went to the polls and the result was a little surprising for some. On Sunday, former rebel and leftist leader Gustavo Petro won against billionaire real estate magnate Rodolfo Hernández. The election results that were released by the authorities showed that Petro had a narrow lead over his rival. He polled 50.48 percent of the votes while Hernández got 47.26 percent of the votes.

This is the third attempt by Petro to lead Colombia and he has finally won. It will be filled with challenges as he doesn’t have a majority in Congress. He is expected to be gridlocked and will face major issues ahead including those of corruption and those that are created by the drug cartels in South America.

Petro has been a senator in Colombia from decades and made three attempts to win the presidential elections. The left had been marginalized in Colombia as it was perceived to be a party that associates with armed conflict. Petro himself was a rebel with M-19, which is no longer an active movement. He was jailed for his strong ties with the group and was later granted amnesty.

The rise of the leftist party in Colombia has been due to voters seeking change. Rising inequality, combined with inflation and violence have been the factors that made citizens veer away from centrist as well as right leaning politicians. This is the first time that that two outsider candidates triumphed in the first round as potential presidential candidates.

The new president said that “there will never be political persecution or legal persecution, there will only be respect and dialogue.” He also said that he and his government would listen to the “silent majority of peasants, Indigenous people, women, youth.”

Gustavo Petro has indicated that he would like to resume diplomatic relations with neighbors including Venezuela and the U.S. The new president is looking at a renegotiation of the free trade agreement as well as newer and better ways to fight drug trafficking.

In a statement, Anthony Blinken, who is the U.S. Secretary of State, said that the Biden administration was looking forward to working with Petro.

(Photo Daniel Andres Garzon

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