Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Colombia elects former guerrilla Petro as first leftist president

Left-wing Gustavo Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement who has vowed profound social and economic change, won Colombia’s presidency on Sunday, the first progressive to do so in the country’s history.

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Petro defeated construction magnate Rodolfo Hernandez by an unexpectedly wide margin of more than 700,000 votes, which analysts said was a demonstration of Colombians’ eagerness to try to tackle deep inequality.

Petro, the former mayor of the capital Bogota and current senator, has pledged to fight inequality with free university education, pension reform and high taxes on unproductive land. He won 50.5 percent over Hernandez’s 47.3 percent.

Petro’s proposals – particularly sanctions on new oil projects – have stunned some investors, although they have promised to honor existing contracts.

Analysts told Reuters on Sunday that his victory was likely to stir up the market until his cabinet was announced.

“Colombia changes today; Colombia is different,” Petro told supporters at a Bogota concert. “Change lies in leaving sectarianism behind.”

“This is not the time for hatred, this government, which will start from August 7, is the government of life,” he said.

Alejandro Forrero, 40, who uses a wheelchair, cried at the results.

“Finally, thank God. I know he will be a good president and he will help those of us who are the least privileged. This is going to change for the better,” said Foro, who is unemployed.

Thousands of people took to the streets to celebrate in Bogota, some dancing in the midst of intermittent rain near its biggest polling place.

The campaign was Petro’s third presidential bid, and his victory put the Andean nation on a list of Latin American countries that have elected progressives in recent years.

Petro’s victory showed people in Colombia – where nearly half the population lives in some form of poverty – are eager to fight inequality, said Daniela Kueller of FTI Consulting.

“What the Colombian population has shown today is that they are demanding a government focused on key social issues,” she said. “Colombia’s long-standing diseases of inequality, which were exacerbated by COVID-19, have contributed to voters demanding a change.”

But a fragmented Congress, where a dozen parties have seats, will serve to put a halt to Petro’s proposals.

“Colombia’s institutional strength and rule of law appear sufficiently strong for the country to maintain economic stability,” Kueller said. “Also, the election campaign is not ruling, Petro’s policies will be more liberal.”

“Even if he tries to pass radical reforms, he does not have the support of Congress to implement them,” he said.

Petro, 62, said he was tortured by the military when he was taken into custody for his involvement in the guerrillas, and that high-ranking armed forces officers were ready for change in his potential victory.

Petro’s running mate, Francia Marquez, a single mother and former housekeeper, will be the country’s first Afro-Colombian female vice president.

“Today I am voting for my daughter – she turned 15 two weeks ago and asked for just one gift: that I vote for Petro,” said Pedro Vargas, 48, a security guard southwest of Bogota on Sunday morning. I give.”

“I hope this man will live up to my daughter’s expectations, she has great confidence in his promises,” said Vargas, who said he doesn’t usually vote.

Petro has also promised to fully implement the 2016 peace deal with the FARC rebels and to hold talks with the ELN guerrillas still active.

market panic

Analysts have said the proposed halt to oil growth could send investment elsewhere at a time when Colombia grapples with a low credit rating, a large trade deficit and a national debt that has doubled to 72 percent of GDP in the past decade. It is done.

Oil exports account for about half and about 10 percent of national income, but Petro argues that new projects should be put on hold for environmental reasons and move Colombia away from dependence on the industry.

Petro has also promised to raise taxes and royalties on extractive industries and charge major landholders for unproductive land, raising $5.2 billion. He also proposed raising up to $3.9 billion by progressively taxing companies.

Sergio Olart, Colombia’s chief economist, said: “We think that on Tuesday, interest rates on both the TES bond and the exchange rate will come down, but we need to see what kind of rhetoric that Petro gives us. The cabinet will give.” in Scotiabank.

Monday is a holiday in Colombia.

“The magnitude of the movements in the coming trading sessions will depend on the economic line that the new president presents,” agreed David Cubides, chief economist at Allianz Brokerage, adding that he should expect local market volatility during the next week. A downfall is expected.

Current President Ivan Duque tweeted that he had called to congratulate Petro, and that he has scheduled a meeting in the coming days to ensure a harmonious transition.

Colombian presidents are limited to one term.

About 22.6 million people voted, about 1.2 million more than in the first round. Some 2.3 percent of voters took part in protest votes, supporting either candidate.

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Nation World News Desk
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