Colombia’s new leftist president Petro promises to fight inequality

By Oliver Griffin

BOGOTA (Reuters) – The third time was the attraction for Gustavo Petro, the leftist firebrand, former guerrilla and newly elected Colombian president who credit his political awakening to seeing his father weep over the demise of revolutionary Che Guevara.

The 62-year-old senator and former mayor of capital Bogota, jailed for his youthful position within the M-19 guerrilla group, gained 50.4% of votes in a detailed vote on Sunday, beating the populist enterprise magnate Rodolfo Hernandez, who bought 47.3%. He had additionally run for the presidency in 2010 and 2018.

“A youth wave determined in the present day to take over the poll field, a wave of ladies determined in the present day to take the poll field,” Petro instructed supporters on Sunday night.

Petro has promised to deal with profound social and financial inequality in Colombia, the place round half of the inhabitants lives in some type of poverty, with free schooling, an formidable fiscal reform value some $13.5 billion, and work to guard girls’s rights.

Nonetheless, whereas left-wing events gained some 50 seats in Congress in March legislative elections, Petro will probably be unable to cross reforms with out assist from centrist events.

Petro’s victory marks a turning level in Colombia, a historically conservative nation the place successive governments have pledged to sort out insecurity and violence linked to an almost six decade-long armed battle.

“Colombia has by no means had a progressive authorities,” Petro instructed Reuters in a latest interview. “Each try within the final century has been condemned to violence.”


Petro, who alleges he was tortured by the army throughout his detention, first gained nationwide recognition with impassioned congressional speeches about corruption and violence dedicated by right-wing paramilitary teams and their political allies.

He desires to hike taxes on homeowners of huge tracts of unproductive land and begin weaning Colombia off earnings from oil and coal, which he has described as poisons similar to cocaine – maybe the nation’s prime unlawful export.

Petro was by no means a combatant in M-19 – which in 1985 took prime judges hostage in a confrontation that left nearly 100 useless – however has needed to marketing campaign laborious in opposition to accusations he’ll favor former guerrillas or institute insurance policies akin to these which have precipitated social and financial disaster in neighboring Venezuela.

The brand new president has scoffed at comparisons to Venezuelan leaders and made efforts to assuage fears among the many enterprise group.

A father of 5, Petro has additionally pledged low-cost loans for small companies and a redistribution of pensions to make sure informal employees get a minimal fee.

Petro has mentioned he’ll shift Colombia’s relationship with prime ally the USA away from anti-narcotics coverage and towards the struggle in opposition to local weather change.

Members of Colombia’s armed forces are anxious they’ll face vital modifications below Petro, together with a whole restructuring of the police power.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin; Enhancing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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