Gustavo Petro wins Colombia’s presidential election

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Colombia has elected former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro as its first left-wing president.

The former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement narrowly defeated real estate millionaire Rodolfo Hernandez, vowing to enact profound social and economic change.

Petro, a former mayor of capital Bogota and current senator, promised to fight inequality with free university education, pension reforms and high taxes on unproductive land.

He won 50.4% of the votes to Hernandez’s 47.3%, with almost all ballots counted, according to results released by election authorities.

Hernandez had promised to shrink government and to finance social programmes by stopping corruption.

Petro’s running mate, Francia Márquez, became the first black woman to be elected vice president in the country.

The 40-year-old is a single mother, former housekeeper and lawyer whose opposition to illegal mining resulted in threats and a grenade attack in 2019.

The election was held amid a backdrop of rising inequality, inflation and violence, factors that led voters in the first round last month to punish long-governing centrist and right-leaning politicians and pick two outsiders for the run-off contest.

More than 42% of the country’s population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Petro’s victory marks the end of the left’s stigmatization in Latin America’s third most populous nation due to perceived associations with Colombia’s half century of armed conflict.

The 62-year-old was once a rebel with the now-defunct M-19 movement and was granted amnesty after being jailed for his involvement with the group.

He said he was tortured during his imprisonment.

Petro’s win has concerned some investors due to policies that include a ban on new oil products, although he has pledged to honor existing contracts.

“From today Colombia changes; Colombia is different,” Petro told cheering supporters in a concert arena in Bogota. “Change consists precisely in leaving behind sectarianism.”

Thousands of people were seen celebrating in the city’s streets, with some dancing near its largest polling place under sporadic rain.

Petro’s triumph, which follows two unsuccessful attempts at the presidency, adds Colombia to a list of Latin American countries that have elected progressives in recent years.



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