Jun 23, 2022
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Former left-wing guerrilla Gustavo Petro is Colombia’s new president

On June 19, the second round of presidential elections took place in Colombia, in which Gustavo Petro, a representative of the left, the former senator and mayor of Bogotá, won a convincing victory for the first time in the history of the country.

Petro’s competitor was businessman Rodolfo Hernandez. Petro scored more than 50.47% and received an “irrefutable advantage” of 800,000 votes. Francia Marquez, who represents the movement for human rights and the protection of the environment, became vice president.

62-year-old Gustavo Petro fought in the ranks of the left guerrilla group in the 80s M-19 (April 19 movement)second largest in the country after the “Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia” (FARC).

After the amnesty to the partisans, Petro played an important role in uniting left-wing parties into the “Alternative Democratic Pole” (Alternative Democratic Pole – CCP), from which he was elected senator in 2006. In 2021, he formed the Historic Pact for Colombia, a left-wing coalition. In the elections for the Colombian Congress in March 2022, the coalition won first place, and Gustavo Petro was declared a candidate in the presidential elections.

“Today is a holiday for the people,” said Petro after the announcement of the results. “Let a lot of suffering be softened by the joy that fills the heart of the motherland today.” Petro “called for unity and extended an olive branch to some of his harshest critics, declaring that all members of the opposition would be welcomed to the presidential palace to discuss Colombia’s problems,” writes Guardian. Mexican President Obrador called the former guerrilla’s victory over Colombia’s “staunch and tough conservatives” “historic”.

A typical representative of such conservatives is Petro’s opponent in the elections, Rodolfo Hernandez, who called Hitler “the great German thinker”, and refused to participate in any debate with Petro for fear of getting shot by the partisans. FARC.

A few weeks before the first round of the election, US Ambassador to Colombia Philip Goldberg said that the United States was afraid of Russian interference in the electoral process. “There are countries like Russia that interfere in elections. They did it in 2016 in the US and tried again in 2020… We need to be vigilant and we are working with Colombia to protect the electoral process from cyberattacks or disinformation from abroad,” Goldberg said.

The Russian Embassy in Colombia responded by issuing a statement expressing “categorical rejection of such insinuations and slander, stating that Russia has not tried and does not intend to interfere in the internal life of Colombia.”

Petro’s campaign manager, Senator Roy Barreras, suggested that the US Drug Enforcement Agency was trying to interfere in the election (DEA) and American politicians. Particularly active in this was Maria Elvira Salazar, member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the Republican Party, an ally of the Colombian ultra-right forces, who called Gustavo Petro “a thief, a socialist, a Marxist and a terrorist” and warned that the new president of Colombia “has the same intentions as Chavez in Venezuela and Fidel in Cuba.”

However, immediately after the announcement of the results of the second round, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken hastily congratulated “the people of Colombia for having their voices heard in a free and fair presidential election.” “We look forward to working with President-elect Petro to further strengthen US-Colombia relations and move our countries towards a better future,” Blinken said.

The economic program of Petro, who promised to renegotiate agreements with the United States, could be a serious blow to the Colombian right, which is firmly connected with American capital.

Gustavo Petro, a fan of the ideas of the Brazilian Lula da Silva and the American Bernie Sanders, intends to completely rebuild the country’s economic model, expand social programs, create guaranteed jobs, transfer the country to a public health system and make it easier for ordinary Colombians to access higher education. All this he intends to achieve in part by increasing the taxation of four thousand of the richest people in Colombia. Petro intends to attract investments in the country in the field of clean energy, new technologies, transport and telecommunications.

In addition, he plans to phase out oil production and renegotiate trade agreements, including with the United States, to better protect Colombian industry and agriculture. These initiatives have faced strong criticism. An abrupt stop in oil production in a country dependent on hydrocarbon exports could destroy the economy. And the gap between the “stubborn and tough rightists” beneficial to the United States will inevitably cause opposition from the real owners of the country, who made concessions to the left forces in the face of general popular indignation over their long-term plunder of Colombia.

In Colombia, the country of “magical realism” sung by Marquez, real power has been held by the “chosen ones” for centuries. This is how the conservative elite calls itself, which controls the economy and politics. Their morals were described in the novel The Chosen Ones, written by former President of Colombia Alfonso López Michelsen and known to the Russian audience based on the film of the same name by Sergei Solovyov.

The “chosen ones” are a closed estate, which, through the parties they created, through business, often illegal, closely cooperates with the United States. It was this powerful layer that Gustavo Petro challenged.

The chances of realizing his socio-economic plans are not very great due to the precarious position of the left forces in the Colombian Congress. Mexican political scientist, Professor Fernando Buen Abad believes that Gustavo Petro’s victory is “a celebration for the Colombian people, who have long suffered from a hard life, extortion, plunder of resources and imperial whims.” However, the new president of Colombia “will have to deal with the laws of capitalism, and his resource of political power does not seem to be enough to take big and fast steps.”

However, the “pink tide” in Latin America after the victories of the left in Argentina, Peru, Chile, and now in Colombia is gaining momentum.

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