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Ex-rebel fighter emerges Colombia’s president

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 Ex rebel fighter emerges Colombia s president
Petro

Gustavo Petro, the former mayor of Bogota and ex-rebel fighter, has become Colombia’s first left-wing president.

Mr Petro, a current senator, defeated the right-wing construction magnate Rodolfo Hernández in Sunday’s run-off election.

Figures show he took 50.5% of votes, defeating his millionaire rival by a close margin of around 700,000 ballots.

The result marks a major change for the country, which for decades has been led by moderates and conservatives.

The vote was held amid widespread discontent at the way the country has been run, and there were anti-government protests last year in which dozens of people died.

The 62-year-old Mr Petro hailed what he called a “victory for God and for the people”.

In a video posted to social media, Mr Hernandez, who ran a non-traditional campaign that relied heavily on TikTok and other social media, conceded to Mr Petro.

“I accept the results of this election,” he said. “I hope that Mr Gustavo Petro knows how to run the country and is faithful to his discourse against corruption,” he added.

Mr Petro was a member of the now disbanded M-19 movement in the 1980s. The rebel left-wing group was one of many guerrilla organisations that waged war against the state.

He spent time in jail for illegal arms possession, before joining the political opposition where he served as both a senator and congressman as well as mayor of Bogota.

Mr Petro ran on a radical manifesto and pledged during the campaign to fight inequality by providing free university education, pension reforms and high taxes on unproductive land.

He also pledged to fully implement a 2016 peace deal that ended a 50-year long conflict with the communist guerrilla group, Farc, and to seek negotiations with the still-active ELN rebels.

At Gustavo’s results party, the atmosphere is electric. On stage, and in the crowds, people here are dancing salsa – enjoying every moment of an election like no other.

In a country that experienced decades of civil conflict, Gustavo Petro’s critics highlighted his role as a former rebel, arguing his economic plans would spell disaster for the country.

But his promises of inclusion and addressing poverty resonated with this deeply unequal country.

For Ana Beatriz Acevedo, who represents displaced Afro-Colombian women, the election marks a major change for the country.

“One of the problems this country has is inequality – in black and indigenous communities, among women,” she said. “And they (Petro and Marquez) represent that difference – one is mixed race, one is black – and both believe in inclusion.”

It’s often a cliché to call elections historic but these really are – it’s a huge departure for this conservative country and says a lot about how much the country has changed.

Now Colombia will have its first ever leftist leader and alongside him, the first ever black vice-president – and that speaks volumes about the desire for a different political path.

BBC

 

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