Colombia elects former guerrilla Petro as first leftist president

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

Petro beat construction magnate Rodolfo Hernandez by an unexpectedly wide margin of more than 700,000 votes in what analysts described as evidence of Colombians’ enthusiasm for efforts to combat deep inequality.

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

Petro’s proposals – and especially the ban on new oil projects – pissed some investors, even though he promised to honor existing contracts.

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Analysts told Reuters on Sunday that his victory is likely to cause jitters in the market until his government’s announcement.

“From today Colombia is changing; Colombia is different,” Petro told fans at the Bogota concert hall. “The change is precisely to leave communalism behind.”

“This is not the time for hate, this government, which will start on August 7, is a life government,” he said.

Alejandro Forero, 40, who uses a wheelchair, cried when the results came in.

“Finally, thank God. I know he will be a good boss and will help those less fortunate than us. Forero, who is unemployed, said.

Thousands took to the streets of Bogota to celebrate, some dancing near the largest polling station in the intermittent rain.

This campaign was Petro’s third presidential bid and his victory adds the Andean nation to the list of Latin American nations that have elected progressives in recent years.

Daniela Cuellar of FTI Consulting said Petro’s win showed that people in Colombia – where nearly half the population lives in some form of poverty – are keen to fight inequality.

“What the people of Colombia have shown today is that they seek a government focused on key social issues,” she said. “Colombia’s long-standing diseases of inequality, exacerbated by the novel coronavirus, have contributed to voters’ quest for transformation.”

But a fragmented Congress, where there are dozens of parties of seats, will serve as a check on Petro’s proposals.

“Colombia’s institutional strength and rule of law appear strong enough for the country to maintain economic stability,” Cuellar said. Moreover, election campaigns are not ruling, and Petro policies will be more moderate. “

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

Petro, 62, said he was tortured by the army when he was arrested for his involvement with the fighters, and that his potential victory made senior armed forces officials prepare for change.

Petro’s second candidate, Francia Marquez, a single mother and former housekeeper, will be the country’s first Afro-Colombian woman vice president.

“Today I am going to vote for my daughter – she turned 15 two weeks ago and she asked for only one gift: to vote for Petro,” said security guard Pedro Vargas, 48, in southwest Bogota on Sunday morning.

“I hope this man fulfills my daughter’s hopes, she believes very much in his promises,” added Vargas, who said he usually does not vote.

Petro also pledged to fully implement the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC rebels and to seek talks with still active National Liberation Army fighters.

market vector

Analysts said the proposed moratorium on oil development could send investment elsewhere at a time when Colombia suffers from low credit ratings, a large trade deficit and national debt that has doubled to 72% of gross domestic product over the past decade.

Oil accounts for nearly half of exports and nearly 10% of national income, but Petro argues that new projects should be banned for environmental reasons and to wean Colombia away from dependence on the industry.

Petro also promised to raise taxes and royalties on extractive industries and charge large landowners for unproductive land, raising about $5.2 billion. It also proposes raising up to $3.9 billion by progressively taxing companies.

“We think TES bond rates and the exchange rate will fall on Tuesday, but we need to know what kind of rhetoric Petro gives us, and what kind of government he will give us,” said Sergio Olarte, Colombia’s chief economist. in Scotiabank.

Monday is a holiday in Colombia.

David Cuppedes, chief economist at Allianz Brokerage, agreed that “the size of the moves in the upcoming trading sessions will depend on the economic line presented by the new president,” and who said he expects local market volatility over the next week.

Incumbent President Evan Duque tweeted that he called him to congratulate Petro, and they have scheduled a meeting in the coming days to ensure a harmonious transition.

Colombian presidents are limited to one state.

About 22.6 million people voted, 1.2 million more than in the first round. About 2.3% of voters submitted protest votes, not supporting any of the candidates.

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