BOGOTA, Colombia elections — Gustavo Petro, a former rebel, barely beat out a political outsider millionaire in a runoff election on Sunday. He is now Colombia’s first leftist president, which is a big change for the country’s politics.
With almost all votes counted, election officials announced that senator Petro got 50.48 percent of the vote, while real estate mogul Rodolfo Hernández got 47.26 percent. This was Petro’s third try to become president.
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Petro’s win showed that presidential politics in a country that had long ignored the left because it was thought to be linked to the war had changed in a big way. Petro was once a rebel with the now-defunct M-19 movement. He was jailed for being a part of the group, but he was later given a chance to start over.
“Today is a day for the people to have a party. Let them celebrate the first victory won by the people “Petro sent a tweet. “May the joy that fills the heart of the Homeland today ease the pain of so many.”
During his victory speech, Petro called for unity and tried to make peace with his harshest critics by saying that all members of the opposition are welcome at the presidential palace “to talk about the problems of Colombia.”
“From this new government, there will never be political or legal persecution. Instead, there will be respect and dialogue,” he said, adding that he will listen not only to those who have taken up arms, but also to “that silent majority of peasants, Indigenous people, women, and youth.”
Shortly after the results were announced, Iván Duque, a conservative who was leaving office, congratulated Petro, and Hernández quickly admitted he had lost.
In a video posted on social media, Hernández said, “I accept the result, which is how it should be if we want our institutions to be strong.” “I really hope that everyone will benefit from this decision.”
Colombia also chose its first African-American woman to be its vice president. Francia Márquez is Petro’s running mate. She is a lawyer and environmental leader who is against illegal mining. In 2019, she was threatened and a grenade was thrown at her.
During Colombia elections the first round of voting last month, voters in Latin America’s third-most populous country turned their backs on centrist and right-leaning politicians who had been in power for a long time and chose two outsiders instead. This was because of rising inequality, inflation, and violence.
Petro’s win Colombia elections was the latest political victory for the left in Latin America, and it was made possible by people’s desire for change. In 2021, Chile, Peru, and Honduras all chose leftist presidents. In Brazil, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is leading in the polls for this year’s election.
“I think it shows that scaring, hating, and shaming people on the left no longer works as a way to win over voters,” said Elizabeth Dickinson, a senior analyst for Colombia at the company International Crisis Group.
But the results gave some voters, whose only experience with a leftist government is in troubled Venezuela, a reason to worry right away.
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“We hope that Mr. Gustavo Petro sticks to what he said in his government plan, that he leads this country to greatness, which we need so much, and that he puts an end to corruption,” said Karin Ardila Garca, a supporter of Hernández from the city of Bucaramanga in the country’s north-central region. “That he doesn’t lead to communism, socialism, or a war in Colombia where people keep killing us…. That he doesn’t lead us to another Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, or Chile.”
Sunday, about 21.6 million Colombia elections of the 39 million people who could vote did so. Since 1990, more than 40 percent of eligible voters have not shown up to the polls.
After a formal count that will take a few days, Petro, 62, will be called the winner. In the past, the preliminary results and the final ones have been the same.
On Sunday, several heads of state sent Petro their best wishes. So did former President lvaro Uribe, a fierce critic who is still a key figure in Colombian politics.
Before the runoff, polls showed that Petro and Hernández, who were both mayors, were in a close race. This was because they beat out four other candidates in the first election on May 29. Since neither candidate got enough votes to win outright, they went into a runoff.
In the first round, Colombia elections Petro got 40% of the votes and Hernández got 28%. However, the gap between them quickly shrunk as Hernández began to attract so-called “anti-Petrista” voters.
Petro wants to make big changes to how Colombia fights drug cartels and other armed groups and how pensions, taxes, health care, and farming are run. But he won’t be able to keep his promises because he doesn’t have a majority in Congress. This is important for making changes happen.
Adam Isacson, an expert on Colombia at the Washington Office on Latin America think tank, said, “The people who do support him have very high hopes, and they are probably going to be pretty quickly disappointed when he can’t move things right away.”
Isacson added, “I think he might have to make some deals and give up a lot of his programs to get things done, or the whole country could be stuck in a stalemate.”
Petro is ready to Colombia elections pick up where diplomatic ties with Venezuela left off in 2019. He also wants to change the way Colombia works with the U.S. by trying to renegotiate a free trade agreement and find new ways to stop drug trafficking.
Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, said in a statement that the Biden administration is excited to work with Petro.
Hernández made Colombia elections his money in real estate. He is not a member of any major political party and has turned down offers to work together. His tough campaign was mostly run on TikTok and other social media sites. He paid for it himself and focused on fighting corruption, which he says causes poverty and wastes state money that could be used for social programs.
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Polls show that most Colombians think their country is going in the wrong direction and don’t like Duque, who couldn’t run for reelection anyway. At least a decade was lost in the country’s fight against poverty because of the pandemic. The government says that last year, 39% of Colombians lived on less than $89 a month.
Nataly Amezquita, a 26-year-old civil engineer who was waiting to vote, said that the rejection of politics as usual shows that people are tired of the same people always being in charge. “We need to make more changes in society. A lot of people in the country aren’t in great shape.”
But she didn’t like either of the two outsider candidates. She said she would vote “nothing”: “Neither of the two candidates is appealing to me. I don’t think either of them is a good person Colombia elections.”