Leftist Gustavo Petro led the pack in Sunday’s first round but failed to secure the 50% of the vote needed to win.
Colombia’s presidential race will have to be decided in a runoff next month after none of the six candidates in Sunday’s election were able to secure the 50% vote needed to avoid a showdown at the top. -headed.
The results of the first round sparked a battle between leftist Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla who entered politics after his rebel group agreed to disarm, and Rodolfo Hernandez, a 77-year-old construction magnate who rose to fame when a Viral video showed him slapping a political opponent in 2018.
Petro led the crowded field on Sunday, getting around 40% of the vote, while Hernandez came second with 28%, according to the preliminary tally. Former Medellin mayor Federico Gutierrez came third with less than 24%, in a blow to incumbent President Ivan Duque, who had backed the right-wing candidate because he was ineligible to run himself to re-election. In his concession speech Sunday night, Gutierrez urged his supporters to vote for Hernandez to ensure leftist Petro doesn’t win the runoff.
Petro, who has pledged to end oil exploration in the country and redistribute pension funds, will become the first left-wing president in Colombia’s history if he wins the June run-off. Hernandez presents himself as an establishment anti-corruption fighter and has pledged to eliminate unnecessary government spending.
Petro, 62, who served in Colombia’s Congress and was elected mayor of Bogota in 2011, has tightened security in recent weeks and campaigned behind bulletproof shields after allegedly receiving death threats. Colombia has a history of assassinations of leftist candidates. Carlos Pizarro, commander-in-chief of Petro’s M-19 rebel group, was killed by an anti-communist gunman while running for president in 1990. Leftist candidate Bernardo Jaramillo was also killed that year.
Backed by a younger progressive constituency, Petro is hated by the country’s right-wing outgoing government, Duque. Critics insist that Petro will turn Colombia into its socialist (and sanctions-hungry) neighbor Venezuela. While Petro lost to Duque in the 2018 election, the US-allied regime in Bogota has not fared well over the past four years, plunging into an economic crisis due to its response to the Covid pandemic. -19 which compounded the existing damage caused by the crackdown on nationwide protests against inequality, corruption and police brutality.
Colombian vice-presidential candidate Francia Márquez has warned that the US government is meddling in the country’s elections to harm her left-wing Pacto Histórico coalition, days before the May 29 vote. For more information: https://t.co/XMLwCNs79Lpic.twitter.com/kgzJWIeokQ
—Benjamin Norton (@BenjaminNorton) May 29, 2022
Petro’s running mate, vice-presidential candidate Francia Marquez, earlier this month accused President Joe Biden’s administration of interfering in Colombia’s elections by making false accusations that Russia and Venezuela are interfering with each other. mingled in the race.
Less than a week before the vote, Biden signed a memorandum declaring Colombia a “Major non-NATO ally” from Washington after Bogota hired a group of Colombian troops to train Ukrainian soldiers in demining operations. Although the status confers economic privileges and defense contracts, it does not explicitly include defense guarantees as NATO membership does.
US Congresswoman Representative Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Florida) called on Biden to to intervene if necessary to prevent Petro from becoming president. “Gustavo Petro is a thief, a Marxist and a terrorist” she said Friday. “And he wants to be the next president of Colombia, to lead Colombians into misery, hunger and exile. Be very careful, Colombia. Today’s decisions determine tomorrow.
Violence in Colombia is at the highest level since the government signed a 2016 peace deal with the FARC rebel group, according to the Red Cross. Petro criticized the US-led war on drugs, saying massive security spending hasn’t stopped Colombia from remaining a top cocaine producer or ended gang violence. He also suggested that Colombia reconsider its policy of extraditing alleged drug lords to the United States.
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