Former rebel and longtime lawmaker Gustavo Petro won Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday, prompting voters frustrated by decades of poverty and inequality under conservative leaders to expand social programs, tax the wealthy and move away from an economy. With the promise to go, whom he has called. Highly dependent on fossil fuels.
His victory put the third-largest nation in Latin America on a highly precarious path, as it faces rising poverty and violence that has sent record numbers of Colombians to the United States border; high levels of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon, a significant buffer against climate change; and a growing distrust of key democratic institutions, which has become a trend in the region.
Mr Petro, 62, got over 50 per cent of the votes and over 99 per cent on Sunday evening. His rival, Rodolfo Hernández, a construction magnate who had energized the country with a scorched-earth anti-corruption platform, won just over 47 per cent.
Soon after the vote, Mr Hernandez accepted Mr Petro. “Colombians, today most citizens have chosen another candidate,” he said. “As I said during the campaign, I accept the results of this election.”
Mr Petro took the stage on Sunday night with his vice-presidential pick, Francia Marquez, and their three children. There was silence in the packed stadium; people were standing on chairs and holding phones upstairs.
“This story we are writing today is a new story for Colombia, Latin America, and the world,” he said. “We are not going to betray this voter.” He pledged to govern with what he called the “politics of love”, based on hope, dialogue and understanding.
According to official figures, only 58% of Colombia’s 39 million voters voted. Mr Petro and Ms Marquez’s victories reflect an anti-establishment fervour that has spread across Latin America, fueled by the pandemic and other long-standing issues, including a lack of opportunity.
“The entire country is begging for change,” said Fernando Posada, a Colombian political scientist, “and that is clear.”
In April, Costa Ricans were elected to the presidency by Rodrigo Chaves, a former World Bank official and political outsider who took advantage of widespread discontent with the incumbent party. Last year, Chile, Peru and Honduras voted for leftist leaders running against right-wing candidates, marking a significant, multi-year shift across Latin America.
As a candidate, Mr Petro energized a generation that is among the most educated in Colombian history but is also dealing with 10 per cent annual inflation, a 20 per cent youth unemployment rate, and a 40 per cent poverty rate. His rallies were often filled with youth, many of whom said they had felt betrayed for decades by leaders who had made big promises but did not fulfil them.