Foreign policy headache looms for Biden administration as Colombia elects first leftist president in history


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Latin America has taken another turn to the left, this as Gustavo Petro was elected president of Colombia on Sunday, making history as the country’s first leftist elected to be president. The shift to the left, analysts say, could be another foreign policy headache for the Biden administration.

Petro is a former guerrilla leader. His victory will change domestic politics and the balance of power in Latin America, as he joins a wave of triumphs for the left in the region. Brazil could be the next triumph for the Socialists if Lula da Silva wins that country’s elections in October. This would strengthen a leftist bloc whose pro-Russian and Chinese sentiment and decidedly antagonistic views against the United States should be a concern for Biden and future US administrations.

Former guerrilla Gustavo Petro, left, his wife Verónica Alcocer, back center, and his running mate Francia Márquez celebrate before their supporters after winning the second round of the presidential elections in Bogotá, Colombia, on Sunday, June 19. 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Former guerrilla Gustavo Petro, left, his wife Verónica Alcocer, back center, and his running mate Francia Márquez celebrate before their supporters after winning the second round of the presidential elections in Bogotá, Colombia, on Sunday, June 19. 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Free and Secure Society warns: “Gustavo Petro’s victory in Colombia consolidates the gains of the Latin American left over the past decade. But while the Biden administration may be sympathetic to the leftist political agenda of With a new President Petro, the United States must pay close attention to any possible authoritarian action or effort by the new Colombian government to dismantle, hijack, or polarize the country’s democratic institutions under the guise of constitutional reform.”

The praise of the socialist leaders of the continent did not wait. Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro was quick to congratulate Petro and his running mate. “I congratulate Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez for their historic victory in the presidential elections in Colombia. The will of the Colombian people, who came out to defend the path of democracy and peace, was heard. New times are glimpsed for this brother country.”

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Nicolás Maduro, president of Venezuela, was one of the first leaders to congratulate Gustavo Petro on his victory.

Nicolás Maduro, president of Venezuela, was one of the first leaders to congratulate Gustavo Petro on his victory.
(Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Maduro’s comments were echoed by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel: “I express my most fraternal congratulations to Gustavo Petro for his election as President of Colombia in a historic popular victory. We reiterate the will to advance in the development of bilateral relations for the well-being of our peoples.”

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Mexican President Andrés López Obrador, who just two weeks ago snubbed the US by refusing to attend the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, said in a statement: “Gustavo Petro’s triumph is historic. Colombia’s conservatives have always been tenacious and tough. The writer José María Vargas Vila recounted that the dictators of his country ‘dipped their daggers in holy water before killing…’ Today’s triumph could be the end of that curse and the dawn of that brotherly and worthy people. Congratulations”. López-Obrador will visit the White House next month.

Colombian analyst José Penso, former president of the Colombian Association of Political Consultants, urged caution and told Fox News Digital: “It is time to wait for the tone of the Petro government in relation to the United States. He arrives with a commitment to unite the country through consensus, trying to appear less radical because he has been supported by groups from the center. It is still very uncertain and only with time will the tone of its relationship with the United States be seen.”

During his victory speech, President-elect Petro said: “Thanks to the strength of past generations who are no longer with us today, we are the sum of resistance, of a past of struggle and rebellion against injustice and a world that discriminates. ”.

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Observers said evidence that democracy in Colombia remains strong was the immediate response of Petro’s opponent, Rodolfo Hernández, admitting defeat and congratulating the president-elect: “I called Gustavo to congratulate him on his victory and offered my support for fulfill the promises of change for which Colombia voted today. Colombia will always count on me”.

A woman cleans the capital's main voting center in preparation for the second round of presidential elections in Bogota, Colombia, Friday, June 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

A woman cleans the capital’s main voting center in preparation for the second round of presidential elections in Bogota, Colombia, Friday, June 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
(AP)

According to the Associated Press, Petro will have a hard time keeping his promises as he does not have a majority in Congress, which is key to carrying out the reforms. In the last legislative elections, Petro’s political movement won 20 seats in the Senate, a plurality, but would still have to make concessions in negotiations with other parties.

However, despite the initial union of both presidential candidates, a former president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe, whom Petro considers a political enemy, tweeted: “To defend democracy, it is necessary to abide by it. Gustavo Petro is the president. Let’s go to the feeling guides us: Colombia First”.

Critics and political opponents fear that Petro is still trying to radicalize himself and move to a far-left position.

Agustín Antonetti, an analyst based in Argentina, from Fundación Libertad, told Fox News Digital: “Gustavo Petro’s victory is the missing piece, perhaps the most worrying, of this new reconfiguration in Latin America, which is leaning towards a new wave of leftist governments”.

Antonetti continued: “A region that is in an alarming political and economic decline, in a complex global context, with three terrible dictatorships (Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua) that seem more alive than ever and surrounded by a large number of populist leaders, now in power, who endorse them and are willing to do anything. The big question is: Will the institutions in Latin America resist this new wave of governments in a clear rise of authoritarianism?

Supporters of the Historic Pact coalition presidential candidate Gustavo Petro celebrate after he won the second round of the presidential election in Cali, Colombia, Sunday, June 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Andres Quintero)

Supporters of the Historic Pact coalition presidential candidate Gustavo Petro celebrate after he won the second round of the presidential election in Cali, Colombia, Sunday, June 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Andres Quintero)

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Isaias Medina, a former high-ranking Venezuelan diplomat at the United Nations who was one of the first diplomats from Venezuela to resign in protest of the Maduro regime, said the United States should heed saying Maduro and his acolytes were “tightening the rope.” “. neck of democracy in Latin America”.

Medina told Fox News Digital, “The American beacon of light and freedom must shine brighter.” He said: “President Biden still has to face his most difficult challenges from a large-scale China, Iran and Russia to overcome the last gaps left in Latin America in the absence of US policies and actions.”

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The former Venezuelan diplomat said that “a pale economic future looms in the last moves of the geopolitical chess (game). In the words of Ronald Reagan, ‘freedom and liberty are a generation away from being extinct’. Let us pray that this is not the generation that allows it to happen.”

Gustavo Petro obtained 50.47% of the votes, defeating his rival Rodolfo Hernández who obtained 47.27%. Leftist candidate who long said there was no democracy in his country wins election that showed democracy does exist and works, observers say Biden administration must watch very carefully as Petro begins his term as president on August 7

Associated Press contributed to this report.



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