Gustavo Petro leads the left to the presidency of Colombia for the first time

  • The candidate of the Historical Pact breaks with his victory against Rodolfo Hernández the predominance of the traditional political forces

  • Petro has clearly become the electoral symptom of a society that starred in two outbursts in 2019 and 2021

Gustavo Petro he will be the next president of Colombia, the first with an origin in the insurgency in a country plagued by armed conflict for decades, and also the first of the left-wing statesmen. The standard-bearer of Historical Pactwho leads the charismatic lawyer Francia Márquez as vice president, obtained the 50.51% of the votes, against the 47.22 of the tycoon Rodolfo Hernández. 2.2% of the electorate voted blank. Petro’s victory represents a real court in Colombian history and it puts on stage with greater crudeness the collapse of the traditional forces that have always alternated in the management of the State and the Government. At the same time, his victory expands the presence of the left in the region. The winner has special empathy with the Chilean Gabriel Boric and with Luiz Inacio Lula da Silvawho in October bets on defeating Jair Bolsonaro and returning to power.

Although 99% of the votes have been counted, Hernández, the “Tiktok old man“, the real surprise of these elections, having displaced the right of the second round, had not officially recognized the results until now, despite his commitment to do so without excuses. Nobody expected his words from the minute that President Iván Duque contacted Petro to congratulate him.

The two applicants arrived at these elections without having publicly debated, but clearly located in opposing paths despite the fact that both raised the flag of change. For Petro, that means a profound review of the political and economic logic that has governed the lives of Colombians. In his own way, he has tried to capitalize on the voices that were felt during the two social upheavals, in 2019 and 2021. Hernández, for his part, had a strong “anti-political” speech that earned him enormous sympathy to the point of displacing the right traditional second round.

Change of trend

In recent days, and despite the fact that the disclosure of the polls was prohibited, those who knew the Colombian reality dared to predict an unappealable victory for the left. Everything happened then as it was calculated: the new president has obtained his right to occupy the Nariño Palace for a more important difference than was initially thought: about four points. Those votes were won in the last stretch of the campaign from the undecided. Analysts will surely soon find the reasons for these preferences.

Duke’s failure

Duque called on Colombians to vote without fear. Petro’s triumph would not be explained without the resounding failure of the management of the dolphin of Alvaro Uribe, who had defeated him in 2018 shaking, among other ghosts, that of communism in a world without the Cold War. Although that threat was not absent in these elections, the discomfort with Duque and with the right seems to have weighed much more on millions of citizens. The rejection of inequality, that lit the spark of the two explosions, was expressed at the polls. The numbers are eloquent: although the Colombian economy has recovered from the effects of covid-19 (it has grown 10.6% in 2021 and will grow 6% this year), almost 40% of the population is in the poverty. Colombia is the third country in Latin America with the most unequal income distributions, behind Brazil and Guatemala. The OECD estimates that it takes four generations for a person who is born in the social group that receives the lowest income to become part of the middle class. However, Colombia breaks that rule: 11 generations are needed to move from one social universe to another. That is one of the reasons that explains the opening of a part of society to other electoral alternatives: a desire to get out of precariousness faster.

An adverse Congress

One cannot fail to contemplate the beneficial effect that Petro shared the electoral formula with Márquez. this lawyer Afro-Colombian, 39 years old, gained local and international notoriety for his persistent activism against illegal mining despite successive death threats. In the primaries of the left, Márquez obtained 785,215 votes, a sign that his contribution in the general elections would be important. She spoke on behalf of “the nobodys”those who always felt overlooked and whom he invited to “live tasty”a call that exceeds the prevailing political rhetoric.

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Petro will start his term in August without a majority in Congress. Of the 108 senators, the Historical Pact has only 40 seats. And in the Chamber, out of 166 representatives, 62. He will be forced to negotiate any reform to make his program viable. It won’t be easy.

“We arrive at today’s elections in the midst of a shower of negative epithets and appeals to terror. Wherever you look, even in voices authorized by both campaigns, the official discourse is that we are on the brink of the abyss. Tension is in the air. The most worrisome in the degradation of the discourse is to see Colombians who support one or another candidate as “the enemies”. Regardless of who wins at the end of the day, what is coming is a deeply divided and difficult country to steer, “said the daily The viewerbefore the polls opened. “The problem did not start in this election, of course. Four years ago we were talking in similar terms. During the government of Iván Duque, in addition, little was done from the Casa de Nariño to calm that polarization. The social outbreaks in the streets were responded with stigmatizing speeches from the highest spheres of the State. The result is what we are seeing: a boiling Colombia“.

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