Petro assumes as Colombia’s first leftist president

Colombia begins a new political era this Sunday with the inauguration of Gustavo Petro, the first left-wing president in its history who promises profound transformations in an inequitable country harassed by drug violence.

The 62-year-old former senator, who left the armed rebellion three decades ago, will be sworn in around 3:00 p.m. local time (8:00 p.m. GMT), in front of a large delegation of international guests.

Petro, who will succeed the unpopular Iván Duque, will rule for four years a country of 50 million inhabitants that for the first time will enter the orbit of the left in the region, and that could be consolidated with the probable return of Lula to power. in Brazil.

“The first government that we hope will be one of peace is going to begin. That can bring to Colombia what it has not had for centuries and that is tranquility and peace. Here begins a government that will fight for environmental justice,” Petro said on Saturday. at an event in Bogotá.

The one who was the leader of the opposition in the last two decades takes office with a battery of reforms in mind and the expectations of half the country that voted for him in the ballot on June 19.

Together with Petro, the environmentalist Francia Márquez (40) will be sworn in as the first African vice president of a nation that was historically governed by elites of white men.

Colombia thus enters a period of change, with a leftist in command, a Congress in his favor and a weakened opposition after the decline of former president Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), the head of the right.

Petro starts from an “enviable position, with a large majority in Congress and, in terms of the street, has support that no government had before in recent years,” analyst Jorge Restrepo from the Center for Resources for Conflict Analysis (Cerac).

– First changes –

Petro put together a cabinet of diverse tendencies, with women at the head of several portfolios and the mission of carrying out reforms that will begin their legislative course on Monday.

Among them is the project that will raise taxes on the richest, fine-tune collection and record sugary drinks, in search of resources for social plans.

“The level of indebtedness and fiscal deficit that we find for the next four years is critical,” assured Daniel Rojas, one of the coordinators of the junction commission with the Duque government.

Even so, Petro has proposed to reduce the gap between rich and poor, one of the widest in the continent along with that of Brazil, with greater access to credit, subsidies and public education.

After the ravages of the pandemic, the economy recovers its growth although inflation, which reached 10.2% in the interannual variation in July, unemployment (11.7%) and poverty that punishes 39% of the population cloud the picture.

“People hope that some of the changes that were promised in the campaign will take place early, which added to the economic situation (…) generates an environment of tension,” says Patricia Muñoz, a political scientist at the Javeriana University.

On the international front, Petro will reactivate diplomatic and commercial relations with the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, broken since 2019, and will seek support and headquarters to resume peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the last guerrilla recognized in Venezuela. the country.

– Dialogues back –

Although the peace agreement with the FARC, the former far-left armed organization, reduced the violence, Colombia has still not managed to extinguish the continent’s last internal armed conflict.

In addition to the ELN, powerful drug gangs such as the Clan del Golfo, headed by capo ‘Otoniel’, extradited this year to the United States, impose their law in various areas of the country.

The dissidences that were marginalized from the peace pact also challenge the State thanks to the resources of illegal mining and mainly drug trafficking.

Petro also receives a country with the world’s largest production of cocaine, in response to which he has proposed rethinking the failed drug prohibition policy in conjunction with the United States, the main consumer of the coca leaf derivative.

Along with the invitation to dialogue with the ELN, Petro will propose to the armed groups to submit in exchange for criminal benefits, while reforming or dissolving the riot police force implicated in human rights violations during the repression of the massive protests of recent years.

Also “we are going to see a slow change in the military forces, (…) but I think we can rule out some kind of public unrest, insurrection, sit-down strike or drop in operational activity,” says the Cerac analyst.


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