Gustavo Petro wins Colombia’s Presidential election

by mcdix

Gustavo Petro defeated Rodolfo Hernandez by an unexpectedly wide margin of 7,16,890 votes. Leftist Gustavo Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement who has vowed sweeping social and economic change, won Colombia’s presidency on Sunday, the first progressive in the country’s history. Mr. Petro defeated construction magnate Rodolfo Hernandez by an unexpectedly wide margin of 7,16,890 votes. The two were technically tied in the polls ahead of the vote. Mr. Petro, former mayor of the capital Bogota and current senator, has pledged to fight inequality with free university education, pension reforms, and high taxes on unproductive land. He won 50.5% against Hernandez’s 47.3%. Petro’s proposals — notably a ban on new oil projects — have scared some investors, though he has pledged to respect pending contracts.

Supporter Alejandro Forero, 40, who uses a wheelchair, wept as the results came in during the Petro campaign celebration in Bogota. “Finally, thank God. I know he will be a good president and help those of us who are least privileged. This is going to change for the better,” said Mr. Forero, unemployed. This campaign was Mr. Petro’s third presidential bid, and his victory adds the Andean nation to a list of Latin American countries that have elected progressives in recent years. Petro, 62, said he was tortured by the military when he was detained for his involvement with the guerrillas, and his potential victory has senior military officials bracing for change.

Gustavo Petro


The running mate of Mr. Petro, Francia Marquez, a single mother, and former housekeeper, becomes the country’s first Afro-Colombian vice president. Confetti exploded at the election night headquarters of presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, left, and his running mate Francia Marquez in Bogota, Colombia. † Photo credit: AP “Today I am voting for my daughter — she turned 15 two weeks ago and asked for only one gift: that I vote for Petro,” security guard Pedro Vargas, 48, said Sunday morning in southwest Bogota. “I hope this man lives up to my daughter’s hopes; she is very confident in his promises,” added Mr. Vargas, who said he will never vote. Petro has also pledged to fully implement a 2016 peace deal with the FARC rebels and talk to the still active ELN guerrilla fighters. He had expressed doubts about the integrity of the count following irregularities in Congressional counts in March and, earlier on Sunday, urged voters to check their ballots for extraneous marks that could invalidate them.

Rodolfo Hernandez, a surprising contender

Mr. Hernandez, who served as mayor of Bucaramanga, was a surprise contender in the runoff election, promising to downsize the government and fund social programs by stopping corruption. He has also pledged to provide free narcotics to addicts to fight drug trafficking. Despite his anti-transplant rhetoric, Hernandez himself is running a corruption investigation over allegations that he intervened in a waste management tender on behalf of a company his son lobbied for. He has denied the wrongdoing. Defense Secretary Diego Molano told reporters Sunday afternoon that the murder of an election volunteer in Guapi, Cauca province, is under investigation. The clerk said that several polling locations had to be moved due to heavy rainfall in some parts of the country.

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