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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Colombia turns left

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Sunday’s elections produced an unprecedented result in Colombia’s history by voting for a left-wing candidate for the head of state. With 50.4% of the vote, the country backed Gustavo Petro, 62, a former M-19 guerrilla, as future president, compared to 47.3% for populist Rodolfo Hernández, 77. Turnout was the highest at over 58% of the last 20 years: The result confirms the desire for change in a society that is disillusioned with its politicians and marked by poverty and a lack of opportunities.

In a country where conservative elites have roamed as they please for decades, this change will allow Petro, an economist who has been rumored to be moderate of late, to develop policies aimed at delivering on his promise to keep social Mitigating inequalities and synchronizing the engines of the fight against climate change. But the election turnaround is also accompanied by signs that the president-elect should not ignore. The basic one is that without a parliamentary majority and having won his opponent by nearly 700,000 votes (1.8% of the census), he must take on a seriously fragmented society. To overcome this limitation, it must make a grand pact with the rest of the political powers that will allow it to heal the wounds caused by years of war, corruption and immobility.

The message from voters was clear. Social unrest dominates the Colombian horizon. Petro is partly a product of that boredom, as is his defeated opponent. The candidacy of Rodolfo Hernández, a sexist politician, unpredictable and accused of a serious case of corruption, showed in all its brutality the depth of the rejection of the traditional political class. Uribismo, who slipped in the first round with Federico Gutiérrez, was of no use betting on Hernández. The failure of this strategy has revealed the exhaustion of this sector and its derivatives as a political formula. This is a lesson the Latin American right should learn. As was the case in Peru with Keiko Fujimori or in Chile with José Antonio Kast, the resort to extreme populism and candidatures of extremely poor democratic quality by certain elites has shown their impracticability and facilitated the emergence of a new left axis.

Fueled by these continental winds, it’s up to Petro to seize the moment, shoo away the specters that still lurk in certain circles in international markets about his goals, and fulfill his promise of a grand national unification. His first words as President-elect seemed to be aimed at this goal: “It is not a change to seek revenge, it is not a change to incite more hatred, it is not a change to deepen sectarianism in Colombian society.”

A year ago, Colombia was rocked by a violent protest that claimed the lives of dozens of young people. The causes of this earthquake are still alive and unless the pact is taken forward there is a risk of another explosion. No easy task in a country where 39% of the population lives in poverty, where guerrillas still exist and where drug traffickers have enormous power. It’s also not something that depends on a man. Achieving this goal requires the consent of the main political forces, a general effort that, as in the great moments of Colombian history, brings together the best of society. This first step, if accomplished, will determine Petro’s presidency and the future of the country.

Source elpais.com

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