Ex-rebel, Gustavo Petro wins Colombia’s presidential election

Gustavo Petro
Gustavo Petro

Gustavo Petro, the leftist former mayor of Bogota and ex-rebel fighter, has been declared the winner of Colombia’s presidential election.

Mr Petro, a current senator, defeated right-wing construction magnate Rodolfo Hernández in Sunday’s run-off election. Figures showed he took 50.5% of votes, defeating his rival by more than 700,000 ballots to become Colombia’s first left-wing leader.

The 62-year-old hailed what he called a “victory for God and for the people”.

“May so much suffering be cushioned by the joy that today floods the heart of the homeland,” Mr Petro wrote on Twitter. “Today is the day of the streets and squares.”

His running mate Francia Marquez, a single mother and former housekeeper, will become the country’s first black woman vice-president.

Supporters of Gustavo Petro celebrate
Supporters of Gustavo Petro celebrated his victory

In a video posted to social media, Mr Hernandez, who ran a non-traditional campaign that relied heavily on TikTok and other social media, conceded to Mr Petro.

“Colombians, today the majority of citizens have chosen the other candidate. As I said during the campaign, I accept the results of this election,” he said. “I hope that Mr Gustavo Petro knows how to run the country and is faithful to his discourse against corruption,” he added.

President Ivan Duque, who was barred from seeking re-election by Colombia’s term limits, said on Twitter that he has called Mr Petro to congratulate him and said they have “agreed to meet in the coming days to initiate a harmonious, institutional and transparent transition”.

Mr Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement, ran on a radical manifesto and pledged during the campaign to fight inequality by providing free university education, pension reforms and high taxes on unproductive land.

He has also pledged to fully implement a 2016 peace deal that ended a 50-year long conflict with the communist guerrilla group, Farc, and to seek negotiations with the still-active ELN rebels. At Gustavo’s results party, the atmosphere is electric. On stage, and in the crowds, people here are dancing salsa – enjoying every moment of an election like no other.

In a country that experienced decades of civil conflict, Gustavo Petro’s critics highlighted his role as a former rebel, arguing his economic plans would spell disaster for the country. But his promises of inclusion and addressing poverty resonated with this deeply unequal country.

For Ana Beatriz Acevedo, who represents displaced Afro-Colombian women, the election marks a major change for the country. “One of the problems this country has is inequality – in black and indigenous communities, among women,” she said. “And they (Petro and Marquez) represent that difference – one is mixed race, one is black – and both believe in inclusion.”

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