Colombians went to the polls on Sunday in a presidential election that might break the mould of many years of centrist politics and reshape Bogotá’s shut relationship with the US.
Leading nearly all opinion polls entering into to the vote was Gustavo Petro, a 62-year-old former leftwing guerrilla, former mayor of Bogotá and skilled congressman and senator.
If Petro wins, he could be probably the most leftwing chief within the nation’s current historical past. Unusually for Latin America, Colombia has by no means had a socialist authorities.
Petro desires to ban oil and coal exploration in a rustic the place hydrocarbons usher in half of all export income, and he opposes all opencast mining and fracking tasks. Instead, he says Colombia can turn out to be an agricultural pressure powered by renewable vitality.
He says the state ought to act as “employer of last resort”, offering work to anybody who can not discover it within the non-public sector. He desires to make firms pay 70 per cent of their earnings in dividends, overhaul the pension system and reform the central financial institution.
He additionally desires to reset Colombia’s relationship with the US, renegotiate their free commerce settlement, rethink the ‘war on drugs’ and restore diplomatic relations with Nicolás Maduro’s socialist regime in neighbouring Venezuela.
Despite its 50-year civil battle and broadly publicised drug-related violence, Colombia has loved exceptional political stability. Since 1958 it has held 16 presidential elections, one each 4 years as usually as clockwork, with every president handing energy peacefully to his successor.
But that energy has alternated between two conventional events, the Liberals and Conservatives, drawn from the identical elite, excluding the left, the nation’s indigenous and black populations, and the poor.
Polls constantly present most Colombians are dissatisfied with their nation’s trajectory and wish significant change.
“I’m voting Petro,” stated 42-year-old Marcela Rubiano earlier than casting her vote in Venecia, a working-class district of southern Bogotá. “I have some doubts about him but let’s see if this ex-guerrilla can bring about the changes that we all know are needed.”
While polls have constantly given Petro round 40 per cent of the vote, they counsel he’ll battle to succeed in the 50 per cent he must win outright. If he falls quick the election will go to a run-off in June, the place he would possible face centre-right candidate Federico Gutiérrez or populist businessman Rodolfo Hernández.
Gutiérrez has been Petro’s fundamental adversary all through the marketing campaign however Hernández has shot up in current polls and is threatening to squeeze into the second spherical.
Gutiérrez, a 47-year-old former mayor of Medellín, has promised “responsible change” reasonably what he says could be Petro’s reckless overhaul of Latin America’s third most populous nation and its fourth-biggest economic system.
Hernández, a 77-year-old former mayor of the japanese metropolis of Bucaramanga, is operating on a populist anti-corruption ticket. He has financed his marketing campaign himself, with wealth collected on the helm of his building firm.
Outgoing president Iván Duque shouldn’t be eligible to face for re-election and his rightwing authorities is unpopular. Colombia was convulsed by violent road protests in 2021 in response to his tax reform plans.
The electoral marketing campaign has been overshadowed by threats of violence. Petro and his vice-presidential operating mate Francia Márquez have each stated they’ve obtained demise threats. Some 300,000 members of the police and safety forces have been deployed to polling stations.
The election can have penalties for the area in addition to Colombia.
If Petro wins and if former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva completes what could be a momentous comeback victory in Brazil’s election in October, the seven most populous nations in Latin America — Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela and Chile — will all be beneath leftwing rule.