The Stakes in Colombia's Election


Gustavo Petro, presidential candidate of the Colombia Humana get together, speaks throughout an election evening rally following the first-round presidential election in Bogota, Colombia, May 29.


Nathalia Angarita/Bloomberg News

Much of Latin America has been sliding to the authoritarian left within the final 20 years, however Colombia has been an exception. That standing faces a stern check on Sunday when Colombians go to the polls to elect a brand new President. The stakes are excessive for the U.S., too, given the dangers that the nation might develop into one other Venezuela.

The selection in Colombia is between Gustavo Petro, an ideological ally, admirer and shut good friend of Venezuela’s

Hugo Chávez,


Rodolfo Hernández,

a businessman and former mayor who vows to defeat corruption. Both are antiestablishment populists, however solely Mr. Petro went to the funeral of Chávez and declared the Venezuelan to have been “a great Latin American leader.” In 2003 Colombia’s Dinero journal described him as “one of the closest advisers of Chávez in the new model being implemented in Venezuela.”

Mr. Petro started in politics as a member of the M-19 terrorist group. In 1985 he was captured and convicted by a army tribunal for unlawful weapons possession. A month after his arrest, M-19 snuck into the palace of justice and unleashed a bloody rampage. The army rescued tons of of hostages, however some 100 individuals, together with 11 Supreme Court magistrates, have been murdered.

M-19 agreed to disarm in 1990 and the rebels obtained amnesty. Mr. Petro has since defined away his M-19 days as ardour for true democracy. Yet his file in authorized politics hardly evokes confidence.

He has been an elected congressman and senator. But he’s additionally an advocate of bringing mobs to the streets to realize his targets. He has lengthy known as for a rewrite of the Colombian structure, although he has backed off that language throughout this marketing campaign. As mayor of Bogotá (2012-2015 with a quick interregnum for mismanaging metropolis sanitation), he confirmed an autocratic streak, which even his supporters anxious about.

The Petro agenda is a mixture of leftwing economics, woke ideology and local weather activism. He desires to boost taxes on the 4,000 richest Colombians, in addition to seize pension belongings saved in non-public accounts and drive everybody right into a state system. Petroleum is Colombia’s prime export, however Mr. Petro says he’ll ban fracking and new oil exploration. He’d substitute the oil business with tourism.

Mr. Hernández is not any free-market paragon, favoring subsidies and protectionism for sure industries. Like Mr. Petro, Mr. Hernández says he’d respect the settlement that Colombia made with the insurgent FARC in 2016. Both candidates say they need to negotiate with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas who nonetheless follow terrorism throughout the nation.

But Mr. Hernández has no historical past as an autocrat, and his criticism of Colombia’s unpopular political elites—of which Mr. Petro is a member—has struck a chord with Colombians. Mr. Hernández is near Mr. Petro within the polls regardless of his age at 77, and he’s gained for the reason that first spherical of voting as voters fear that Mr. Petro is a risk to Colombia’s democratic establishments, notably the courts and the electoral authority.

The sample of the Latin American left has been to win one election, then rig establishments to stay in energy. Mr. Petro nonetheless describes himself as a revolutionary, and he has stated that if his progressive agenda doesn’t win, the nation ought to anticipate a return to sectarian violence. That feels like a risk and a promise, and Colombians have been warned.

Journal Editorial Report: The week’s greatest and worst from Kim Strassel, Jason Riley and Dan Henninger. Images: AFP/Getty Images/Reuters/Zuma Press Composite: Mark Kelly

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