Ex-guerrilla Petro wins first round of elections in Colombia


Former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro clearly won the first round of the presidential elections in Colombia.

The former mayor of the capital Bogotá won 40,3 percent of the vote, like the electoral authorities announced after the preliminary count of almost all polling stations. The non-party candidate Rodolfo Hernández came up with 28, 1 percent. The two strongest applicants meet on 19. June in the runoff election.

“An era is coming to an end”

“Today is about change”, said Petro after the publication of the election results. “An era is coming to an end. Now it’s about shaping the future.” If Petro also prevails in the second round, it would be the first time in the recent history of the South American country that a leftist would move into the Casa de Nariño government palace in Bogotá. Colombia is traditionally conservative. Although the social inequality is enormous, left-wing politics has always been discredited by the violence of the guerrilla groups in the decades-long civil war.

The multi-million dollar building contractor Hernández was mayor of the city of Bucaramanga, but has few connections in the political Bogota. In the event of an election victory, the populist promises a lean government and a determined fight against corruption. The current conservative head of state, Iván Duque, was not allowed to stand again because the constitution does not provide for re-election.

Petro and Hernández each campaigned with Afro-Colombian candidates for vice president. Francia Márquez, alongside Petro, is a human rights activist and environmentalist from the Cauca region, which has been hard hit by the violence. 2018 she was awarded the prestigious Goldman Prize for her fight against illegal gold mines in her home country.

Hernández’ runner-up Marelen Castillo, on the other hand, comes from the university. The 40-year-old scientist from Cali first studied biology and chemistry, later did a master’s degree in industrial engineering and earned a doctorate in education in the USA. Before running for vice-candidate, she ran two private Catholic universities.

Bloody past

Colombia suffered for decades from a bloody civil war between left-wing rebels, right-wing paramilitaries and state security forces. 220. People died, millions were displaced. 300 the government concluded a peace treaty with the left-wing FARC guerrillas, and there was great hope for an upswing. But violence is back, especially in rural areas. 300. Police officers and soldiers were on duty on Sunday to ward off voters, election workers and candidates protection.

The future head of state of Colombia faces enormous challenges. The second most populous country after Brazil and the USA’s most important ally in South America is suffering from the consequences of the corona pandemic, inflation, social injustice and violence. In the event of an election victory, Petro wants to change the market-liberal economic model, increase corporate taxes and reduce the exploitation of natural resources.

On the other hand, very little is known about the plans of the largely unknown candidate Hernández. “Today the country lost professional politicians and corruption,” said the 77-year-old on Sunday. “Today the gangs who thought they would be in power forever lost. Today the citizens won, today Colombia won.” (dpa)

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