Gustavo Petro wins Colombian presidential race

The former guerrilla won by a small margin against 77-year-old entrepreneur Rodolfo Hernandez with over 50% of the vote. in this historic victory His running mate Francia Marquez Will now become the first Afro-Colombian to have executive powers.

“Let’s celebrate the first popular victory. So many sorrows in joy that flood the heart of the motherland today,” Petro tweeted in celebration on Sunday night.

Outgoing Colombian President Ivan Duque said he called on Petro to congratulate him on his victory, adding that they “agreed to meet in the coming days to begin a harmonious, institutional and transparent transition.”

Soon after Petro claimed victory, the rival hernandez Made a speech and said that he had accepted the result.

“I accept the outcome as it should be if we want our institutions to be stronger. I sincerely hope that this decision that has been taken is beneficial for all and that Colombia is moving towards the change that it has made in the first round. I was in the vote,” he said.

Hernandez also said that he hopes Petro knows how to lead the country and “(Petro) is faithful to his speech against corruption and does not disappoint those who trust him.”

Both candidates had raced on promises of change, in an attempt to take advantage of what many Colombians are fed up with the duke – a leader whose tenure was defined by his administration’s handling of police conduct, inequality and conflict between organized criminal groups. has been done.

Petro, 62, had already seen two unsuccessful presidential bids in 2010 and 2018. Sunday’s run-off vote shows he has finally overcome the hesitation of voters who once saw him as a radical left-wing outsider – no small feat for a politician. To win over one of the most conservative countries in South America.

The support the Petro has received can be partly attributed to Colombia’s deteriorating socioeconomic situation, with deteriorating living conditions made worse by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

While Colombia has seen impressive economic growth in recent years, the rate of inequality remains among the highest in the world, with almost half of Colombians saying the economy is headed in the wrong direction, according to one Recent Gallup Polls,

Petro has historically campaigned in favor of higher corporate taxes and public subsidies for the working class and poor, a strategy that could help them attract more people from that demographic to their camp.

Petro’s party and allies were already the largest bloc in the Senate – although they do not control the majority of seats.

a checkered past

Born in the rural northern Colombian town of Cienaga de Oro, Petro spent his youth as a left-wing guerrilla movement, the Movement of April 19 (M19) — founded to protest allegations of fraud in the 1970 elections .

The group was part of a so-called second wave of guerrilla movements in the country, which affected the region under the influence of the Cuban Revolution in the 1970s.

M19 was linked to illegal activity – including alleged kidnapping for ransom – but Petro says it carried out legal activities aimed at getting people to stand up for “false democracy”, even That also serve as a councilor in the city. Zipaquira.

Petro was taken into custody by the police in 1985 for concealing a weapon. Shortly after, M19 launched an attack to capture Bogota’s Supreme Court building, killing at least 98 people, including 12 magistrates (11 are still missing). Petro denied that he was involved in the attack, which occurred while he was behind bars.

Colombian forces guard a group of magistrates leaving the Palace of Justice in Bogota on November 6, 1985.

When Petro was released in 1987, after 18 months in military prison, his ideological outlook had changed. He said that timing helped him to realize that an armed revolution was not the best strategy to garner popular support.

Two years later, the M19 entered into peace talks with the Colombian state, with Petro ready to fight the system from the inside.

a steady campaign

Since losing the 2018 election, Petro has consistently tried to downplay fears that his economic plan – which also proposes halting fossil fuel exploration and rethinking international trade agreements – would be too radical for Colombia. ” Is. Since then he has surrounded himself with more traditional politicians who can build bridges with the establishment.

Now, he is presenting himself as a new kind of progressive.

In April, he signed a pledge not to occupy any private land if elected. He has also tipped a moderate to be his economic minister, and has sought to forge international relations with new progressives such as the United States Congressional Progressive Caucus, rather than traditional leftist leaders such as Bolivia’s Evo Morales.

Petro speaks during his closing campaign rally ahead of the first round of the presidential election on May 22 in Bogota, Colombia.

His critics have stated that he is very intellectual and aloof – if not outright pedantic, with even his own campaign team referring to him as a “petroxplanner”, reflecting his tendency to lecture. looking at.

To counter this, he’s campaigning in some of the country’s poorest areas, where he’s interacting with locals in conversations streamed on Instagram.

Petro bets Colombians to believe in him as a developed politician, telling CNN that he has managed to successfully combine his revolutionary enthusiasm with practicing public management.

Next, the former guerrilla – whose name-de-guerre is derived from Aureliano Buendia author Gabriel García Márquez’s magical realism classic, One Hundred Years of Solitude – hopes to trigger a scientific revolution in Colombia, prompting economists to make his proposals. tells to run through.

“Magical realism comes from the heart whereas my scientific propositions are from the brain. You need both of them to rule,” he said.

Reporting contributed by CNN’s Michelle Velez.