Ex-rebel sworn in as Colombia’s president in historic shift

Colombia’s President-elect Gustavo Petro speaks to college students at Externado University in Bogota, Colombia, Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

Fernando Vergara/AP

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Fernando Vergara/AP

Colombia’s President-elect Gustavo Petro speaks to college students at Externado University in Bogota, Colombia, Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

Fernando Vergara/AP

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia’s first leftist president can be sworn into workplace Sunday, promising to battle inequality and heralding a turning level within the historical past of a rustic haunted by a protracted battle between the federal government and guerrilla teams.

Sen. Gustavo Petro, a former member of Colombia’s M-19 guerrilla group, gained the presidential election in June by beating conservative events that supplied average modifications to the market-friendly economic system, however failed to attach with voters pissed off by rising poverty and violence in opposition to human rights leaders and environmental teams in rural areas.

Petro is a part of a rising group of leftist politicians and political outsiders who’ve been successful elections in Latin America for the reason that pandemic broke out and harm incumbents who struggled with its financial aftershocks.

The ex-rebel’s victory was additionally distinctive for Colombia, the place voters had been traditionally reluctant to again leftist politicians who have been typically accused of being tender on crime or allied with guerrillas.

A 2016 peace deal between Colombia’s authorities and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia turned a lot of the main focus of voters away from the violent conflicts enjoying out in rural areas and gave prominence to issues like poverty and corruption, fueling the recognition of leftist events in nationwide elections.

Petro, 62, has promised to sort out Colombia’s social and financial inequalities by boosting spending on anti-poverty applications and rising funding in rural areas. He has described U.S.-led antinarcotics insurance policies, such because the pressured eradication of unlawful coca crops, as a “big failure.” But he has mentioned he wish to work with Washington “as equals,” constructing schemes to fight local weather change or deliver infrastructure to rural areas the place many farmers say coca leaves are the one viable crop.

Petro additionally fashioned alliances with environmentalists throughout his presidential marketing campaign and has promised to show Colombia right into a “global powerhouse for life” by slowing deforestation and taking steps to scale back the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The incoming president has mentioned Colombia will cease granting new licenses for oil exploration and can ban fracking initiatives, regardless that the oil business makes up nearly 50% of the nation’s authorized exports. He plans to finance social spending with a $10 billion a yr tax reform that will increase taxes on the wealthy and dispose of company tax breaks.

Petro has additionally mentioned he needs to begin peace talks with remaining insurgent teams which might be at present combating over drug routes, gold mines and different sources deserted by the FARC after their peace take care of the federal government.

“He’s got a very ambitious agenda,” mentioned Yan Basset, a political scientist at Bogota’s Rosario University. “But he will have to prioritize. The risk Petro faces is that he goes after too many reforms at once and gets nothing” via Colombia’s congress.

At least 10 heads of state are anticipated to attend Petro’s inauguration, which is able to happen at a big colonial-era sq. in entrance of Colombia’s Congress. Stages with dwell music and massive screens may even be positioned in parks throughout Bogota’s metropolis heart in order that tens of 1000’s of residents with out invites to the primary occasion can even be part of within the festivities. That’s a giant change for Colombia the place earlier presidential inaugurations have been extra somber occasions restricted to a couple hundred VIP friends.

“We want the Colombian people to be the protagonists,” Petro’s press chief, Marisol Rojas, mentioned in a press release. “This inauguration will be the first taste of a new form of governing, where all forms of life are respected, and where everyone fits in.”

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