Colombia elects Gustavo Petro as the country’s first leftist president

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Former rebel fighter Gustavo Petro is set to become Colombia’s first left-wing president after narrowly beating millionaire businessman Rodolfo Hernández in Sunday’s runoff election, preliminary results show.

The big picture: Petro’s running mate Francia Márquez will become Colombia’s first black vice president.

  • Petro received more than 50.4% of the vote, compared to 47.26% for Hernández, with more than 99% of the ballots counted Sunday evening, according to the first results published by the national registry office. Official results are expected later this week.

Driving the news: Sunday’s second round was expected to shake up Colombia’s political and economic landscape, whoever wins.

  • The success of Petro and Hernández – two anti-establishment figures – in the first round of elections late last month was seen as a blow to Colombia’s political class. They entered Sunday’s second round virtually tied in the polls.
  • Petro will replace the very unpopular President Iván Duque, who was unable to run again.
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State of play: Colombia, one of the largest economies in Latin America and one of the strongest allies of the United States, faces high inflation and rising unemployment and inequality.

  • He is also still reeling from a half-century armed conflict with the now defunct FARC guerrillas. The country has seen an upsurge in violence, in part due to fighting by armed groups in territory formerly controlled by the FARC.
  • Petro, a former mayor of Bogota who was once a rebel fighter in the now-defunct M-19 movement, has vowed to fight inequality, provide free public university education and fight climate change, including by opposing the expansion of the oil and gas industry. He also pledged to transform the economy by implementing tax reforms and other measures.
  • Petro and Márquez campaigned on a promise to create a Ministry of Equality, which will be headed by the vice president. The Afro-Colombian population is large but has historically been marginalized in the country.
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What they say : “Today is a day when the people rejoice. Let us celebrate the people’s first victory and let all our sufferings be eased by the joy at the heart of our nation,” Petro tweeted because the results fell on Sunday.

  • “This victory is for God and the people and their history. Today we celebrate in the streets and squares.”
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Conceding his loss, Hernández said: “I wish Gustavo Petro the wisdom to know how to lead the nation, that he keeps his promises to fight corruption and that he does not let down those who supported him.”

The big picture: Petro’s victory comes amid a surge in support for left-leaning candidates across Latin America.

  • Chile and Honduras voted last year for leftist candidates to replace conservative leaders.

And after: The grand opening is scheduled for August 7.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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