Turning Left

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Leftist Senator Gustavo Petro won Colombia’s presidential elections Sunday, making him the first leftwing candidate and first former insurgent to be elected as president of the US’ key ally in Latin America, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Petro secured slightly more than 50 percent of the vote against his rival, real estate mogul Rodolfo Hernández, who won about 47 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Petro’s running mate, human rights activist Francia Márquez, will become vice president, the first Black politician and the second woman to hold that post.

The president-elect had campaigned on a platform of battling inequality and poverty in the country, as it faces one of the world’s highest levels of inequality, with poverty hovering around 40 percent from 35 percent in 2019.

He also vowed to end Colombia’s reliance on oil and coal in favor of renewable energy sources. He also pledged to end the way the US-backed war on drugs has been carried out, saying that he will negotiate with drug cartels and rebel groups.

His victory underscores a significant leftist shift in the region: A number of major Latin American countries are currently led by anti-establishment leftwing leaders – some of whom have frosty relations with the United States.

While many voters expressed hope for their new leader, others – including business owners – raised concerns about the future of the country.

Analysts noted that Petro’s energy policies could spook investors and lead to a rapid decline in oil production over the next five years.  At the same time, landholders remain skeptical of Petro’s pledges not to expropriate any property.

Meanwhile, analysts said the president-elect will face an uphill battle in Congress, where his coalition of left-wing parties holds just 25 of the 188 seats of the lower house.

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