Ex-rebel Gustavo Petro wins Colombia’s presidential election

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Gustavo Petro, the leftist former mayor of Bogota and ex-rebel fighter, has been declared the winner of Colombia’s presidential election.

Mr Petro, a current senator, defeated right-wing construction magnate Rodolfo Hernández in Sunday’s run-off election.

Figures showed he took 50.5% of the votes, defeating his rival by more than 700,000 ballots to become Colombia’s first left-wing leader.

The 62-year-old hailed what he called a “victory for God and for the people”.

“May so much suffering be cushioned by the joy that today floods the heart of the homeland.

 “Today is the day of the streets and squares.” Mr Petro wrote on Twitter.

His running mate Francia Marquez, a single mother and former housekeeper, will become the country’s first black woman vice-president.

Hernandez concedes defeat

In a video posted to social media, Mr Hernandez, who ran a non-traditional campaign that relied heavily on TikTok and other social media, conceded to Mr Petro.

“Colombians, today the majority of citizens have chosen the other candidate. As I said during the campaign, I accept the results of this election,” he said.

“I hope that Mr Gustavo Petro knows how to run the country and is faithful to his discourse against corruption,” he added.

President Ivan Duque, who was barred from seeking re-election by Colombia’s term limits, said on Twitter that he has called Mr Petro to congratulate him and said they have “agreed to meet in the coming days to initiate a harmonious, institutional and transparent transition”.

Mr Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement, ran on a radical manifesto and pledged during the campaign to fight inequality by providing free university education, pension reforms and high taxes on unproductive land.

He has also pledged to fully implement a 2016 peace deal that ended a 50-year-long conflict with the communist guerrilla group, Farc, and to seek negotiations with the still-active ELN rebels.

The campaign marked Mr Petro’s third run for the presidency. He finished fourth in 2010 and was comfortably defeated in a run-off by Mr Duque in 2018.

While some of his proposals have startled investors – including a planned ban on new oil projects – many voters said they voted for him to tackle some of Colombia’s intractable problems, such as corruption, widespread poverty and a surge in political violence.

But Mr Petro will face challenges from a fragmented congress, which includes representatives of more than a dozen parties.

“Given current levels of polarization and existing political, economic, social and humanitarian crises, the Petro government will face significant challenges,” Prof Arlene Tickner, an international relations lecturer at Bogota University, told the reporters.

“An important first step that has already been taken by the president-elect is to initiate efforts to build a broad national coalition in order to enhance his governability.”

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Diego Molano told journalists on Sunday afternoon that the killing of an electoral volunteer in Guapi, Cauca province, was under investigation.

Some 320,000 police and military were deployed across Colombia during the election amid fears that the result could spark political violence.

Elsewhere, 60 voting locations had to be moved because of heavy rains in some parts of the country.

 

BBC/Zainab Sa’id