BANNING fossil fuels, forbidding new contracts for oil exploration and fighting climate change is now top of the agenda for the traditionally conservative nation of Colombia.
Gustavo Petro, a guerilla fighter turned socialist politician, narrowly saw off the centre-right Rodolfo Hernandez last week to continue the flow of the Pink Tide across Latin America.
“As of today, Colombia is changing, a real change that guides us to one of our aims: the politics of love … of understanding and dialogue,” Petro told supporters after his victory.
And it’s the “real change” factor that should be emphasised. Colombia has historically been a nation of political turmoil, even considering the dramatic politics that surrounds the continent.
It was only 2017 that a definitive ceasefire and disarmament agreement was agreed between Farc guerilla rebels and the government. Petro, a former member of the M-19 group, has pledged to shore up the deal and seek talks with ELN rebels.
Under a string of centrist and conservative Presidents, Colombia has long been one of Washington’s closest allies in South America.
But the socio-economic situation in the country has continued to deteriorate, even after peace talks stepped up.
Petro, who lost comfortably to Ivan Duque in 2018, ran on an explicitly anti-oil and pro-environmental justice campaign. His momentum was buoyed by a months-long series of protests against increased taxes, corruption, and health care reform proposed by Duque. The violent clashes eventually resulted in the withdrawal of the health and tax proposals, as well as the resignation of the Chancellor.
Against this backdrop, Petro was able to sweep a traditional voter base with him to the Left.
Leftists across South America have already welcomed the news – albeit tentatively.
Nicolas Maduro, who appears to have staved off being the first socialist domino to fall on the continent, said: “I congratulate Gustavo Petro and Francia Marquez, for the historic victory in the presidential elections in Colombia.
“The will of the Colombian people was heard, who came out to defend the path of democracy and peace. New times are on the horizon for this brother country.”
Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador added: “Gustavo Petro’s victory is historic. Colombia’s conservatives have always been tenacious and tough.”
The White House has released terse statements suggesting they would continue to partner with Colombia – but should Petro stray too close to Marx, we may well see the sabotage the US is so adept at within the continent.
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