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Gustavo Petro, former rebel warrior, elected president of Colombia

Colombia’s presidency has been won by Gustavo Petro, a former rebel warrior who has pledged significant social and economic transformation. Petro will become Colombia’s first left-wing president if he wins the presidential runoff election. He received 50.4 percent of the vote, while his opponent, construction magnate Rodolfo Hernandez, received 47.3 percent. Petro ran for president for the third time, and his triumph adds the Andean nation to a growing list of Latin American countries that have elected progressives in recent years.

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KEY POINTS:

  • Petro‘s victory, as a senator and former mayor of Bogota, signaled a sea change in presidential politics for a country that has traditionally shunned the left because of its alleged ties to the armed conflict. Petro was a member of the now-defunct M-19 movement and received amnesty after serving time in prison for his role with the organisation.
  • Petro, 62, called for unity and extended an olive branch to some of his sharpest opponents in his victory address, stating that all members of the opposition will be welcomed at the presidential palace to discuss Colombia’s problems.
  • Shortly after the results were released, outgoing conservative President Ivan Duque congratulated Petro, while Hernandez immediately acknowledged defeat.
  • Hernandez remarked in a video on social media that he accepts the verdict, as he should if they want our institutions to remain strong. He really hopes that everyone will benefit from this decision.
  • Petro has promised to address inequality by providing free university education, reforming pensions, and imposing heavy taxes on unproductive land. He has also promised to completely implement a 2016 peace agreement with FARC insurgents and to seek discussions with the ELN rebels, who are still active.

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