Gustavo Petro, an economist and former M-19 guerrilla fighter, won Colombia’s presidential elections this Sunday (19) and became the first left-wing president to be chosen by Colombians.
He won the candidate Rodolfo Hernández, businessman and former mayor of the city of Bucaramanga, who had surprised in the first round.
Petro had 50.49% of the vote, and Hernández, 47.25%, according to information from the national vote-counting body. There were about 22 million votes.
The difference was about 717 thousand votes. The polls indicated a technical tie between Petro and Hernández, but pointed to a small advantage for the candidate who, in the end, was defeated.
This was Petro’s third run for president.
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Shortly after the results were announced, he made a comment on social networks: “Today is a day of celebration for the people. May they celebrate the first popular victory. May so much suffering be absorbed by the joy that today floods the heart of the country. it is for God and for the people and their history. Today is the day of the streets and squares”.
Francia Márquez, who is on the ticket with Petro, will be the country’s first black vice president.
Petro was elected promising to democratize the country’s economy.
Women hug each other at Gustavo Petro’s front HQ in Colombia on June 19, 2022 — Photo: Vannessa Jimenez/Reuters
“The change we propose today is to overthrow this corrupt regime, take the thief and murderer out of power,” Petro said at a political event on May 16, in a heavy reference to the Colombian political status quo.
He had 40.4% of the votes in the first round, a good advantage over the second place, Rodolfo Hernández, who had 27.9% of the votes.
With a government proposal very focused on internal actions in Colombia, in his speeches and interviews Petro does not talk much about other Latin American countries or what the relationship of a Colombia he governed with Brazil would be like. His projects for the Amazon only mention the Colombian portion of the forest.
He was born in the city of Ciénaga de Oro, in the province of Córdoba, on April 19, 1960. Ten years later, on his birthday, an election allegedly rigged by the conservative wing of Colombia took place. This mobilized the creation of the guerrilla group Movimento 19 de Abril, known as M-19.
At the age of 17, Petro entered the M-19 and his participation in the group marks his entire political career. He was arrested in 1985 for illegal possession of weapons. According to his own account, he was tortured by the army and then served 18 months in jail.
Because he was trapped, Petro did not participate in one of the most striking attacks in the history of the M-19. On November 6 and 7, 1985, the group invaded the Palace of Justice and took more than 300 people hostage. The takeover lasted 28 hours and ended in a clash with the army. The action left more than 100 dead, including the president of the Supreme Court, Alfonso Reyes Echandía.
In parallel to his role in the guerrillas, Petro graduated in Economics at the Externado University in Bogotá.
The guerrilla group turned into a political party in 1990, becoming the M-19 Democratic Alliance. Petro was one of the founders.
His party took an active part in the creation of the new Constitution of Colombia in 1990. In 1991, Petro was elected deputy for 4 years. Then, after death threats, he spent 2 years in Belgium, as an employee of the Colombian embassy. In 1998 he served a second term as deputy, but for another party he founded with other former militants who left the M-19.
He achieved greater political prominence when he was a senator between 2006 and 2010, the third most voted. He gained great popularity for making allegations of corruption. He revealed links between politicians and criminal factions, as well as illegal schemes involving then-President Álvaro Uribe.
He ran for the presidency for the first time in 2010, but won just over 9% of the votes.
After the defeat, he ran for mayor of Bogotá, an election from which he emerged victorious. Petro boasts of having created the Women’s Secretariat and for social advances in the areas of health, employment and poverty reduction during his term as mayor.
In 2018, again running for president, Petro was criticized for his friendship with the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. He was accused by the opposition of wanting to turn the country into a Venezuela. He lost the election in the second round to Iván Duque.