Gustavo Petro takes office in return of the left to power

After decades, the left is back in power in Colombia today. A great popular party marks the inauguration of President Gustavo Petro and his vice, Francia Márquez. The economist and former guerrilla fighter assumes an impoverished country, with a high rate of unemployment, high interest rates, thousands of Venezuelan immigrants and that a few months ago was shaken by violent popular protests.

With a long political trajectory and a controversial guerrilla past, at the age of 62, Petro takes office in a hopeful Colombia with a favorable outlook for the population. After running for office for the third time, the leftist was elected last June with more than 11 million votes. During his term, scheduled until 2026, Petro must implement structural and ethical reforms, as he promised during the presidential campaign.

The new Colombian president wants his inauguration to be “a great popular party”. The event starts at 10 am local time (noon in Brasília), but the official ceremony is scheduled for 3 pm local time (5 pm in Brasília).

A strong security system has been organized so that more than 100,000 people can attend the celebrations in Plaza Bolivar, in Bogotá, where Colombian artists and personalities will perform. The inauguration will be broadcast in 32 cities across the country.

Petro requested that the original sword of national hero Simón Bolívar be displayed during the event. The historic object, inside an armored glass urn and under police surveillance, will be able to be admired up close by Colombians. Curiously, this same piece had been stolen by the M-19, a guerrilla group that Petro was a part of in the past.

Among the guests confirmed for the inauguration are King Felipe VI of Spain, the President of Chile, Gabriel Boric, of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, and of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader. The ex-president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff and the ex-presidents of Bolivia Evo Morales and Pepe Mujica of Uruguay will also be present at the ceremony.

Cabinet still incomplete

Although he has good leeway, both popular and in the Senate and Chamber of Colombia, Petro has been finding it difficult to recruit his team of ministers and his government will start incomplete. For the 18 ministries, only eight names were announced.

José Antonio Ocampo, a prestigious economist, was chosen for the Finance portfolio. The Ministry of Defense will be held by Iván Velásquez, who led the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala. Álvaro Leyva Durán, a conservative politician and recognized for being one of the famous peace managers in the country, was appointed to the Foreign Affairs portfolio. The newly created Ministry of Equality will be led by Vice President Francia Márquez, who is a lawyer and environmentalist.

Other shortcomings of the Petro government concern administrative departments. The reasons for the delay in the appointments are due to the alleged need for balance in the choice between the members of the Pacto Histórico coalition, which supported Petro to reach the presidency. In addition, several people invited by Petro refused to occupy the proposed positions.

In the days leading up to his coming to power, the leftist met with President Iván Duque (2018 and 2022), from whom he received the sash this Sunday. In the handover protocol, Petro was decorated. He also participated in an “ancestral possession” ceremony, celebrated by indigenous people in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia.

Since the presidential campaign, the former guerrilla has expressed a desire to preserve the nature of his native country. For this reason, he chose the natural landscapes of the Caño Cristales River as the image of his government, thus marking his familiarity with remote and rural Colombian regions.

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