Petro faces challenges to fulfill Colombian promised turnaround

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia elected a leftist as its next president for the first time, but the low victory is a sign that a large part of the country rejects Gustavo Petro’s ambitious proposals, which his concerns and negotiate with a divided Congress to be able to govern, let alone deliver on promises.

Petro, in his third attempt to win the presidency, lost by three percentage points on Sunday to another anti-incumbency candidate, real estate tycoon Rodolfo Hernández, in a runoff election that became an indictment of centrist and right-wing politics. dominated for a long time. South American nation.

But the former rebel-turned-president-elect faces an uphill battle to deliver the changes his supporters want to see as the nation grapples with rising inequality, inflation and violence.

“Petro has set very high expectations from its proposals, and when he delivered his victory speech, he exceeded those expectations,” said Silvana Amaya, a senior analyst at the firm Control Risk.

“Therefore, there is a lot of room for despair if it does not meet the expectations that people, especially the younger population, have right now because they are expecting that life will be completely different from all the social reforms he is proposing. Huh.”

Petro has proposed pension, tax, health and agricultural reforms and changes to the way Colombia fights drug cartels and other armed groups. But his coalition only has 15% of the seats in Congress, which would force him to strike deals, curtail some reforms, or even give up on others.

Amaya said a negotiated, shortened version of Petro’s proposed revenue-raising tax reform could be approved by Congress because the absence of one could call into question the government’s finances. But other plans will likely stall, she said. He wants tax reform to finance social programs, including free higher education and subsidies for mothers who are head of household.

Pointing to resistance, Petro addressed the other half of Colombia during his victory speech, which did not vote for him, and proposed a “Great National Dialogue” involving his staunch opponents to achieve consensus.

Erica Fraga, senior analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said: “The fact that this platform led them to victory shows that the majority of Colombians believe that the state needs social security, such as health, social security and education.” It should play a bigger role in providing services.” The research group affiliated with the journal Economist said in a statement.

But, Fraga said, “…if he does not show a willingness to compromise and moderate some of his radical proposals, his ability to deliver on his promises will be diminished, reducing his popularity and social unrest.” risk will increase.”

Petro’s performance was the latest left-wing political victory in Latin America, fueled by voters’ desire for change. Chile, Peru and Honduras elected left-wing presidents in 2021, and in Brazil, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is leading the election for this year’s presidential election.

The 62-year-old will be officially declared the winner after a formal calculation that will take a few days. Historically, preliminary results have coincided with final results.

Of the 39 million eligible voters, about 21.6 million voted on Sunday. Moderationism has been above 40% in every presidential election since 1990.

President Ivan Duque was not eligible for re-election.

Elections before the runoff indicated that Petro and Hernandez – both former mayors – were in a tight race as they topped four other candidates in the early May 29 election. Neither got enough votes to win outright and went into the runoff.

Petro’s victory in Latin America’s third most populous country was far greater than Hernandez’s defeat. It also ended the Left’s longstanding stigma for its alleged involvement with the Colombian armed conflict, which lasted five decades until 2016 with the signing of a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Petro was a rebel with the once defunct M-19 movement and was imprisoned for his involvement with the group, which signed a peace deal in 1991.

Sunday’s results also made Colombia the first black female vice president. Petro’s running mate, 40-year-old Francia Marquez, is a lawyer and environmental leader whose protests against illegal mining led to threats and grenade attacks in 2019.

While his election is historic, some see him as a potential obstacle to Petro because of his reluctance to make concessions to traditional parties.

Sergio Guzmán, founder of the firm Colombia Risk Analysis, said Petro should show openness to sharing cabinet positions with other parties.

“We saw how unproductive Ivan Duque’s first year was, not getting into the politics of the ‘pork barrel’ and his dedication to the contents of his initial package of laws,” Guzmán said. “It is unlikely that the incoming president will want to repeat the same experience.”

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García Cano reported from Caracas, Venezuela.

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