Gustavo Petro: the final victory | Presidential Elections Colombia

Gustavo Petro has become the first left-wing president in the history of Colombia. He arrives hand in hand with Francia Márquez, the first black vice president. The candidate of the Historical Pact was running for the third time to preside over a country always managed by the conservative elite, which has once again tried to stop his rise, but the desire for change has been greater. Colombia enters a new political era.

“It is not a change to take revenge, it is not a change to build more hatred, it is not a change to deepen sectarianism in Colombian society,” were his first words as president-elect. He recalled that days ago he proposed a national agreement to put past quarrels behind him and that is why he said that he will invite Álvaro Uribe, his greatest historical rival, and Rodolfo Hernández, the defeated, to the Casa de Nariño (the presidential residence). . “It is not killing each other. It is loving each other,” he added.

They also held out their hands. “To defend democracy, it is necessary to abide by it. Gustavo Petro is the President. Let us be guided by a feeling: First Colombia”, wrote Uribe on Twitter. Hernández accepted the defeat with sportsmanship and called him on the phone to offer him his support to fulfill the promises of change for which the country voted. “Colombia will always count on me.” The current president, Iván Duque, did the same despite the disagreements between the two: “We agreed to meet in the coming days to start a harmonious, institutional and transparent transition.”

The world did not end this Sunday, as some Colombians feared. The elections were held in peace, there was no fraud, and the loser immediately conceded his defeat. The Colombian institutionality sometimes falters, but it never breaks. Petro’s arrival in power began to take shape with the 2016 peace accords, when the FARC laid down their arms and reintegrated into civilian life. Without the great ogre who delegitimized left-wing positions with his violence, the way was opened for a progressive option to govern in a traditional country.

That is why his first words were dedicated to shooing away any fear of those who fear him, who are not few. Although he also addressed those who have brought him here, the excluded. He asked the nation’s attorney general to free the young people arrested for last year’s protests and to reinstate the mayors who were dismissed for having campaigned for him. He assured that, under his mandate, that will not happen. “There will undoubtedly be opposition, and perhaps fierce, and perhaps tenacious, and perhaps we will not understand it many times,” Petro said. “But in this government that is beginning there will never be political or legal persecution.” Along the way, Petro has defeated the right and the continuity party, personified, in the first round, by Fico Gutiérrez. If that were not enough, in the second round he faced Rodolfo Hernández, a real estate businessman with an aggressive discourse against corruption and the ruling political class. He made rudeness and the elementary a capital of political sympathy. Hernández arrived on a populist engine that seemed unstoppable. Petro himself did not know how to face him during the first week of the second round. In the end, his strategy was to focus on Hernandez and his shortcomings as an impulsive and aggressive man. The result has proved him right.

The campaign has been exhausting. Petro against everyone, again. Fico received the support of businessmen and traditional parties. That was his strength and it ended up being his burden. Continuity, the same as always, had been born dead. Citizens demanded a change. Petro represented him from the left, but sociology failed by not knowing how to interpret that discontent is not only a progressive issue. Many of those unbelievers have supported Rodolfo Hernández.

Gustavo Petro and his wife, Verónica Alcocer, during the celebrations for his victory.
Gustavo Petro and his wife, Verónica Alcocer, during the celebrations for his victory.Camilo Rozo

Petro, suddenly, had to face someone whose engine of ascent was the same as his. The politician, accustomed to going against it, had to modify his speech. Faced with a man who is unaware of some of the basic functions of the State, who considers the entire bureaucracy a burden, Petro wanted to represent sensible change, not a leap into the void. He started at a disadvantage at the start of the second round because Hernández jumped on the wave of novelty. Everything that was beginning to be known about him was surprising and attractive. He made a fortune valued at 100 million dollars from a small town, Piedecuesta, located in a corner of the country. He won the mayoralty of the capital of his region, Bucaramaga, without the support of any party, only with his capital and the ideas of a younger philosopher brother. The speech was simple: the system was corrupted and he was going to clean it up, as if he were a character from Gotham. Most of his works were done in the poor neighborhoods. He installed synthetic soccer fields with giant screens and cable television so that the humblest could watch the World Cup matches. When he left office in 2019, his popularity exceeded 80%.

Now, Petro was facing this populist wave that has its roots in the same feeling of discontent with the established power that made Donald Trump president in the United States, that led to Brexit, the no to peace in the Colombian referendum and the rise of the extreme right in Europe. After finishing off the options of his historical enemies, Petro had to face the historical moment. The most difficult yet. The first week of the campaign he looked defeated. Hernández began to score above 50% in almost all the polls. Petrophobia, the irrational fear of his coming to power and everything that smacks of the left, prevailed. Hernández, on top of that, was a nice and innovative candidate.

That meant taking a closer look. Videos of his outbursts began to circulate. Sexist, homophobic and racist comments. At first, seeing the polls, for part of his electorate they were not necessarily negative positions. Fed up with political corruption, Hernández said in public what many thought in private. The woman was not made to rule; Venezuelan immigrants are factories for creating poor children. A video in which he hits an opposition councilor went viral again. In a television program he blasphemed against the virgin and that did cost him an upset: he has spent the last week visiting sanctuaries with a gesture of contrition.

The campaign started to drag on. The videos that came out about the discussions of Petro’s advisers gave him a break. Those recordings did not include what Petro’s advisers call a traumatic event: a clip in which he was seen saying something criminal or some serious outing. The images are of her advisers talking bluntly about how to destroy the image of his opponents. She wasn’t revealing anything that someone didn’t imagine behind the scenes, but she did spread a cloak of suspicion about the campaign. There Hernández tied the contest and both candidates went shoulder to shoulder last week.

The ghost debate arrived. Petro, skillful in the discussion, wanted a face to face with Hernández. The strategists of the former mayor of Bucaramanga were not going to expose themselves to something like this: his candidate is sanguine and foul-mouthed and loses his composure easily. A court in Bogotá ordered them to organize a face-to-face meeting. Petro celebrated, Hernández hid. That hit his image of a man thrown without fear of anything. He popularized a meme in which he was seen hiding under the bed.

Thus, Petro faced the final stretch with an advantage. “We won,” announced his campaign manager at the close of the polls. The count proved him right an hour later. The polls cast their final victory. And he finished the speech as he had been rehearsing at his rallies for two months: “I am Gustavo Petro and I am his president. I love them very much”.

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