Gustavo Petro takes oath as Colombian president in historic shift

Colombia’s first leftist president was sworn into workplace Sunday, promising to struggle inequality and produce peace to a rustic lengthy haunted by bloody feuds between the federal government, drug traffickers and insurgent teams.

Gustavo Petro, a former member of Colombia’s M-19 guerrilla group, gained the presidential election in June by beating conservative events that supplied average modifications to the market-friendly economic system, however failed to attach with voters annoyed by rising poverty and violence in opposition to human rights leaders and environmental teams in rural areas.

On Sunday, he stated Colombia was getting a “second chance” to sort out violence and poverty and promised that his authorities would implement financial insurance policies that search to finish longstanding inequalities and guarantee “solidarity” with the nation’s most weak.

Supporters of Colombia’s new President Gustavo Petro watch on an enormous TV display his swearing-in ceremony in San Antonio, on the Venezuelan border with Colombia, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. (AP Photo)

The incoming president stated he was keen to start out peace talks with armed teams throughout the nation and in addition known as on the United States and different developed nations to alter drug insurance policies which have centered on the prohibition of gear like cocaine, and fed violent conflicts throughout Colombia and different Latin American nations.

“It’s time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drugs has failed,” he stated. “Of course peace is possible. But it depends on current drug policies being substituted with strong measures that prevent consumption in developed societies.”

Petro is a part of a rising group of leftist politicians and political outsiders who’ve been successful elections in Latin America for the reason that pandemic broke out and harm incumbents who struggled with its financial aftershocks.

The ex-rebel’s victory was additionally distinctive for Colombia, the place voters had been traditionally reluctant to again leftist politicians who had been usually accused of being mushy on crime or allied with guerrillas.

A 2016 peace deal between Colombia’s authorities and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia turned the main focus of voters away from the violent conflicts taking part in out in rural areas and gave prominence to issues like poverty and corruption, fueling the recognition of leftist events in nationwide elections. However, smaller insurgent teams just like the National Liberation Army and the Gulf Clan proceed to struggle over drug trafficking routes, unlawful gold mines and different sources deserted by the FARC.

Petro, 62, has described US-led antinarcotics insurance policies as a failure however has additionally stated he want to work with Washington “as equals,” constructing schemes to fight local weather change or convey infrastructure to rural areas the place many farmers say coca leaves are the one viable crop.

Supporters of recent President Gustavo Petro show a portray of him with new Vice-President Francia Marquez as they wait for his or her swearing-in ceremony on the Bolivar sq. in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. (AP Photo)

Petro additionally shaped alliances with environmentalists throughout his presidential marketing campaign and has promised to show Colombia right into a “global powerhouse for life” by slowing deforestation and decreasing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

He has stated Colombia will cease granting new licenses for oil exploration and can ban fracking initiatives, despite the fact that the oil trade makes up virtually 50% of the nation’s authorized exports. He plans to finance social spending with a $10 billion a yr tax reform that might enhance taxes on the wealthy and cast off company tax breaks.

“He’s got a very ambitious agenda,” stated Yan Basset, a political scientist at Bogota’s Rosario University. “But he will have to prioritize. The risk Petro faces is that he goes after too many reforms at once and gets nothing” by means of Colombia’s congress.


Analysts count on Petro’s international coverage to be markedly totally different from that of his predecessor Iván Duque, a conservative who backed Washington’s drug insurance policies and labored with the US authorities to isolate the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in an try to pressure the authoritarian chief into holding free elections.

Petro has as an alternative stated he’ll acknowledge Maduro’s authorities and attempt to work with the Venezuelan president on a number of points, together with combating insurgent teams alongside the porous border between the international locations. Some border residents are hoping that improved relations will generate extra commerce and job alternatives.

Hours earlier than Petro took workplace, at a very powerful border crossing bridge with Venezuela, a gaggle of individuals carried a Colombian flag as they walked towards Venezuela chanting “Viva Colombia, Viva Venezuela!” Supporters of Maduro held a live performance on the Venezuelan aspect of the border.

In Cúcuta, a metropolis just some miles from the Venezuelan border, commerce faculty scholar Daniela Cárdenas is hoping Petro will perform an academic reform that features free tuition for school college students.

“He has promised so many things,” Cardenas, 19, stated after touring 90 minutes from her rural neighborhood to town. “We must work to be able to pay our student fees, which are quite expensive and, well, that makes many things difficult for us.”

Supporters of recent President Gustavo Petro chants slogans previous to his swearing-in ceremony on the Bolivar sq. in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022.(AP Photo)

Eight heads of state attended Petro’s inauguration, which was held at a big colonial-era sq. in entrance of Colombia’s Congress. Stages with reside music and massive screens had been additionally positioned in parks throughout Bogota’s metropolis middle in order that tens of hundreds of residents with out invites to the principle occasion might be a part of the festivities. That marked an enormous change for Colombia the place earlier presidential inaugurations had been extra somber occasions restricted to a couple hundred VIP friends.

“It’s the first time that people from the base can come here to be part of a presidential inauguration,” stated Luis Alberto Tombe, a member of the Guambiano tribe carrying a conventional blue poncho. “We feel honored to be here.”

But not everyone seems to be feeling so hopeful about Petro’s victory. In Medellin Stefan Bravo, a conservative activist, organized an anti-Petro march on Saturday that was joined by round 500 individuals. He’s fearful Colombia’s new president will erode the separation of powers within the South American nation, and observe the insurance policies of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

“Petro does not represent us,” Bravo stated. “This government will be a threat to family values, private property and foreign investment.”

Petro gained the election by simply 2 proportion factors, and remains to be a polarizing determine in Colombia, the place many have been cautious of getting former guerrillas take part in politics.

His Cabinet appointments have additionally been extremely scrutinized: The new president picked an internationally renown economics professor as his finance minister, whereas additionally selecting an educational who researches the unfavorable impacts of extractive industries as his minister for mining, and giving the labor ministry to the top of Colombia’s communist social gathering.

“I think he’s trying to forge a balance,” stated Sergio Guzmán, a political danger analyst in Bogota. “He has included the activists who he promised to make an integral part of his government, the centrist technocrats who give the markets confidence, and the different political parties with whom he has to govern to pass anything in congress.”

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