BOGOTA, Colombia ( Associated Press) — Colombians emerging from the coronavirus pandemic will vote on Sunday for their next president, choosing from six candidates who all promise varying degrees of change amid rising inequality, inflation, violence and dissatisfaction with the status quo. Huh.
The ballot includes former rebel Gustavo Petro, who could become Colombia’s first leftist president on Sunday if he gets the 50% of the votes needed to win in the first round. If no one receives more than half of the votes, a runoff will be conducted between the two top vote recipients.
Pre-vote polls show Petro leading but failed to get 50%. Behind him is a populist real estate tycoon who promises monetary rewards for tips on corrupt officials and a right-wing candidate who has tried to distance himself from the widely disliked conservative current president, Ivan Duque.
This is the second presidential election since the government signed a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, but the divisive agreement was not a central campaign issue as issues such as poverty and corruption attracted attention. .
This will be Petro’s third attempt to become the President of the country of South America. He was defeated in 2018 by Duke, who is not eligible for re-election.
His victory would herald a new political era in a country that has always been ruled by conservatives or moderates, while marginalizing the Left because of its perceived association with the country’s armed struggle. He was once a rebel with the now-defunct M-19 movement and was granted amnesty after being imprisoned for his involvement with the group.
He has promised to make significant adjustments to the economy, including tax reform, as well as changes to the way he fights the Colombian drug cartel and other armed groups. His main rival for much of the campaign has been Federico Gutierrez, the former mayor of Medellin, who is backed by most of Colombia’s traditional parties and runs on a pro-business, economic development platform.
Gutierrez has promised to fight hunger with subsidies and expanding public-private alliances so that 10 tons of food wasted each year is destined for the poorest.
A Gallup poll conducted earlier this month showed that 75% of Colombians believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and only 27% approve of Duque. A survey last year by Gallup found that 60% of those questioned were having trouble with their household income.
The coronavirus pandemic set back the country’s anti-poverty efforts by at least a decade. Official data showed that 39% of Colombia’s 51.6 million residents lived on less than $89 a month last year, a slight improvement from the 42.5% rate in 2020.
Meanwhile, the country’s inflation reached the highest level of two decades last month. Duke’s administration has justified the April rate of 9.2% for April by saying it is part of a global inflation phenomenon, but the argument has not quelled public discontent over the rise in food prices.
In addition to economic challenges, Colombia’s next president will also face a complex security issue and corruption, which are voters’ top concerns.
The Red Cross concluded last year that Colombia had reached its highest level of violence in the past five years. Although a peace agreement with the FARC has been implemented, the areas controlled by it and drug trafficking routes have been in dispute among other armed groups such as the National Liberation Army, or ELN, a guerrilla established in the 1960s, among FARC dissidents. Huh. and the Clan del Golfo Cartel.
The Duke’s successor will have to decide whether to resume peace talks with the ELN, which he suspended in 2019 after an attack killed more than 20 people.
Aware of voters’ corruption concerns, real estate tycoon Rodolfo Hernandez has put the issue at the center of his campaign. Hernandez, the former mayor of Bucaramanga, rose to a surprise at the campaign’s final stage after promising to “clean” the country of corruption and donate his salary, among other measures.
The other candidates on the ballot are Sergio Fajardo, the former mayor of Medellin and the candidate of the Center Coalition; Christian leader John Milton Rodriguez; and conservative Enrique Gomez.
García Cano reported from Caracas, Venezuela.