Sunday, December 04, 2022

Petro Faces Challenges to Deliver Changes Promised by Colombians

Petro Faces Challenges to Deliver Changes Promised by Colombians

BOGOTA, Colombia ( Associated Press) — Colombia has elected a left-wing candidate for the first time as its next president, but the weak victory is a sign that much of the country is rejecting the ambitious proposals of Gustavo Petro, who will have to heed their concerns and negotiate with a divided Congress to be able to manage, not to mention keep promises.

Petro, in his third run for the presidency, defeated another anti-establishment candidate, real estate mogul Rodolfo Hernandez, by three percentage points on Sunday in a runoff election that was an indictment of the centrist and right-wing politics that have long dominated. nation of South America.

But the former rebel-turned-president-elect faces a fierce battle to bring about the change his supporters want as the nation grapples with rising inequality, inflation and violence.

“Petro had very high expectations for his proposals, and when he delivered his winning speech, he kind of exaggerated those expectations,” said Silvana Amaya, senior analyst at Control Risks.

“Therefore, there is a lot of room for disappointment if he does not live up to the expectations that people have, especially young people, because they expect life to be completely different from all those social reforms that he proposes.”

Petro proposed pension, tax, health and agricultural reforms, as well as changes to how Colombia fights drug cartels and other armed groups. But his coalition has only about 15% of the seats in Congress, which will force him to make deals, limit some reforms or even abandon others.

Amaya said a negotiated scaled-down version of Petro’s proposed tax reform to raise revenue could be passed by Congress, as its absence could put the government’s finances in question. But other plans are likely to stall, she said. He wants tax reform to fund social programs, including free higher education and subsidies for mothers who are heads of household.

Paying tribute to the resistance, Petro, during his victory speech, turned to the other half of Colombia that did not vote for him and proposed a “great national dialogue” involving his most staunch opponents to reach a consensus.

“The fact that this platform led him to victory indicates that most Colombians believe that the state should play a larger role in providing social services such as health care, welfare and education,” Erica Fraga, Senior Analyst at The Economist The Intelligence Unit, a research group affiliated with The Economist, said in a statement.

But, Fraga added, “…Unless he shows a willingness to compromise and soften some of his radical proposals, his ability to deliver on his promises will be undermined, leading to a fall in his popularity and an increased risk of social unrest.” ”

Petro’s speech was the last political victory for the left in Latin America, fueled by voters’ desire for change. Chile, Peru and Honduras all elected left-wing presidents in 2021, and in Brazil, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva leads the polls in this year’s presidential election.

Petro, 62, will be officially declared the winner after a formal vote count that will take several days. Historically, preliminary results coincided with the final ones.

Some 21.6 million of the 39 million eligible voters cast their ballots on Sunday. Absenceism has been above 40% in every presidential election since 1990.

President Ivan Duque was not eligible for re-election.

Polls ahead of the second runoff showed Petro and Hernandez – both former mayors – in a tight race as they edged out four other candidates in the first election on May 29. None of them received enough votes to win and advanced to the second round.

Petro’s victory in Latin America’s third most populous country was larger than Hernandez’s defeat. It also ended Colombia’s long-standing stigmatization of the left for their alleged connection to the armed conflict that lasted five decades with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia until 2016 with the signing of a peace agreement. Petro was once a rebel in the now-defunct M-19 movement and was imprisoned for being part of a group that signed the peace agreement in 1991.

Sunday’s results also gave Colombia its first black female vice president. Petro’s partner, Francia Marquez, 40, is a lawyer and environmental leader whose opposition to illegal mining led to threats and a grenade attack in 2019.

While her election is historic, some see her as a potential handicap for Petro due to her unwillingness to make concessions to traditional parties.

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

“We have witnessed how unproductive Ivan Duque’s first year was when he did not give in to the pig barrel policy and succumbed to the content of his original package of laws,” Guzmán said. “It is unlikely that the future president will want to repeat the same experience.”


Garcia Cano reported from Caracas, Venezuela.

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