BOGOTÁ ( Associated Press) — Colombia began a new political cycle on Sunday with the coming to power of Gustavo Petro, the first left-wing president in the republic’s 200-year history and a former guerrilla armed forces fighting groups for decades. will take over the command. illegal.
The presidential sash that Petro, 62, will wear, faces the challenges of overcoming escalating violence that has claimed the lives of more than 560 human rights defenders since 2016, the highest inflation in the past two decades and a search for consensus Is. In a divided country.
His aim to improve agriculture, power generation, police, pensions and tax collection fears many sectors will be affected. But there is hope in his voters: Petro promised him a nation with less inequality, one that would guarantee the rights of all its citizens – especially the most vulnerable – and that would prioritize the environment.
In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the north of the country, Petro attended his first symbolic opening ceremony in front of the Aruhaco indigenous people, two days before his official opening. A mamo—the highest hierarchy of the community—asked him to respond to the demands of the society and gave him a cane that represents wisdom.
Colombia’s cultural diversity will be reflected in the opening ceremony and prologue, with dozens of artists performing national rhythms in the city center’s parks.
The Plaza de Bolivar will be divided into two parts: the first part will house representatives of different countries, including King Felipe VI of Spain, and the second will the citizens, breaking the tradition of a private ceremony.
In his youth, Petro rebelled in the nationalist guerrilla M-19, which gave up arms after signing a peace deal with the state in 1991.
His past as a rebel weighs heavily on some of the soldiers who will be under him from now on. “We do not expect any disturbance, saber rattle or any of these armed activity,” retired Colonel John Marulanda, president of the Colombian Association of Retired Armed Forces Officers, told the Associated Press.
Marulanda stressed that although it is difficult for soldiers fighting the M-19 to accept Petro’s rise to power, new generations have more hope than resistance.
According to the Truth Commission, the Petro embodies a left that has been marginalized and sometimes stigmatized by the weight of five decades of internal armed conflict, in which 50,770 people were kidnapped, 121,768 disappeared, 450,664 were murdered and 7.7 million were forcibly displaced.
Although the country went through a post-conflict five-year period following the signing of a peace deal between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—the oldest guerrilla group in Latin America—the treaty did end the violence. Do not
Petro aspires to achieve a “complete peace”, which would mean resumption of dialogue with drug trafficking criminal gangs – such as the Clan del Golfo – and the last guerrilla-active National Liberation Army (ELN). submit to justice. in country.
Economists, joining the wave of left-wing and progressive presidents in the region, will seek to strengthen ties with their neighbors, and especially with Venezuela, a country with which Colombia severed ties in 2019.
Political analyst Sandra Borda explained to the Associated Press that the aim of improving relations with Venezuela is tied to the possibility that that country facilitates talks with the ELN.
After being elected, Petro took a more liberal stance on some issues, the analyst said, and sought dialogue with his political opponents, which resulted in widespread support and a significant majority in Congress moving forward through a tax reform that would reduce taxes. will increase. classes and give him resources to finance social programs.
However, he has also taken a risky step by appointing Ivan Velasquez as defense minister, which Borda insists, points to a process of internal transformation of the armed forces to end corruption and promote respect for human rights. which could strain relations with the new government.
There is great hope in the business community and markets for the content of tax reform and other measures, such as a possible suspension of the granting of mining and oil exploration licenses aimed at accelerating the energy transition. The energy sector contributes about 18% of the country’s fiscal income and is the first line of export.
Ricardo Triana, executive director of the Council of American Companies – which brings together more than 100 American companies in 17 sectors – assured that at a meeting before his election, Petro had promised him that it would follow the already signed contracts. Will respect and invest in March.