Elected on Sunday (19) as the first left-wing president in the history of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, former guerrilla and former mayor of Bogotá, of the Pacto Histórico coalition, was congratulated by Latin American leaders, especially those from his political spectrum, who promised to seek regional integration.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric , spoke of working “together for the unity of our continent” and Argentine Alberto Fernández claimed that Petro’s victory “guarantees the path to an integrated Latin America”.
The dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela also celebrated the victory of the ex-guerrilla. The island’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, highlighted “the will to deepen bilateral relations”, while the number two of Chavismo, Diosdado Cabello, said that Petro’s triumph changes “radically” relations between Colombia and Venezuela.
“For the simple fact that the oligarchy no longer governs, there is already a profound change in the relationship with our country”, he said.
The first round of the Colombian elections has already announced changes. The right-wing candidate, Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez, did not make it to the second round of voting. Last Sunday, two anti-system candidates competed – businessman Rodolfo Hernández was Petro’s competitor.
In an interview with the French communication network RFI, Sorbonne University professor Mathilde Allain pointed out, shortly before the second turn, that the disapproval of 70% of Iván Duque left a bad scenario for the Colombian right.
However , in February of this year, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) pointed out that the country had managed to recover “in a remarkable way” from the crisis caused by the Covid pandemic 19. After the 6.8% retraction in GDP in 2020, growth in 2021 was estimated at 9 .5% and the expectation is also for an increase in 2022 and 2023 (5.5% and 3.1%, respectively).
Nevertheless, the economic and health crisis has brought 3.5 million people to the poverty line in the country, which has, therefore, 21 millions of Colombians in this situation, equivalent to 42% of the population.
In an attempt to control the crisis, in the first half of 2020, Iván Duque announced a tax reform, which included an increase in ICMS over services and products. The measures caused violent demonstrations in Colombian cities, with the invasion of businesses and public institutions, which resulted in the death of about 40 people.
After announcing that “criminal organizations hide behind legitimate protests”, Duque withdrew the project that provided for the reform in the collection. The president ordered the militarization of the cities most at risk, but he faced resistance from some of them, including the refusal of the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López.
Taking advantage of the economic and social crisis, Gustavo Petro spoke on campaign on investing in the “prevalence” of civil authorities over the military and presented as one of the main proposals the dismantling of Esmad, the mobile anti-protest shock squad. He also proposed a tax reform that should increase taxes for the richest.
What Petro proposes
Petro has support from politicians who range from the center to the left, but he should find a minority in Congress, elected in March this year. His proposals involve, in addition to changes in the Armed Forces and taxation, agrarian and market reform.
Reform in the Armed Forces
During the campaign, Petro was identified by opponents as a “friend” of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and accused of not wanting to demand that the guerrillas fully comply with their part of the peace agreement of 2016, such as the surrender of all weapons.
In his first speeches as a candidate for president, Petro announced that, as soon as he took office, it would guarantee “the process of integral peace with all the actors of the violence”.
More than five years after the signing of the agreement, Colombia seems to be far from having peace. According to Indepaz, 152 social leaders in rural areas were murdered last year. The organization also counted more than 40 former FARC fighters who signed the peace agreement and were killed or disappeared.
In addition, the resumption of clashes between FARC dissidents and National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas has brought violence and terror to the border region with Venezuela.
The president-elect intends to profoundly affect the Colombian economy. During the campaign, Petro stressed that he believes that the current tax system favors the richest in the country. He then proposes, among other measures, a special taxation for dividends and transfers abroad. Its objective is to increase revenue “on the 4,000 largest fortunes in Colombia”.
Looking at large estates, Petro also wants to transform the country’s agricultural production. He promised to distribute land to low-income rural families, especially women. It also wants to increase taxes for unproductive properties of more than 500 hectares.
Since the peace accords with the FARC, in 2016, the country finds it difficult to redistribute land for planting that used to be used for illegal guerrilla activities, such as the supply of cocaine, for example.
Gustavo Petro also declared that he intends to transform the country’s economic model, moving away from extractivism and directing Colombia to a circular and local economy model.
The big risk is to hurt the national budget, since Colombia is the third largest oil producer in Latin America, after Brazil and Argentina. In 2016, the country exported US$ 13,5 billion.