The upcoming Colombian presidential elections will serve as a symbol of hope for the Colombian as they may be able to finally shift the tide in electing the country’s first populist leftist presidential candidate.
Colombia’s promising left-wing candidate goes by the name of Gustavo Petro, who was born in Ciénaga de Oro, a remote town located in northern Colombia. Paired alongside Petro will be Francia Marquez, who is an Afro-Colombian human rights activist and has the chance of being the nation’s first vice-president of color. Petro seeks to win office by taking a populist approach appealing to the masses of being anti-establishment, fighting economic inequality, and corruption.
Historically Colombia has been politically ran by a two-party system with the conservative party the Centro Democratico which has dominated Colombian politics. With the country of Colombia being plagued with corruption, economic inequality, and ineffective government, Colombians have been left seeking alternatives in order to bring political change, democratic, and economic stability. Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro fits the ideal candidate position as he plans to implement social programs, fight unemployment, provide higher quality education, and tax the corrupted wealthy. Petro pegs himself as being anti-establishment and targeted those in the political center and of course voters on the left, especially the youth where now Colombia has roughly 9 million voting citizens under the age of 28.
“Petro is change,” said Camila Riveros, 30, wrapped in a Colombian flag at a campaign event this month outside Bogotá, the capital. “People are tired of eating dirt.”Turkewitz, Julie. 2022. “Will Colombia Elect Its First Leftist Leader?” Will Colombia Elect Its First Leftist Leader? https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/26/world/americas/colombia-presidential-election-gustavo-petro.html (May 26, 2022).
Though it is clear that the populist tactics that Petro is using to effectively target the bulk of Colombian voters he still has yet to firmly take the lead in the race as they’re other populist voters that are approaching Petro in the polls. A conservative candidate by the name of Rodolfo Hernandez has a narrow lead in the conervative race in order to compete with Petro. Hernandez is another canddiate who using conservative tactics in order to gain support from Colombian centrist voters. Like Petro, Hernandez sells himself a anti establishment candidate that will fight corruption at the core. Despite Hernandez’s anti regime rhetoric Hernandez is undergoing a serious investigation by Colombia’s attorney general over an alleged trash collection tender that wouldbe benefited a company that was lobbiedd for by his son. Hernandez refutes the claims as he states that they have no merit and are used to target his campaign. Voters arent buying this as a bulk of colombia’s voters still believe in Petro to bring som serious change and go toe to toe with Colombia’s corrupt establishment.
Though leftist candidate Gustav Petro has a colossal job ahead of him if he were to be elected, Colombia’s GDP vital signs are improving. An article from The Economist: A divided Colombia is poised to elect its first leftist president, states that Colombia’s GDP per person has actually increased from $1,400 in 1990 to $6,700 by 2018. Additionally, during the same time period, the share of people enrolled in tertiary education nearly quadrupled to 55%. Colombia’s economy has had some improvement that in April of 2020 they joined the OECD, which stands for the organization for economic cooperation and development with 38 member countries. Though the country is making some progress, economic inequality still remains and ripples throughout the country.
“It is time for the left to come to power,” says Nicole Gómez, a student in Bogotá. “We are tired of the inequality, and of everything staying the same.” She and the rest of the Colombian electorate go to the polls on May 29th to elect a new president. The right-wing incumbent, Iván Duque, is stepping down after his constitutionally-allotted one term in office.“A Divided Colombia Is Poised to Elect Its First Leftist President.” 2022. The Economist. https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2022/05/26/a-divided-colombia-is-poised-to-elect-its-first-leftist-president (May 26, 2022).
Though many political candidates throughout the world are criticized and ridiculed in regard to using populist tactics, perhaps in Colombia’s case they can be used to inject change into an establishment that is used to corruption. There is some merit to populist candidate Petro as he does not wish to implement a socialist-style economy but rather respects free trade, enterprise, and private property along with a social-democrat market economy. This blows off any resemblance to the radical leftist Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro who has brought socialist policies that have severely backfired due to hyperinflation and food shortages. Though Petro is not a radical leftist candidate as he wants to boost the agricultural economy by placing tariffs on imports, reduce unemployment, reduce the cost of University education, and reduce the reliance on energy exports. He wishes to boost tourism paired with the improvements in the country’s agricultural growth which could offset the loss of reduced energy exports. Of course, this will not be cheap and economic changes will be needed, which is why this establishment is cracking down on Petro to ensure the conservative regime stays in power.
Though it is still too early to peg the victory on Petro, Colombians are being vocal about their decision for Petro and to finally put an end to the corrupt establishment. Despite Petro’s difficult work relationship he has stated that he is willing to build new ties and will be adamant in his push for change. Colombia’s congress is fragmented at the moment which gives Petro a perfect opportunity to build trust, coalitions, and political relationships in order to truly stamp out a victory. Couple this opportunity with the backing of the Colombian people and Petro may just have the perfect shot of winning the presidential elections on May 29th.
“A Divided Colombia Is Poised to Elect Its First Leftist President.” 2022. The Economist. https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2022/05/26/a-divided-colombia-is-poised-to-elect-its-first-leftist-president (May 26, 2022).
Janetsky, Megan. 2022. “Populism, Desire for Change Mark Colombia’s Presidential Vote.” Elections News | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/26/populism-desire-for-change-mark-colombia-presidential-vote (May 26, 2022).
Person, and Luis Jaime Acosta. 2022. “Populist Colombian Candidate Hernandez Enjoys Late Rise in Polls.” Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/populist-colombian-candidate-hernandez-enjoys-late-rise-polls-2022-05-25/ (May 27, 2022).
Schmidt, Samantha. 2022. “Behind Bulletproof Shields, Colombian Candidates Fear for Their Lives.” The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/24/colombia-election-security-petro/ (May 27, 2022).
Turkewitz, Julie. 2022. “Will Colombia Elect Its First Leftist Leader?” Will Colombia Elect Its First Leftist Leader? https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/26/world/americas/colombia-presidential-election-gustavo-petro.html (May 26, 2022).
“Venezuela Crisis: How the Political Situation Escalated.” 2021. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-36319877 (May 27, 2022).
Photo by: “A Divided Colombia Is Poised to Elect Its First Leftist President.” 2022. The Economist. https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2022/05/26/a-divided-colombia-is-poised-to-elect-its-first-leftist-president (May 26, 2022).
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