Colombia: Conservative Defeats Far Leftist in Presidential Election

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Colombia officially declared conservative candidate Iván Duque the winner of Sunday’s presidential election after decisively defeating his hard-left opponent Gustavo Petro.

The 40-year-old former lawyer clinched the presidency after polling around 54 percent, equivalent to 10.3 million votes. His opponent Petro, the left-wing former mayor of Bogotá, won around 42 support of the vote, garnering just over eight million votes. Around 4 percent of people cast their vote blank.

A protegé of longtime President Álvaro Uribe and a member of his conservative Democratic Center Party, Duque ran on a campaign of renegotiating the peace deal signed in 2016 by former President Juan Manuel Santos with the Marxist terrorist organization Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), arguing that it was too lenient and not properly upheld. The FARC peace deal allowed the narco-terrorist group to establish a political party and guaranteed it ten uncontested seats in Congress. The FARC attempted to run its leader, “Timochenko,” as a presidential candidate, but “Timochenko” withdrew from the election in March after suffering a heart attack.

Duque, who spent a decade working for the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington DC, ran on a campaign of promoting inwards foreign investment, strengthening national security, and creating a pro-business environment by cutting the corporate tax rate to 30 percent.

His running mate, Marta Lucía Ramírez, also made history by becoming the first female to serve as vice president of Colombia. The pair is likely to be a close ally of the Trump administration, especially on the issue of the political and humanitarian crisis in neighboring Venezuela.

Petro, who himself is a former communist guerrilla fighter, campaigned on upholding the peace deal and radically expanding social welfare programs aimed at reducing poverty. He also promised to crack down on massive levels of corruption, while claiming that a Duque presidency would mean the country would “return to war.”

The issue of Venezuela proved an effective campaigning tactic for Duque, who warned people against the risk of similar economic consequences should a left-winger gain power.

Although Petro denied having any sympathies for socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro, he was on record as having expressed his support for former leader Hugo Chávez, the architect behind Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution.” Petro also attended Chávez’s funeral following his death in 2013.

As the new president, Duque will inherit a stagnant economy, a migrant crisis from Venezuela and an increase in drug trafficking that has wreaked havoc on rural parts of the country. However, the country is at its most peaceful in decades, with murder at their lowest level since the 1970s.

Duque will be sworn in as president on August 7th and will hold office until 2022.

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