A Former rebel fighter in the M-19 militia, Gustavo Petro has beaten business tycoon and fellow political outsider Rodolfo Hernández in the Colombia presidential election which occured on Sunday, June 19.
The shock win of the former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro as president, makes him the South American country’s first leftist head of state.
Petro beat Rodolfo Hernández, a former mayor of Bucaramanga and a business mogul, with 50.47% of the vote in a runoff election on Sunday and will take office in July.
Hernández had 47.27%, with almost all ballots counted, according to results released by election authorities.
Petro’s election marks a big political shift for Colombia, a country that has never before had a leftist president.
“Today is a party for the people,” tweeted the victorious candidate on Sunday night after results came in. “May so many sufferings be cushioned in the joy that today floods the heart of the homeland.”
During his victory speech, Petro said all members of the opposition will be welcomed at the presidential palace “to discuss the problems of Colombia”.
“From this government that is beginning there will never be political persecution or legal persecution, there will only be respect and dialogue,” he said, adding that he will listen to not only those who have raised arms but also to “that silent majority of peasants, Indigenous people, women, youth”.
The outgoing conservative president, Iván Duque, congratulated Petro shortly after results were announced, and Hernández quickly conceded defeat.
“Today the majority of citizens have chosen the other candidate. As I said during the campaign, I accept the results of this election,” Hernández said in a video posted on social media. “I sincerely hope that this decision is beneficial for everyone.”
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, congratulated “the people of Colombia for making their voices heard in a free and fair presidential election”.
“We look forward to working with President-elect Petro to further strengthen the US-Colombia relationship and move our nations toward a better future,” he said in a statement.
Petro’s vice-president will be Francia Márquez –a black woman and she is also a prize-winning defender of human and environmental rights.
It will be the first time a black woman becomes vice-president in the country.
“Today all women win,” tweeted Márquez as polls closed on Sunday afternoon. “We are facing the greatest possibility of change in recent times.”
“History has been broken because since we became a republic and got independence 200 years ago, nothing like this had happened,” said Andres Felipe Barrero, a Petro supporter.
“I’m very happy with the election of the new president. It completely marks the change we are expecting, although it is a bit partial, it is the change we were expecting,” said Diego León, who also voted for Petro.
“It really is a new moment for Colombia,” said Luis Eduardo Celis, who works at the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, a Colombian thinktank. “A Colombia that has many pending issues to advance: an agrarian reform, an economy at the service of the people, a more equitable taxation, to get out of hunger, out of poverty, to put an end to all that violence.”