Amid controversy and polarization, Colombians took to the voting booths earlier this week to elect the next president. “Change” was the public verdict that day, as analysts believe the election result marks the end of an era of establishment politics in the country. The two winners were leftist guerrilla veteran Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernandez, a 77-year-old populist and civil engineer who has embraced every drop of “outsider” personality this election cycle. Serious and long-standing issues such as poverty, social inequality, soaring inflation and hunger are all at stake in these elections, as the two candidates face off in a final round of elections. the 19e of this month.
Colombia is at a critical social, economic and political juncture. According to Routers, 39.3% of Colombians live in poverty and 12% in extreme poverty. It is also estimated that around 16.4% of Colombians suffer from hunger and malnutrition – a phenomenon made worse by soaring inflation rates and a lack of economic opportunities. Decades of massive rural displacement have led to high levels of poverty in city centers and weakened the country’s agricultural production capacity.
Furthermore, decades of kidnappings, murders, extortion, drug-related violence, forced displacements and disappearances are painfully embedded in the Colombian psyche. In a country marked by such demons, it stands to reason that authoritarian homeland security, along with other conservative mantras, have been the protagonists of one round of presidential elections after the next. Not this one.
Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernandez, both marginal in their own ways, have challenged the political status quo in Colombia. Petro, who has spent much of his life fighting the Colombian state as an active M-19 guerrilla fighter, has proposed a government model that empowers the agricultural sector, restricts certain food imports, fights injustice and social inequalities and expanding the scope of state-sponsored education.
His model of government seeks to finance the fight against these problems through a reform of the tax system, taxing the dividends of the richest fraction of Colombian society. Generally speaking, a Petro government would reverse the neoliberal economic model employed by successive governments in Colombia. However, both the ends and the means of his policy proposals have earned him distrust from industrial sectors and a predominantly conservative political establishment, which have further fueled an “anti-Petro” sentiment that may prove impossible to overcome in the last ballot. .
Last year’s massive social protests and ensuing police response have further exposed a divide in public opinion over the country’s long-term direction and, by extension, the kind of political leadership needed. . The last round of elections will take place on 19e from June 2022.