Voters lined up at a polling station in Medellin, Colombia, during the first round of presidential elections on Sunday. Credit … Chelo Camacho / Reuters
Colombians say they are the most consistent election in decades.
On Sunday, Latin America’s third-largest nation goes to the polls to elect a new president. At stake is the country’s economic model, its democratic integrity and the livelihoods of millions of people living in poverty in the midst of the pandemic.
“It’s always said, ‘These are the most important elections ever.’
Polls show that Gustavo Petro, a senator and former member of a rebel group, is leading two former right-wing mayors, Federico Gutiérrez and Rodolfo Hernández. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent, a second round will be held on June 19 between the top two finishers.
If Mr. Petro wins, becoming Colombia’s first left-wing president, marking a key moment in a nation that has long been led by a conservative power.
Its rise reflects not only a left-wing shift in Latin America, but an anti-incumbent fervor that has gained strength as the pandemic has deepened poverty and inequality, intensifying feelings that the region’s economies are building primarily. to serve the elite.
“We believe in real political and social change,” said Diego Guzmán, 25, a college student who described his vote for Mr. Petro as a rejection of the “ruling political class.”
Mr. Petro is committed to transforming Colombia’s economic system, which he says feeds inequality, expanding social programs, stopping oil exploration and shifting the country’s focus on national agriculture and industry.
Colombia has long been the United States’ strongest ally in the region, and Mr. Petro calls for a re-establishment of the relationship, including changes in the approach to the war on drugs and a review of a bilateral trade agreement that could lead to a confrontation with Washington.
Mr. Gutiérrez, who has the backing of much of the Conservative establishment, is pushing for a modest adjustment to the status quo, including the allocation of more money to local governments.
Mr Hernandez, who was relatively unknown before the campaign began to close on the closing days of the campaign, is pushing for a populist anti-corruption platform, but has raised alarms with his plan to declare a state of emergency to achieve your goals.
Many voters are fed up with rising prices, high unemployment, low wages, rising education costs and rising violence, and polls show that a clear majority of Colombians have an unfavorable view. of the current president, Iván Duque, who is largely considered part of the conservative establishment.
However, some Colombians say they consider voting for Mr. Petro is a risk, but they are willing to take it. “I’m even more afraid that we will continue to be ruled by the same old politicians,” said Helena Osorio, 25, a nurse who earns just above the minimum wage.
Not everyone agrees. Juan Sebastián Rey, 21, a political organizer who supports Mr. Gutierrez, said he considered Mr. Petro as a poor leader.
“I am very afraid of Gustavo Petro, not because of his government plans or ideas, but because of his character.”
Elections come when polls show growing distrust of the country’s institutions, including the country’s national registry, an electoral body. The registrar misjudged the initial count in a March congressional vote, suggesting that the loss of candidates in the presidential vote was fraudulent.
The country is also seeing a rise in violence, undermining the democratic process. The Election Observation Mission, a local group, described this pre-election period as the most violent in 12 years.
Mr. Petro and his formula mate, Francia Márquez, have received death threats, which has increased security, including bodyguards with riot shields.
Despite these dangers, the election has energized many Colombians who have long believed that their voices were not represented at the highest levels of power, giving the election a sense of hope. This feeling of optimism is partly inspired by Ms. Márquez, a former mistress and environmental activist who would be the first black vice president in the country if she won her ticket.
His campaign has focused on the fight against systemic injustice, and his most popular slogan, “living tasty,” roughly means “living with wealth and dignity.”
The report was provided by Sofía Villamil and Megan Janetsky in Bogotá.
– Julie Turkwitz Report from Bogota.