Former guerrilla Gustavo Petro wins Colombian election to become first leftist president

BOGOTA, Colombia — Former rebel Gustavo Petro narrowly won a runoff election over a political outsider millionaire Sunday, ushering in a new era of politics for Colombia by becoming the country’s first leftist president.

Petro, a senator in his third attempt to win the presidency, got 50.48% of the votes, while real estate magnate Rodolfo Hernández had 47.26%, with almost all ballots counted, according to results released by election authorities.

Petro’s victory underlined a drastic change in presidential politics for a country that has long marginalized the left for its perceived association with the armed conflict. Petro himself was once a rebel with the now-defunct M-19 movement and was granted amnesty after being jailed for his involvement with the group.

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“Today is a day of celebration for the people. Let them celebrate the first popular victory,” Petro tweeted. “May so many sufferings be cushioned in the joy that today floods the heart of the Homeland.”

Petro issued a call for unity during his victory speech and extended an olive branch to some of his harshest critics, saying 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.”

BOGOTA, Colombia — Former rebel Gustavo Petro narrowly won a runoff election over a political outsider millionaire Sunday, ushering in a new era of politics for Colombia by becoming the country’s first leftist president.

Petro, a senator in his third attempt to win the presidency, got 50.48% of the votes, while real estate magnate Rodolfo Hernández had 47.26%, with almost all ballots counted, according to results released by election authorities.

Petro’s victory underlined a drastic change in presidential politics for a country that has long marginalized the left for its perceived association with the armed conflict. Petro himself was once a rebel with the now-defunct M-19 movement and was granted amnesty after being jailed for his involvement with the group.

Francia Márquez, Vice President, from the mountainous department of Cauca in southwestern Colombia, has become a national phenomenon.

Colombia also elected its first Black woman to be vice president. Petro’s running mate, Francia Márquez, is a lawyer and environmental leader whose opposition to illegal mining has resulted in threats and a grenade attack in 2019.

The vote came amid widespread discontent over rising inequality, inflation and violence — factors that led voters in the election’s first round last month to turn their backs on long-governing centrist and right-leaning politicians and choose two outsiders in Latin America’s third-most populous nation.