First-ever leftist president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro takes officetext_fields
BOGOTA: Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla and mayor, will be sworn in as Colombia's first ever leftist president on Sunday. He has plans for significant reforms in a nation plagued by economic inequality and drug violence.
A left-leaning majority in Congress will support the former senator, 62, during his four-year term as he succeeds the wildly unpopular Ivan Duque.
With Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's expected triumph in Brazil in October, Colombia, long governed by a conservative elite, entered the growing left-wing fold in Latin America thanks to Petro's valiant victory in the June elections.
On the eve of his inauguration, Petro stated during a ceremony in Bogota that his administration will work to "bring to Colombia what it has not had for centuries, which is tranquillity and peace."
"Here begins a government that will fight for environmental justice," he added.
After a savage crackdown on anti-inequality rallies last year that was widely denounced, Petro had pledged throughout the campaign to increase taxes on the wealthy, make investments in healthcare and education, and reform the police.
He has promised to halt oil drilling, advance clean energy, and resume diplomatic and business ties with Nicolas Maduro's Venezuelan administration, which have been halted since 2019.
According to analyst Jorge Restrepo of the Resource Center for Conflict Analysis (Cerac), who spoke to AFP, Petro starts from an "enviable position, with a large majority in Congress and, in terms of the street, with the support that no government had in recent years".
Petro, a former M-19 urban guerrilla group member, has pledged to carry out the remaining terms of the 2016 peace agreement, which saw the rebel FARC movement lay down its guns after nearly 60 years of civil conflict.
According to the former mayor of Bogota, negotiation will be held with the National Liberation Army (ELN) armed organisation.
Colombia has experienced an increase in violence despite the FARC disbanding to become a political party as thousands of dissidents fight the ELN and strong cartels for control of lucrative smuggling routes, illegal gold mines, and drug fields.
The largest producer of cocaine in the world, Colombia, is home to 90 armed groups with about 10,000 members, according to the Indepaz peace research institute.
Petro has suggested offering some sort of amnesty in exchange for armed organisations turning themselves in.
At 3:00 PM local time (2000 GMT), he will be sworn in in front of a large international audience. Colombian presidents have a single term in office.