Conflicts & War

Colombian presidential front-runner vows to bring end to armed conflict

Bogota, Mar 25 (EFE).- Gustavo Petro, a leftist senator who is the front-runner in the polls ahead of Colombia’s May 29 presidential election, pledged Friday that if elected he will bring a definitive end to the Andean nation’s decades-old armed conflict.

A former mayor of Bogota, ex-guerrilla and hopeful of the leftist Historic Pact for Colombia coalition, Petro made those remarks upon officially registering his candidacy.

“The governments of death, the governments of the cemeteries have been relegated to the past. What we have now is a government of life, a government of peace,” he said at the headquarters of the National Civil Registry. “What needs to be torn to shreds in our country is war.”

Petro was referring to the lead-up to the previous presidential election in 2018, when rightist politicians promised that if Ivan Duque won the presidency he would “tear to shreds” the peace deal that was signed two years earlier by then-President Juan Manuel Santos and the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group.

That peace deal was seen by conservative voters as too lenient on the FARC.

Four years later, one of the main criticisms of Duque as head of state has been the deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country, where criminal groups have filled the void left by demobilized FARC combatants and there has been an increase in massacres and killings of social leaders.

Parts of eastern Colombia also have been beset by violent confrontations pitting National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas and FARC dissidents who did not demobilize after the signing of the peace deal.

“Peace is a forgotten word in Colombia. We thought peace had been built a few years ago, and they tore it to shreds,” Petro told a group of around 100 supporters at the National Civil Registry headquarters.

“Today, (the failure to fully implement) the signed agreements can be measured in dead bodies … in bodies that appear here and there every day,” he added.

Petro’s running mate, Afro-Colombian activist Francia Marquez, also registered her candidacy on Friday.

An environmental leader and rising political star from a war-torn region of southwestern Colombia who received 785,215 votes in the primaries, she said the task of winning the presidency is just beginning.

“On May 29 at four in the afternoon, we want to be celebrating Gustavo Petro Urrego as our president, and of course for the first time in this country we’ll have a woman who represents the regions, the territories, the historically excluded and oppressed voices,” Marquez said Friday.

Yet despite Petro’s front-runner status in nearly all voter-preference surveys, he is thus far not projected to obtain a first-round victory.

Petro’s main rivals are two former mayors of Medellin, Colombia’s second city: rightist Federico Gutierrez and centrist Sergio Fajardo.

Gutierrez, who has emerged as Petro’s main challenger, is the only one of the three who has not yet registered his candidacy nor chosen his running mate.

Other candidates trailing far behind Petro are centrist Ingrid Betancourt, the only woman in the race; and a former mayor of the northern city of Bucaramanga, Rodolfo Hernandez. EFE


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