By Geraldine Garcia
Cúcuta, Colombia, May 5 (EFE).- Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro on Thursday resumed his campaign in a public square in Cúcuta after a three-day interruption due to an alleged assassination plot against him.
Petro, of the left-wing coalition Historical Pact, had several activities scheduled from the morning in capital of the department of Norte de Santander on the Venezuelan border, but due to a change in schedule, he only arrived there late afternoon to lead a rally.
Petro greeted his supporters with a notable security reinforcement, including bodyguards with shields who accompanied him on stage and an armored vest under his Cúcuta Deportivo soccer club shirt.
According to his campaign’s security team, behind the attempted attack denounced on Monday was the La Cordillera criminal gang, which operates in the central coffee region. It was a scenario that was initially taken with caution by the authorities who later agreed with the security reinforcement.
The leftist candidate, leader in all polls for the May 29 election, was welcomed to the stage amid the shouting and chanting of his supporters.
“Thank you Cúcuta,” said Petro in the midst of cheering that was felt in the five blocks that the crowds occupied.
Petro made references to his security on the campaign trail as he began his speech, in which he promised to be the president of peace.
“In the past it would have been difficult to talk with the citizens of Cúcuta – something always happened, someone always wanted to stop it – but we are here now,” he said at the beginning of his speech lasting more than an hour.
He also spoke about his plan for Norte de Santander, such as the opening of the border with Venezuela, closed since 2015 by order of the president of that country, Nicolás Maduro.
Maduro severed diplomatic relations between Colombia and Venezuela on Feb. 23, 2019 after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó attempted to enter his country from Cúcuta at the head of a humanitarian aid caravan.
“Cúcuta cannot be a city, it cannot prosper, it cannot overcome problems without opening the borders,” Petro said.
According to the candidate, Colombian President Iván Duque has mishandled the border situation and the relationship with Venezuela.
“The destinies of Colombia and Venezuela follow the same path, they even resemble their rulers, because there is nothing more similar to Maduro in Colombia than Duque,” he said.
The candidate also referred to insecurity, unemployment and support for the student population, while criticizing the Duque government, which defeated him in the second round of the presidential elections four years ago.
While Petro addressed his supporters in Cúcuta, second in the polls Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez of the right-wing coalition Equipo por Colombia, did the same in Villavicencio, capital of central Meta department, where a crowd filled the Plaza Libertadores.
Petro assured Cucutans that his mandate will become an era of peace and invited them to vote for him on May 29 to win the first round. Polls predict a second round on June 19 between Petro and Gutierrez. EFE