(Update 2: Corrects typo in headline)
Bogotá, Jun 19 (EFE).- Colombians on Sunday elected ex-guerilla fighter and former Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro as the country’s first leftist president in history.
With the human-rights and environmental activist and lawyer Francia Márquez as his running mate, Petro, 62, a former fighter with the demobilized M-19 militia, will govern from Aug. 7 for 2022-2026 as the successor of President Iván Duque.
Petro, of the left-wing Pacto Historico coalition, obtained 11,281,013 votes (50.44 percent), an advantage of 700,601 over his rival, the independent populist Rodolfo Hernández, who received 10,580,412 votes (47.31 percent).
“From today Colombia changes, Colombia is different,” Petro said in his first speech as president-elect, before a crowd gathered at the Movistar Arena in Bogotá.
“It is not a time for hate, this government (…) is a government of life.”
According to Petro, the change embodied by Pacto Historico is based on the “politics of love” and “hope,” and that change “means opening up opportunities for all Colombians.”
“It is not a change to take revenge, to build more hatred, or to deepen sectarianism in Colombian society. Change consists of leaving hate and sectarianism behind,” said Petro, who spoke of national reconciliation in a country torn apart for more than half a century by its internal armed conflict and struggles for power.
He advocated for the young people detained and prosecuted for participating in the protests that have shaken the country in recent years, especially during the national strike that took place between April and June 2021, and appealed to the attorney general to “free our youth,” amid applause from an exultant crowd showered with confetti.
He also stated his commitment to peace, saying: “A government of life would not make sense if we do not lead Colombian society to peace.”
Petro also set three pillars on which his administration will be based: peace, social justice and environmental justice.
“We are going to develop capitalism in Colombia, not because we adore it, but because we have to overcome pre-modernity in Colombia, feudalism,” he said.
He also dedicated a few minutes to his proposal to combat climate change, and proposed “a dialogue in the Americas without the exclusion of any people, of any nation” as he considers that “the time has come to sit down with the government of the United States” to talk about energy transition since the US is the world’s biggest carbon polluter.
The final result showed the candidates further apart than the technical tie that the polls predicted, and Pedro’s rival quickly conceded defeat.
“As I said during the campaign, I accept the results of this election,” Hernández said in a brief message broadcast on Facebook. “I wish for Doctor Gustavo Petro to know how to lead the country and for him to stand firm on his message against corruption and to not disappoint those who trusted him.”
President Duque congratulated Petro, saying they agreed to meet soon to coordinate a harmonious and transparent transition.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also congratulated “the people of Colombia for making their voices heard in a free and fair presidential election.”
“We look forward to working with President-elect Petro to further strengthen the US-Colombia relationship and move our nations toward a better future,” he said in a statement.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that “the will of the Colombian people has been heard – it went out to defend the path to democracy and peace.”
Former Brazil president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, favorite to win the presidential election in October, tweeted: “I wish Petro success in his government. His victory strengthens democracy and progressive forces in Latin America.”