Elections in Colombia. First Leftist President in History.
Colombia held a second round of presidential elections last weekend. The candidate of Pacto Histórico (a coalition of leftist parties and interest groups) Gustavo Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement, was the winner and will be the President of the country for the next
four years. His period will begin on August 7 th , 2022 and will end on the same date in 2026.
It’s the first time in the country’s republican history that a leftist candidate is elected for the presidency. Traditionally power has been shared by the conservative and liberal parties and spin offs of these two parties.
There is a great deal of expectation and speculation over what the first actions of the new government will be. During the campaign Petro made several announcements that caused uncertainty in the stock markets and productive sectors of the country. Stopping oil exploration, confiscation of unproductive lands and taxing the “rich” were some of the announcements that triggered speculation and pessimism among Colombians.
Nevertheless, Petro’s victory speech, brought some calm and several other announcements during this week, including names of key members of his staff, have brought calm to the markets and the exchange rate has been stable, a very important indicator that for now, things seem to be moving smoothly.
From a security point of view, the new government faces several challenges:
1. Criminal groups dedicated to drug trafficking and illegal mining continue to attack armed forces and civilians in their areas of influence. ELN, FARC Dissidents and The Urabeños are the three main forces with which the new government will have to deal.
2. Cocaine production and coca leaf crops still remain high and efforts to eradicate the crops either manually or with aerial fumigations have not been effective.
3. Crime levels in Colombia’s main urban centers are very high as is the overall sensation of insecurity.
4. The border with Venezuela has become an operational center for ELN and FARC dissidences, where they move freely under the permissive eyes of the Venezuelan authorities.
How Petro’s relationship with the armed forces and the police are going to work and one of the biggest interrogations. Being a former guerrilla member and a ferocious critic of both the National Police (including the controversial anti-protester force, ESMAD) and the Colombian Armed Forces during his civilian and political life, finding ways to communicate and collaborate with both will be of the utmost importance for the correct functioning of his government.
In the foreign affairs area, there are also several questions to be addressed. Taking a position regarding the participation of dictatorships like Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba in regional cooperation groups. The commercial and cooperation programs with the United States will need to be maintained and the current Colombian Ambassador in Washington has already stated he will resign.