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Conservative, leftist head to contentious runoff in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia — The conservative protege of a strong former president and a leftist former guerrilla who has galvanized voters with an anti-establishment message are headed for what guarantees to be a polarizing presidential runoff after gaining probably the most votes in Sunday’s election. With nearly all quick-count ends in, former senator Ivan Duque was main with 39 p.c of the ballots forged, wanting the 50 p.c threshold wanted to keep away from a June runoff. 

One-time insurgent and ex-Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro trailed in second place with 25 p.c, edging out former Medellin Mayor Sergio Fajardo, who garnered practically 24 p.c.

Duque and Petro characterize reverse ends of Colombia’s political spectrum and have introduced dramatically completely different visions for the way forward for the Andean nation because it strikes ahead with a historic peace course of with leftist rebels.

Duque is the handpicked candidate of Alvaro Uribe, the ex-president and chief critic of the nation’s 2016 peace cope with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. He’s promising to amend vital features of the accord like making certain that drug trafficking shouldn’t be an amnestied crime and blocking guerrilla leaders from political workplace.

Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro speaks to supporters and the information media after polls closed within the first spherical of the presidential election in Bogota, Colombia Might 27, 2018.

Henry Romero / REUTERS

Petro helps the accord and has galvanized youth voters angered by deeply entrenched corruption and revenue inequality. He’s vowing to finish Colombia’s dependence on oil exports and lift taxes on huge swaths of unproductive land in hopes of boosting agricultural manufacturing. Critics have warned his rise might push Colombia dangerously towards the left and rattle markets.

“The outcome was a pointy blow to conventional politics,” stated Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. “With a Duque/Petro runoff, Colombians will face a starker alternative than in a few years.”

The election has sparked fears on each the left and proper, with Duque’s critics cautioning that his presidency could be tantamount to a constitutionally barred third time period for Uribe. Although vastly widespread amongst Colombians for bettering safety and weakening unlawful armed teams, Uribe additionally presided over grave human rights violations by the army.

In the meantime, Petro and his populist “Humane Colombia” platform have drawn comparisons from critics to the late Venezuelan socialist chief Hugo Chavez, who Petro as soon as admired. He introduced Chavez to Colombia in 1994 shortly after the Venezuelan paratrooper was launched from jail, the place he was despatched for staging a army coup.

“I am anxious … Populism is strengthening,” Nicolas Goyeneche, 28-year-old pupil, advised Reuters information company.”However within the second spherical, we’ll beat populism.”

Petro describes himself as a “sturdy adversary” of the neighboring nation’s present president, Nicolas Maduro, however his early ties to Chavez have dogged him all through the marketing campaign. His marketing campaign likened the comparisons to fear-mongering ways by a conventional political class now not in a position to courtroom votes based mostly on their hardline stance in opposition to leftist rebels.

In a speech earlier than a whole lot of supporters Sunday night time, Petro stated fears that he would flip Colombia into an authoritarian state the place wealth is redistributed are unfounded. He stated his proposals as a substitute quantity to a “democratization” of alternatives in order that extra Colombians can profit from schooling and be a part of the center class.

“The practically 5 million votes we acquired immediately are the votes of the youth, of excluded sectors far and broad throughout Colombia who’ve determined to burst in and say, ‘We’re current,'” he stated.

Supporters waved flags emblazoned with the Soviet Union’s hammer and sickle and the emblem of the disbanded M-19 insurgent group that Petro belonged to in his youth.

Edilia Pinzon, 55, was amongst these cheering on Petro.

“We’re making historical past,” stated Pinzon, a road service provider. “The others who’ve reached energy have not fulfilled their guarantees, particularly to these of us with few means.”

Greater than 19 million voters forged ballots within the election, the very best turnout in 20 years.

The outcomes had been particularly harsh for Fajardo, who fell lower than 2 factors behind Petro and didn’t advance to the following spherical. Throughout weeks of negotiations he tried unsuccessfully to type an alliance with like-minded centrist Humberto de la Calle, whose 2 p.c vote haul would’ve been sufficient to push Fajardo previous Petro.

Fajardo conceded defeat however confirmed no signal of who he’ll help in a runoff the place his four.5 million supporters are prone to be decisive.

Petro and Duque differ on nearly each important challenge dealing with Colombia: Duque favors forcibly eradicating coca crops which have skyrocketed to document ranges, whereas Petro favors substitution. Traditionally tight relations between the U.S. and Colombia would probably stay unchanged underneath a Duque presidency, whereas Petro has referred to as U.S. help to Colombia “assist that has served for nothing.”

Regarding the peace deal, Duque has stated he’ll introduce a constitutional reform mandating that drug trafficking can’t be an amnestied crime. Beneath the accord, guerrillas concerned in drug trafficking and violent crimes through the battle who absolutely confess can keep away from jail time. Many Colombians think about these phrases far too beneficiant.

The FARC lengthy funded itself by leveling a “conflict tax” on cocaine transferring by territory it dominated, and 50 members of its management construction had been indicted in 2006 within the U.S. on prices of working the world’s largest drug cartel.

In April, Colombian authorities arrested a former prime insurgent peace negotiator on a U.S. drug warrant on prices that he conspired with three others to smuggle a number of tons of cocaine into the U.S. with a wholesale worth of $15 million.

In a victory speech to supporters little modified from his common marketing campaign stump, Duque pressured legislation and order points which can be purple meat to his conservative base. He stated he did not need to “tear up” Colombia’s peace settlement however fairly make modifications that may guarantee victims of the battle obtain “peace with justice.”

“I need to be the president who unites our nation and never govern with a rearview mirror,” he stated.

Analysts stated that principally city voters turned off by Colombia’s polarizing politics will play kingmaker within the second spherical.

Political analyst Ivan Valencia, himself a former insurgent, stated Duque will face a steeper problem successful over supporters of Fajardo and different centrist candidates as a result of he is extra hostile to the peace course of, whereas Petro from the marketing campaign’s outset has tried to painting himself — thus far with mixes success — as a average.

“Whichever candidate is ready to transfer extra to the middle is the one who will win the election,” stated Valencia.

De la Calle, the federal government’s chief negotiator with the FARC, with out particularly endorsing Petro, made an impassioned plea to not backtrack on implementation of the peace accord when a future freed from armed battle is inside attain.

“The conflict introduced us collectively throughout eight years,” he stated. “And now peace is dividing us.”

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