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Montevideo, March 22nd 2023 - 02:57 UTC



Petro sworn in as President of Colombia: times of change ahead

Monday, August 8th 2022 - 09:55 UTC
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Petro has pledged to narrow the gap between the poorest and the wealthiest Petro has pledged to narrow the gap between the poorest and the wealthiest

Gustavo Petro was sworn in Sunday as Colombia's first-ever leftwing president, thus succeeding the conservative and highly unpopular Iván Duque.

After taking the oath of office, the new head of state and former guerrilla fighter put together an eclectic cabinet to launch a series of reforms that will be submitted before Congress Monday.

The 62-year-old former senator had said Saturday that “here begins a government that will fight for environmental justice.”

Joining Petro was the environmentalist lawyer Francia Márquez, who at age 40, became the first woman of African descent to reach the Vice Presidency.

The new president was, after leaving his guerrilla days, a long-time Senator as well as the mayor of Bogotá between 2012 and 2015.

Petro had tried twice before to become President. In the 2018 election, he lost the runoff to Duque.

The last time a leftist politician tried to reach power in Colombia, history took a turn: On April 9, 1948, former Bogotá mayor and lawyer Jorge Eliécer Gaitán's assassination became one of the founding arguments of illegal armed groups.

Before Gaitán, the Colombian President furthest to the left was the liberal Alfonso López Pumarejo (1934-1938 and 1942-1945). An economist like Petro, he transformed the country in his first term with what he called “the revolution in progress”, which modernized the labor, judicial and educational systems, while creating the conditions for economic progress for both the State and local entrepreneurs.

Petro's reaching the presidency is regarded as the arrival of the times when the rights of people of African or indigenous descent, in addition to peasants, will be heard.

The new President has promised economic reforms aimed at ending certain exemptions and broadening the taxpayer base, without touching the working class. He is also betting on an environmentalist approach. Under him, Colombia is entering a time of change. With a large majority in Congress, the new government is believed to have the way cleared for the reforms it intends to implement, such as raising taxes on the wealthiest, fine-tuning tax collection, and imposing taxes on sugary beverages.

Petro is determined to narrow the gap between rich and poor, one of the widest in the continent along with Brazil, with greater access to credit, subsidies, and public education.

On the international front, Petro will resume diplomatic and trade relations with Nicolás Maduro's Venezuela. Peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the last recognized guerrilla in the country, are also expected to get back on track.

Petro also receives a country with the world's largest cocaine production, in response to which he has proposed to rethink the failed drug prohibition policy.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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