Colombia has elected Gustavo Petro to be the country’s next president, making it the first leftist head of state in the South American country.
Petro is a former guerrilla fighter, and also a former senator and the mayor of the capital, Bogota. It marks a huge shift for Colombia, which has never before had a leftist president.
Petro beat Rodolfo Hernandez for the presidency, who was a gaffe-prone former mayor of Bucaramanga and a business mogul. Petro secured 50.47 percent of the vote in a runoff election yesterday and will take the office of the presidency in July.
His step into president comes amid a host of challenges, including a deepening discontent over inequality and rising costs of living.
The election of a leftist president follows similar victories for the left in Peru, Chile and Honduras.
In his victory speech, Petro issued a call for unity. He extended olive branches to some of his biggest and harshest critics, saying that all members of the opposition will be welcomed at the presidential palace to discuss Colombia’s key issues.
He promised that there would never be political persecution or legal persecution, “only respect and dialogue.”
Ivan Duque is the outgoing conservative president, who congratulated Petro shortly after the results were announced. Hernandez quickly conceded his defeat, saying that he accepted the results of the election and hoped the decision was beneficial for everyone.
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, congratulated “the people of Colombia for making their voices heard in a free and fair presidential election”.
In a statement, Blinken said that the U.S. looks forward to working with Petro to further strengthen US-Colombia relations and to move the countries towards a better future.
Petro’s Vice President will be Francia Marquez, who is a prize-winning defender of human rights and environmental rights. It marks the first time a black woman has ever filled the position.