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Changing history

A comment on the Historical Pact coalition’s million-vote plurality overflowed with enthusiasm: “June 19 will be remembered [in Colombia] as a day of the people and will be a moment of celebration for democracy … Today was a day for changing history.”

In second-round voting, the team of Gustavo Petro for president and Francia Marquez for vice president took 50.5 percent of the votes. The loose-lipped, right-wing construction and real estate mogul Rodolfo Hernandez, candidate of the ad hoc League of Anti-Corruption Governors Party gained 47.2 percent.

This was the third presidential campaign for Petro, a senator and former urban guerrilla and mayor of Bogota, who took 40.3 percent of the votes in first-round voting on May 29. He and Vice President-elect Francia Marquez take office on August 7.

The historical significance of this electoral victory in Colombia cannot be overstated. No real people’s government has ever ruled in Colombia. In the twentieth century, high-profile presidential aspirants on the people’s side were murdered. At long last, the corrupt and deadly hold on power of former President Alvaro Uribe and his protégée Iván Duque, now leaving office, is over. And not least, the Historical Pact victory vindicates the country-wide mobilizations and demonstrations that, with mounting intensity from 2018 on, were carried out by young people and social movements.

Relishing their victory, candidates and voters alike by all accounts have taken on a new hopefulness. They are counting on an end to deadly violence and dispossession marking decades of history, and an end too of marginalization and rampant poverty diminishing the lives of multitudes of Colombians.

The ascent to Colombia’s vice-presidency of African-descended lawyer and award-winning environmental activist Francia Marquez, of humble origins, provides hope potentially for Colombia’s oppressed subsistence farmers, Afro-Colombians, and indigenous peoples.

The Historical Pact victors represent hope for a watching world of solidarity activists. In that regard, they now join presidents Lopez Obrador of Mexico, Fernandez of Argentina, Ortega of Nicaragua, Castillo of Peru, Xiomara Castro of Honduras, Arce and Morales of Bolivia, and Boric of Chile. To this constellation of left-leaning Latin American presidents is added the stubborn persistence of Venezuela’s progressive government and of Cuban socialism. The overall message is that real change is possible, despite US interventions and all-but-open war.

Speaking to Colombians after his victory, Petro declared his intention “to build Colombia as a world power for life [which would consist] first of peace, secondly of social justice, and thirdly of environmental justice.”

Highlighting key passages in Petro’s remarks, observer Ollantay Itzamna identifies hopeful signs. He cites the president-elect’s references to war: “clandestine cemeteries,” U.S. airbases, Colombia’s association with Nato, paramilitaries and narcotrafficking. Reflecting on Petro’s call for social justice, Itzamna qualifies Colombia’s inequalities as the region’s most pronounced, except for Honduras and Brazil. He mentions that 2 percent of landowners control 90 percent of Colombia’s useful agricultural land.

Petro would have “the polluter to pay for or remedy damages to “nature.” He called for a “transition to sources of clean energy.”

Excerpted: ‘Electoral Victory of Colombians Petro and Marquez is Unprecedented’.

W T Whitney, "Changing history," The News. 2022-06-22.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Presidential campaign , Social justice , Corruption , Poverty , Socialism , Francia Marquez , Colombia , Argentina