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As it is common knowledge, this Sunday, May 29th, presidential elections will take place in the beautiful and very biodiverse South American country of Colombia. Most likely the first round, since everything will end up being defined in the ballot two weeks later.
The big favorite, according to all national and international pollsters, is Gustavo Petro on behalf of the Historical Pact, and in a very disputed second place, is “Fico” (Federico) Gutiérrez, center-right candidate, together with the moderate leftist, self-styled “King of the Tick-Tock”, the septuagenarian Rodolfo Hernández. They are followed by more leftist candidates such as the mathematician Sergio Fajardo, Ingrid Betancourt, among others.
In this race, it seems that Petro will be the winner, although without a majority of 51%, which will force a second round. Now, what are the scenarios? According to the last poll of the Semana group, if the run-off is against Fico Gutiérrez, Petro would win easily, but, surprisingly, Hernández has undergone a remarkable increase during the final stages of the campaign, to such an extent that he not only is threatening Gutiérrez, but -most revealingly- if he were to face Petro in the run-off, Hernández would generate a technical tie and would even be able to spoil the party for Petro.
Now, beyond the analysis of numbers and possible scenarios, it is key to describe who Petro is and how he became so popular in these 2022 elections. Petro, a former philosophy student, although today an economist and Senator for the “Colombia Humana” Movement, is a founding member of the Marxist-Leninist terrorist guerrilla “M-19” whose great virtue, in addition to murdering police and civilians, was to perpetrate the assault on the Palace of Justice in Colombia, those bloody days of November 6 and 7, 1985, a real massacre that left more than 100 dead, including judges, employees, visitors and of course, guerrillas and Colombian army personnel.
Petro, later, became a Castro-Chavista, an active member of both the São Paulo Forum and the Puebla Group, he was also a Mayor of Bogota having a lousy administration, and being on several times a presidential candidate. First, he lost against Santos in 2014, then against Duque and now, for the third time, he seems as tenacious as his leftist colleague, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, current President of Mexico.
What is really impressive is that a man as sinister and corrupt as Petro -remember the videos of the supermarket bags full of money, not to mention the garbage crisis in Bogotá or, more recently, the suitcase with more than $60 thousand U.S. dollars that his ally, Senator-elect for the Historic Pact, Piedad Córdova, brought from Tegucigalpa after meeting with comrade Xiomara Castro, President of Honduras – develops an openly neo-communist proposal, and is supported by the majority of Colombian voters.
It is supposed that Colombia has never had a leftist government, which is absolutely false, since the government of Ernesto Samper Pizano was, as well as that of Juan Manuel Santos, who reached the Palacio de Nariño with the support of Álvaro Uribe and once in power betrayed him. Santos’ legacy was the infamous Peace Agreement with the FARC, which despite being rejected in the 2016 Plebiscite, was still signed, leaving the FARC terrorists in total impunity and even granting them as a reward, seats in the Senate without being elected. Others simply continued trafficking cocaine, such as Jesús Santrich and Iván Márquez, from Venezuela.
The Colombian radical left, led by Petro, is anti-democratic, ergo, neo-communist and Castro-Chavist, which today triumphs because simply, as the German historian Rainer Zitelmann says, “capitalism today has a great negative charge.”
This is not a new fight, on the contrary, it is very long-lived as Alan Kahan points out “it has been a constant in modern history for the last 150 years”. And this was exacerbated by the financial crisis of 2008, which is exploited in Petro’s rhetoric that exalts the frustrations of the masses with his demagogic promises of ‘social equality’, ‘anti-capitalism’ and in the case of Colombia ‘anti-uribismo’.”
Finally, Colombia’s ruling political elites have certainly not solved its structural and historical problems, i.e., poverty, violence and corruption. Therefore, voters -some being filled with more or less resentment and envy- turn to radical alternatives for “change”, but in doing so, they dangerously open the door for neo-communist leaders like Petro to come to power, thus materializing a collective suicide, just as Venezuela did in 1998 with the first election of Chavez.
Nahem Reyes is a PhD in history from the Andrés Bello Catholix University and associate member of the American Studies Center of the Central University of Venezuela. // Nahem Reyes es doctor en Historia de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello y miembro asociado del Centro de Estudios de América de la Universidad Central de Venezuela.