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Colombia is a bit less than two weeks away from the first round of its presidential elections. Although there are still several candidates to be debated at the polls. All polls show who will advance to the second round. In the first place, the candidate of the extreme left, the senator and former member of the M-19 guerrilla group, Gustavo Petro. He is followed, in the polls, by the former mayor of Medellín, the conservative Federico Gutiérrez.
The internal mood in Colombia enhances the importance of these elections. Although this is the third time that Petro is a candidate for president, in this opportunity, pollsters and analysts are showing his real possibility of winning. Colombia is, consequently, facing its most important election, since it would be the first time that Colombians really embrace an explicitly socialist model.
To understand a little of the dilemma Colombians are facing, it is worthwhile to evaluate who has supported Gustavo Petro’s candidacy or who are some of the personalities have expressed their sympathy for the former guerrilla fighter. Here is a brief list of some of Petro’s supporters, which are quite revealing.
Jose Luis Zapatero, Former Spain Prime Minister
Last week, former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero traveled to Colombia to back Gustavo Petro’s campaign. While in Bogota, Zapatero told journalists: “The dialogue that I have had with Gustavo Petro and with the leaders makes me think that the raison d’être of a possible history of Petro is to walk towards equality and walk towards the end of violence.”
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, author of one of the worst economic crises Spain has seen, close to the dictatorial regime of Nicolás Maduro and a figure of the São Paulo Forum — founded by Fidel Castro — said that Petro would manage to “turn Colombia into a country of definitive peace.”
Zapatero was recently accused by Hugo Carvajal, Hugo Chavez’s former intelligence chief, of having received financing from the Venezuelan regime and of owning a gold mine in Venezuela. In fact, Carvajal’s information coincides with what former Senator Piedad Córdoba said in March 2020.
In an interview, Córdoba said: “But how are you doing? I don’t seem to understand. I told Rodríguez Zapatero, I don’t understand this. He told me: all of us were given a gold mine. We exploit it and what we get on our side, comes to us from here.”
Fraudster Evo Morales, Former Bolivia’s President
Accused of corruption, electoral fraud and involved in a scandal for having a relationship with a minor, the former president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, expressed this week his support to Gustavo Petro and his solidarity for the alleged threats against the candidate.
In his Twitter account, Morales wrote: “All our solidarity with brother Gustavo Petro, who had to suspend his political activities due to threats against his life and integrity by paramilitary groups. Democracy is a right of all candidates to freely present their proposals.”
Morales, whom the Organization of American States accused of electoral fraud and who had to resign and leave Bolivia after pressure, is known for his close relationship with the dictatorial regime of Nicolás Maduro and his admiration and closeness to the Cuban Revolution.
Communist Juan Carlos Monedero
In an interview he did for Diario Público, political scientist Juan Carlos Monedero told Gustavo Petro that he hopes that a left-wing alternative to Iván Duque’s government will be formed in Colombia. He expressed his support and wished him luck.
Monedero, one of the founding members of the Spanish communist political party PODEMOS, advised the Chavista regime for several years and also received financing from Venezuela to promote his political projects in Spain.
In November 2021, the newspaper El Mundo revealed that Monedero received “suitcases with money from Chavismo” in a hotel in Caracas.
“Two people have declared in the case where the alleged irregular financing of the party [PODEMOS] is secretly investigated, that Chavismo sent Monedero suitcases with cash to the Meliá Caracas hotel in Venezuela,” reads the Spanish newspaper.
Left-wing Mouthpiece Pablo Iglesias
It seems that all Spanish communism has lined up to support Gustavo Petro. Perhaps the most recognized voice of the far left in Spain is that of Pablo Iglesias, who has a very good relationship with the former Colombian guerrilla.
Over the years, Iglesias has expressed his sympathy for Petro. In the 2018 presidential elections, when Petro lost to the center-right candidate, current President Iván Duque, Iglesias wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations to Gustavo Petro for his unprecedented result that has demonstrated the will for change of a good part of Colombia. It is now time to consolidate the bet for peace and the future.”
At the end of 2020, Iglesias and Petro met. From that meeting, Petro expressed his support for the candidacy of Iglesias for the Community of Madrid — he was later defeated by the PP candidate, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, and, due to the defeat, he announced that he was retiring from politics.
Iglesias is known for his communist fundamentalism and for having been financed by the Caracas regime to found his political party PODEMOS. He is one of the most dogmatic figures of the Spanish far left.
Former President of Ecuador Rafael Correa: Convicted on Corruption Charges
Petro’s list of endorsements is made up by several accused of corruption and, undoubtedly, one of the most prominent is the former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa.
Correa, sentenced to eight years in prison in Ecuador and currently on the run, living in Belgium, is accused of having received bribes during his presidency. In addition, the justice system accuses him of having kidnapped an opponent, of political persecution and of silencing the press. Ecuador’s then-attorney general, Íñigo Salvador, said that Correa had “institutionalized the structure of corruption” in the country.
During this year, Correa has been active in his social networks in support of Gustavo Petro. On June 15, he wrote: “Spread the censored advertising of Gustavo Petro! We will win!”
The former president, a member of the São Paulo Forum founded by Fidel Castro and close to the Bolivarian Revolution of Chávez and Maduro, has said on several occasions that Colombians should support Gustavo Petro.
Left-wing Economist Thomas Piketty
Thomas Piketty, French, is one of the leading economists of the left. Keynesian, he bets on excessive public spending, financial irresponsibility and maximization of the power of the state. The first time Gustavo Petro and Piketty had an exchange was in 2018, shortly before Colombia’s presidential elections, when the economist expressed his support for him. At the time, he wrote on Twitter, “For a new progressive cycle in Latin America and the world, I vote for Gustavo Petro!”
Recently, in January of this year, Piketty and Petro met again. “With Thomas Piketty we talked about the concept of capital in his work, the statistical work of the Chilean Palma who asks Latin America to resemble the South Korean economy and the possibilities of a school of economical thinking in Latin America,” the candidate wrote on Twitter. Then, Gustavo Petro said that Piketty, an inequality theorist who proposes a model of redistribution and “flow of goods” with the aim of “overcoming the capitalist model, would be his advisor in an eventual presidency.
FARC Guerilla Member Timochenko
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is one of the country’s most bloodthirsty terrorist groups. For more than six decades, the communist organization terrorized the Colombian population with attacks and kidnappings, until the Colombian Army, especially under the command of former President Alvaro Uribe, neutralized its criminal operations.
Many of its leaders ended up mutating from terrorism to politics, protected by the peace agreements that pardoned their crimes. One of the most prominent is Rodrigo Londoño, alias Timochenko, the last commander-in-chief of the communist FARC group’s General Staff.
Currently, Londoño is part of the far-left political organization Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común (FARC) and at the end of March this year, he announced his support for Gustavo Petro for the presidential elections.
“Petro, count on us to make Colombia a World Power of Life,” Londoño wrote on his Twitter account.
“I welcome Gustavo Petro’s manifest commitment to work for a complete peace for Colombia, starting with the comprehensive implementation of the Peace Process between the FARC and the Colombian state,” Londoño said on March 28 this year.
For several years, the U.S. government considered Rodrigo Londoño a terrorist. The guerrilla is also accused of different crimes by the Colombian justice system. If the possible sentences of all charges (murder, kidnapping and terrorism) are added together, Londoño should serve “more than 448 years in prison.” He had an arrest warrant until the peace process began under the government of former President Juan Manuel Santos and the arrest warrants were suspended so that he could travel freely to Cuba, where the talks were being held.
Socialist Regime of Venezuela
Gustavo Petro has always been close to the Bolivarian Revolution. His relationship with Hugo Chávez dates back to the nineties when as a member of the M-19 guerrilla group, he received Chávez in Colombia. Afterward, he always advocated for the Bolivarian Revolution and rejected the role of the United States in Venezuela. In 2013, when Chávez died, Petro wrote: “You lived in Chávez’s times and maybe you thought he was a clown. You were fooled. You lived in the times of a great Latin American leader.”
Diosdado Cabello, the second in command of Nicolás Maduro’s regime, said in 2018 that Petro traveled to Venezuela “to ask for money.” The information coincides with revelations by Hugo Carvajal, Chávez’s former intelligence chief, that the Bolivarian Revolution has illegally financed Petro on several occasions.
And, although Petro has publicly distanced himself from the Chavista regime — probably because an eventual closeness with Maduro would hurt his campaign — the reality is that all those around Petro and his supporters do have good relations with Caracas. Many have accused Venezuela of financing Colombia’s popular insurrections and of being behind Petro’s campaign, as it is no secret that Venezuela’s money has supported most of Latin America’s leftist movements.
Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.