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Autopsy of a Suicide: Why Colombia Picked Fmr Guerrilla Gustavo Petro as its New President

Gustavo Petro, El American

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It seemed impossible that Colombia, a country that never in its history had elected an openly left-wing candidate, would decide this June 19 to jump the void; particularly, after millions of Venezuelans walked the streets of Colombia after having fled from socialism in their country, and with a candidate of the extreme left (who belonged to the guerrilla that in 1985 took over the Palace of Justice in Colombia) and who, in addition, during his long political career has openly spoken of expropriation, redistribution, attack to the Armed Forces and other extremely serious issues. What happened?

This point is fundamental and is present in all the victories that the left has had recently in Latin America. But do not confuse weariness with the traditional political class with a rejection of right-wing ideas. To a great extent, the weak vote obtained by Federico Gutiérrez, the center-right candidate who was defeated in the first round, can be explained by his lukewarmness and even his direct rejection of conservative ideas.

In the same sense, Rodolfo Hernández, who was left with the position to compete with Gustavo Petro in the second round, dedicated his last days of campaign to attack Uribismo and conservatives, to expose leftist ideas and to make clear that he did not want to be related to the right. Because of that serious mistake, inexplicable for someone who knows about politics, many of the votes of the center-right, which in the first round went to Federico Gutiérrez, disappeared and never reached Rodolfo. If all the Gutierrez votes had gone to Rodolfo, as most analysts believed, Petro would have lost.

After making it clear that Colombia is not a rejection of the right, but of politicians who claim to be right-wing and govern as left-wing, it must be recognized that Uribismo, which since 2002 has brought together the votes of the center-right, has achieved great things for Colombia, but has also made big mistakes. The first one is called Juan Manuel Santos and it cost Colombia too much.

Santos arrived as the candidate of Uribismo and ended up delivering the country in an agreement negotiated in Havana that gave impunity and power to the FARC. Then came the government of Iván Duque, who for millions of Colombians was completely incapable of acting with an iron fist against the country’s enemies, but who also had to endure the economic problems of the pandemic and his own incapacities.

After years of betrayals and disillusions, that electorate in love with a president Uribe who left office with an 80% popularity rating, manifested itself against its leaders and decided not to follow their advice anymore. That ended in an election in which the candidate of the center-right, supported by all the traditional parties—except the left—was left without a ticket to the second round because he was beaten by Rodolfo Hernandez, a relatively unknown man in a good part of the Colombian territory.

Gustavo Petro had the advantage of not facing a traditional candidate, with the political structure and party discipline that this implies, but a man who does not even have a party and who decided that his presidential campaign would be run by a team of “14 guys”. Besides, strangely enough, he made serious mistakes in the last days, such as offending Uribismo and the right-wing. Wasn’t it obvious that he needed the votes of the center-right to win against Petro?

Days before the second round he was absent, while Gustavo Petro disguised himself as almost every possible profession to empathize with workers and took pictures in the poorest neighborhoods of the different regions, Hernandez lowered his activity to the maximum, limiting himself to publishing home videos.

From the beginning, Petro’s campaign was dedicated to presenting Rodolfo as an extreme right-wing guy. For many, within Uribismo, the strategy was to inflate a man who had no political support and who was full of defects -which for the first round were still hidden-, to get Federico Gutierrez out of the way and then to have a second round with a candidate that as soon as the right would have the opportunity to know well would be deeply discouraged because in many of his ideas he is a leftist. This explains why Antioquia — the bastion of the Colombian right — did not get the votes that Hernandez so badly needed; it is very hard to vote for someone who not only is not from the right but who insults the ideas one defends.

According to testimonies of criminals such as Jhon Jairo Velásquez, who at the time was Pablo Escobar’s right-hand man, different drug traffickers, including Escobar himself, financed and supported the M-19 -the guerrilla to which Gustavo Petro belonged- to take over the Palace of Justice and with that pressure and stop extraditions. A few days ago, Colombians saw a video of Roy Barreras, one of Gustavo Petro’s right-hand men, accepting that people from that coalition were visiting extraditables drug dealers to offer them non-extradition. Just as in the times of Pablo Escobar, Petro, Colombia’s new president, has reportedly negotiated with drug traffickers in exchange for power.

A few weeks ago, an indigenous leader was found dead who days before had denounced that the FARC was forcing people in the district of Cauca to vote for Petro. The new president-elect of Colombia not only had the verbal and political support of the FARC, but in the areas affected by drug trafficking, the guerrillas intimidated the population to vote for him.

The urban terrorists of the First Line were not left behind either. They threatened on social networks to set fire to the main cities if Gustavo Petro did not win the Presidency. Petro’s campaign is a carnival of delinquency and crime. Bandits of all stripes put their efforts into the ex-guerrilla to come to power.

The situation in Colombia is not easy at all. Gustavo Petro has prepared his whole life for this moment. He knows firsthand what is the combination of the “forms of struggle” and is allied with the worst criminals at national and international level. However, Colombians have a long history of fighting narco-Marxist guerrillas, a fight they even took up by arming themselves and risking their lives to protect their property. The future looks grim, but the character of Colombians has always allowed them to save the country. It is time to reflect on this collective suicide and prepare to rise from the ashes.

Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editor-in-chief of El American. Economist. Podcaster. Political and economic analysis of America. Colombian exile in the United States // Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editora en jefe de El American. Economista. Podcaster. Análisis político y económico de América. Colombiana exiliada en EE. UU.

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