Colombia elects former guerrilla Petro as first leftist president

Leftist Gustavo Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement, who has vowed profound social and economic change, won Colombia’s presidency on Sunday, the first progressive to do so in the country’s history.

Petro beat construction magnate Rodolfo Hernandez with an unexpectedly wide margin of more than 700,000 votes in what analysts said was a demonstration of Colombians’ eagerness for efforts to combat deep inequality.

Petro, a former mayor of capital Bogota and current senator, has pledged to fight inequality with free university education, pension reforms and high taxes on unproductive land. He won 50.5% to Hernandez’s 47.3%.

Petro’s proposals – especially a ban on new oil projects – have startled some investors, though he has promised to respect current contracts.

His victory was likely to cause market jitters until his cabinet is announced, analysts told Reuters on Sunday.

“From today Colombia changes; Colombia is different,” Petro told cheering supporters in Bogota’s concert arena. “Change consists precisely in leaving behind sectarianism.”

“It is not a time for hate, this government, which will begin on Aug. 7, is a government of life,” he said.

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