October 7, 2022
Who is Gustavo Petro, the ex-guerrilla running for president of Colombia |  Globalism

Who is Gustavo Petro, the ex-guerrilla running for president of Colombia | Globalism

The left-wing candidate for Colombia’s presidency, Gustavo Petro, is a former guerrilla fighter who promises to “democratize” the country’s economy.

“The change that we propose today is to overthrow this corrupt regime, and to remove the thief and the murderer from power,” Petro said at a political event on May 16, in a strong reference to the current Colombian political situation.

Gustavo Petro during the Colombian presidential campaign in 2022 (Photo: REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

The past as a gangster

Gustavo Pietro was born in the city of Cinaga de Oro, Córdoba province, on April 19, 1960. Ten years later, on his birthday, an election was held that the conservative wing of Colombia allegedly rigged. This mobilized the creation of the Movimento 19 de Abril guerrilla group, known as the M-19.

At the age of 17, Pietro entered M-19 and his participation in the group represents his entire political career. He was arrested in 1985 for illegal possession of weapons. According to his own account, he was tortured by the army and then spent 18 months in prison.

As he was surrounded, Petro did not participate in one of the most striking attacks in M-19 history. On November 6 and 7, 1985, the group stormed the Palace of Justice and took more than 300 people hostage. The seizure took 28 hours and ended in a clash with the army. The lawsuit left more than 100 people dead, including the chief justice, Alfonso Reyes Echandia.

In parallel with his role in guerrilla warfare, Petro graduated in economics at the University of Externado in Bogota.

The guerrilla group transformed into a political party in 1990, becoming the M-19 Democratic Alliance. Petro was one of the founders.

His party took an active part in drafting the new constitution for Colombia in 1990. In 1991, Pietro was elected deputy for a 4-year term. Then, after receiving death threats, he spent two years in Belgium as an employee of the Colombian embassy. In 1998, he served for a second term as a deputy, but for another party he founded with other ex-fighters left the M-19.

He achieved greater political fame as a senator between 2006 and 2010, the third most voted. He gained huge popularity for allegations of corruption. It revealed connections between politicians and criminal factions, as well as illegal schemes involving then-President Alvaro Uribe.

He ran for president for the first time in 2010, but won just over 9% of the vote.

After the defeat, he ran for mayor of Bogota, from which he emerged victorious. Pietro boasts that he established the Trust for Women and for Social Advancement in the areas of health, employment and poverty reduction during his tenure as mayor.

In 2018, Pietro ran for president again, and was criticized for his friendship with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The opposition accused him of wanting to turn the country into Venezuela. He lost the election in the second round to Evan Duque.

Gustavo Petro during the 2018 presidential election campaign (Photo: REUTERS/Fred Wells

Petro said in an interview with the Colombian newspaper “Semana” that the words “right and left” at the present time are not good definitions of political orientation. He suggests another perspective: “the politics of life or the politics of death.”

Within this classification, Nicolás Maduro has been classified as a “politician of death”. The president of Venezuela is criticized for not wanting to free the country from dependence on oil. This critique by Petro makes sense in an electoral context, after all, one of his campaign promises is to invest in cleaner energy sources.

As for Hugo Chavez, who preceded Maduro in the presidency of Venezuela, his opinion is different. Petro said in the same interview that Chavez “tried to separate Venezuela from oil, but failed.” He commented that he shared the vision of the former Venezuelan president and that he intended to wean Colombia out of dependence on fossil fuels.

Earlier this year, according to Dinero magazine, Maduro criticized the Colombian left, calling it a coward. Petro replied that cowards do not embrace democracy.

However, that has not prevented the opposition from continuing to compare him to Maduro, as it did in previous elections. Evan Duque already drew similar criticism in 2018, when they were also rivals and Petro lost the place to Duque.

The rivalry between Ivan Duque and Gustavo Petro is old. Duque received support from former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who was the subject of corruption allegations when Pietro was a senator.

2022 presidential campaign

Although still stuck in the guerrilla picture, Gustavo Petro, now 62, had a more peaceful trajectory in 2022. 0.9% of the vote.

With a government proposal focused heavily on Colombia’s internal procedures, in his speeches and interviews Petro does not talk much about other Latin American countries or what the relationship of the Colombia he rules will be with Brazil. His projects for the Amazon region only mention the Colombian part of the jungle.

On the international issue, he cites an interest in producing alternative energy, less dependent on fossil fuels. In an interview with the American magazine “Time”, he stated that he would like to see a major union of countries in the fight against global warming and “Latin America’s transition to a carbon-neutral, productive and technology-based economy”.

Petro garnered support for his promises to correct the country’s deep income inequality. Including a proposal that economists consider controversial: ensuring a minimum pension for the poor. The problem is where the money will come from. Petro suggests transferring the private pension funds to the government fund and using this amount to finance the government project.

But investors warned that the pension plan and its promise to halt oil projects could jeopardize the stability of the country’s economy.

Gustavo Petro on the campaign trail for Colombia’s presidency in 2022 – Photo: REUTERS / Luisa Gonzalez