Colombia: left-wing Petro channels anger to win presidential election

For the first time Colombia has a left-wing president. Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla fighter and leader of Humane Colombia, replaces the hated Iván Duque Márquez and his right-wing regime.

Petro’s historic election comes one year after widespread protests and strikes in opposition to Duque and his government. The movement started with proposed tax reforms which sparked a movement of millions against the government. It was reported that over 40 protestors were murdered by the police. Over 2,000 were injured.

The tax reform law was just the spark that moved millions into struggle. Anger had been brewing already over poverty and unemployment, the government’s botched Covid response, and police brutality. Petro has managed to channel this anger in his election.

Petro has pledged free university education, wealth taxes and state jobs for all unemployed people, but his position will be an unstable one, for example he controls only a minority of the Senate.

During the 2018 presidential election, when Petro stood unsuccessfully, the Committee for a Workers’ International said that “it is necessary for Petro to base himself on the mass mobilisation that has boosted him, to promote the organisation of the committees that have emerged in the heat of the campaign, and to defend an anti-capitalist social and ecological programme that allows the wealth of the country to put itself at the service of the majority of the population, expropriating the big landowners and the main capitalist multinationals.” The same is even more true and urgent given his election.