Colombians have elected its new set of leaders in the tightest election in recent years — Gustavo Petro and Francia Marquez.
Gustavo Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement beat construction magnate Rodolfo Hernandez with an unexpectedly wide margin of some 720,000 votes.
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.
During his victory speech, Petro issued a call for unity and extended an olive branch to some of his harshest critics, saying all members of the opposition will be welcomed at the presidential palace to discuss the problems of the country.
“From this government that is beginning there will never be political persecution or legal persecution, there will only be respect and dialogue. We will listen to not only those who have raised arms but also to that silent majority of peasants, Indigenous people, women, youth”.
Petro’s victory hopes to open a new page in the history of the country’s relations with the US. He has also spoken of a desire to create a new progressive alliance in South America.
Meanwhile, Francia Marquez, a single mother and former housekeeper will be the country’s first Black woman vice president.
In a speech broadcast from Bogota, Marquez thanked supporters from across Colombia for the support.
“After 214 years we have achieved a government of the people, a popular government, a government of people with calloused hands…the government of the nobodies of Colombia.”
Marquez hails from the municipality of Suarez, a rural area of Colombia’s Cauca province where around 80% of its population lives in some form of poverty.
She is slated to lead a new equality ministry to build on her core ideas of improving women’s rights and helping the poor access health and education.
About 22.6 million Colombians cast their votes during Sunday’s election.
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