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Petro is sworn in as the first leftist president in Colombia

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Colombia A new political cycle begins on Sunday with the coming to power of Gustavo Petrothe first leftist president in 200 years of republican history and a former guerrilla who will command the Armed Forces that for decades have fought illegal groups.

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The presidential sash that Petro, 62, will wear carries with it the challenges of overcoming the growing violence that has claimed the lives of more than 560 human rights defenders since 2016, the highest inflation in the last two decades, and the search for consensus. in a divided country.

Several sectors fear being affected by their objective of carrying out reforms in agriculture, energy production, the police, pensions and tax collection. But among his voters there is hope: Petro promised them a nation with less inequality, that will guarantee the rights of all its citizens – especially the most vulnerable – and that will give priority to the environment.

In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in the north of the country, Petro attended his first symbolic inauguration ceremony before the Arauhaco indigenous people two days before his official inauguration. One of the mamos -the highest hierarchy of the community- asked him to respond to the demands of society and gave him a cane that represents wisdom.

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The cultural diversity of Colombia will be reflected in the inauguration ceremony and in the prelude, in which dozens of artists will perform national rhythms in the parks of the city center.

The Plaza de Bolívar will be divided into two: in the first part there will be representatives from various countries, including King Felipe VI of Spain, and in the second the citizens, breaking the tradition of a private ceremony.

In his youth, Petro was a member of the nationalist guerrilla M-19, which relinquished arms in 1991 after signing a peace agreement with the state.

His past as a rebel weighs heavily on some soldiers who will henceforth be under his command. “We do not anticipate any disturbance, saber rattling, or any of these armed activities,” retired Colonel John Marulanda, president of the Colombian Association of Retired Armed Forces Officers, told The Associated Press.

Marulanda stressed that although it is difficult for the soldiers who fought the M-19 to accept Petro’s arrival in power, in the new generations there is more expectation than resistance.

Petro embodies a left that has been marginalized and sometimes stigmatized by the weight of five decades of an internal armed conflict that left 50,770 people kidnapped, 121,768 disappeared, 450,664 murdered and 7.7 million forcibly displaced, according to the Truth Commission.

Although the country has been going through a post-conflict phase for five years after the signing of the peace agreement between the State and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) -which was the oldest guerrilla group in Latin America-, the pact did not put an end to the violence.

Petro aspires to achieve a “total peace” that implies the submission to justice of the criminal gangs that feed on drug trafficking – such as the Clan del Golfo – and the resumption of negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the last guerrilla active in the country.

The economist, who joins a wave of leftist and progressive presidents in the region, would seek to strengthen ties with his neighbors and especially with Venezuela, a country with which Colombia broke relations in 2019.

Political analyst Sandra Borda explained to AP that the objective of improving relations with Venezuela is linked to the possibility that that country facilitates dialogue with the ELN.

After being elected, Petro adopted a more moderate stance on some issues, the analyst said, and sought dialogue with his political opponents, which resulted in broad support and a key majority in Congress to push through a tax reform that would increase taxes to the higher classes and would give him resources to finance social programs.

However, he has also taken a risky step by appointing Iván Velásquez as Defense Minister who, Borda emphasized, points to a process of internal transformation of the armed forces to end corruption and promote respect for human rights that could strain relationship with the new government.

In the business community and the markets there is great expectation for the content of the tax reform and other measures, such as the possible suspension of the granting of mining and oil exploration licenses with the aim of accelerating the energy transition. The energy sector contributes about 18% of the nation’s fiscal income and is in the first line of exports.

Ricardo Triana, executive director of the Council of American Companies -which brings together more than 100 US companies in 17 sectors-, assured that in a meeting prior to his election, Petro promised them that it would respect the contracts already signed and that investments in March.

Source: Gestion

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