Contributed by Jim Hayes
The election of Gustavo Petro, former M-19 guerrilla, senator, and mayor of Bogota, as the President of Colombia is a significant development for this troubled nation and Latin America. He will take office on 7 August.
Photo from Reuters: Gustavo Petro
Petro has pledged to fight inequality, introduce free university education, bring in a new pension system, impose taxes on unproductive land, and ban new oil projects. More important than specific policies, is that it might lead to a loss of influence by the forces in control of the economy, politics, and the military. These forces have been the region’s staunchest allies of the United States.
The ending of the long running civil war between the state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016 led to a peace deal. But despite the disarming of FARC, the agreement was not really implemented by the other side. Petro has pledged to change this and enter talks with the still active ELN guerrillas. He also promised to stop the notorious paramilitaries engaged in numerous human rights violations, drug trafficking, and other criminal activity, who have been operating with impunity up till now.
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Petro has also raised doubts about the result of March’s parliamentary elections resulting in much of the old guard remaining, claiming irregularities in the counting. It is still unclear how this is going to pan out.
There is enough here to make those who have been long used to be in charge extremely worried. From big landowners to generals, they are sounding the alarm, and the danger of a coup or assassination is real, even if difficult to implement under the circumstances.
Washington has remained silenced so far but will not be pleased. Colombia has been a key ally for its geopolitical ambitions and a staging point for incursions across the border. The United States has a significant military presence in the country, and its current amin target in neighbouring Venezuela.
Petro’s policy is to normalise relations with Venezuela, and this would be a significant blow to Washington’s ambition to isolate the maduro government and continue cross-border incursions. In short, Colombia may prove to be a major blow against the policy of regime change for Venezuela.
Past this, the shifting political wind in Colombia, is part of the so-called pink tide sweeping the continent, which has seen a series of new leaders and governments shifting away from the United States orbit. Later this year, Brazil, Washington’s other key ally, is likely to see the return of Workers Party leader Lula to the presidency.
The failure of the recent meeting of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles is a barometer of the changing political wind. As host, Washington had banned Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Seven other nations refused to participate. Some of those that did, questioned the right of one to dictate who would come and what will be discussed, when these summits are supposed to be between equals.
Washington had dubbed the event the “Summit for Democracy,” which reality meant the imposition of obedience to its political ambitions for Latin American economic and political dependency. This was rejected.