BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Final 12 months, Fabian Espinel helped manage roadblocks the place younger individuals protested in opposition to police violence and authorities plans to extend taxes on decrease revenue Colombians.
Now, as Colombia heads into its presidential election Sunday, Espinel walks the streets of working class sectors in Bogota handing out flyers for front-running candidate Gustavo Petro and helps paint murals in assist of the leftist politician.
“Younger individuals on this nation are caught,” stated Espinel, who misplaced his job as an occasion planner throughout the pandemic and acquired no compensation from his firm. “We hope Petro can change that. We’d like an financial mannequin that’s totally different than the one which has been failing us for years.”
Colombians will choose from six candidates in a poll being held amid a generalized feeling the nation is heading within the improper path. The most recent opinion polls recommend Petro may get 40% of the votes, with a 15-point lead over his closest rival. However the senator wants 50% to keep away from a run-off election in June in opposition to the second place finisher.
His fundamental rival by way of a lot of the marketing campaign has been Federico Gutierrez, a former mayor of Medellin who’s backed by most of Colombia’s conventional events and is operating on a pro-business, financial progress platform.
However populist actual property tycoon Rodolfo Hernández has been rising quick in polls and will problem for the second spot in Sunday’s vote. He has few connections to political events and says he’ll scale back wasteful authorities spending and provide rewards for Colombians who denounce corrupt officers.
Petro, a former insurgent with anti-establishment rhetoric, guarantees to make vital changes to the financial system in addition to change how Colombia fights drug cartels and different armed teams. His agenda largely facilities on preventing inequalities which have affected the South American nation’s individuals for many years and have become worse throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
He has promised authorities jobs to individuals who can’t get work, free school tuition for younger Colombians and subsidies for farmers who’re struggling to develop crops, which he says he pays for by rising taxes on rich people and companies.
His agenda additionally touches on points that would shake up Colombia’s tight-knit relationship with the USA.
Adam Isacson, an knowledgeable on protection coverage on the Washington Workplace on Latin America, a suppose tank, stated if Petro wins the election “there might be extra disagreement and distance” between each nations.
Petro desires to renegotiate a free commerce settlement with the U.S. that has boosted imports of American merchandise like powdered milk and corn. and as an alternative favor native producers.
He additionally guarantees to vary how Colombia fights drug cartels that produce round 90% of cocaine at the moment bought within the U.S. The senator typically criticizes U.S. drug coverage within the hemisphere, saying it “has failed” as a result of it focuses an excessive amount of on eradicating unlawful crops and arresting kingpins. He desires to spice up assist for rural areas, to provide farmers alternate options to rising coca, the plant used to make cocaine.
Isacson stated coca eradication targets may change into much less of a precedence for the Colombian authorities below a Petro administration, in addition to the tempo at which drug traffickers who’re arrested are despatched to the U.S. to face fees,
The election comes as Colombia’s financial system struggles to get better from the pandemic and frustration grows with political elites.
A Gallup ballot performed earlier this month stated 75% of Colombians consider the nation is heading within the improper path and solely 27% approve of conservative President Ivan Duque, who can’t run for re-election. A ballot final 12 months by Gallup discovered 60% of these questioned had been discovering it onerous to get by on their family revenue.
Sergio Guzmán, a political danger analyst in Bogota, stated the pandemic and the 2016 peace cope with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia insurgent group have shifted voters’ priorities.
“Whereas earlier elections centered round points like the right way to cope with insurgent teams, now the principle challenge is the financial system,” Guzmán stated. “Voters are involved about who will sort out points like inequality or the shortage of alternatives for youth.”
If Petro or Hernández ought to win the presidency, they’d be part of a bunch of leftist leaders and outsiders who’ve been taking on Latin American governments because the pandemic began in 2020.
In Chile, leftist legislator Gabriel Boric gained the presidential election final 12 months, main a progressive coalition that promised to vary the nation’s structure and make public providers like power and schooling extra inexpensive.
In Peru, voters elected rural college trainer Pedro Castillo to the presidency though he had by no means held workplace. Castillo defied political events which were mired in bribery scandals and presidential impeachment trials and bungled the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Ecuadorians bucked the leftist pattern final 12 months, however nonetheless elected an outsider opposition candidate, Gullermo Lasso.
In regional affairs, Petro is seeking to re-establish diplomatic relations with the socialist authorities of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Colombia minimize diplomatic ties with Venezuela in 2019 as a part of a U.S.-led effort to isolate Maduro and stress him with sanctions into holding new elections.
Some observers suppose Petro could possibly be ready to fix bridges between Maduro and a few sectors of Venezuela’s opposition.
“Fixing Venezuela’s political and financial disaster is in Colombia’s curiosity,” stated Ronal Rodríguez, a professor at Bogota’ Rosario college.
Sandra Borda, a professor of worldwide relations on the College of Los Andes in Bogota, stated Petro might not have sufficient leverage to make vital modifications to Colombia’s international coverage.
Efforts to renegotiate the free commerce settlement with the USA could possibly be thwarted by legislators in each nations, she stated. And in the case of safety, the Colombian navy might be reluctant to surrender on cooperation agreements with the U.S. that embody joint workouts, intelligence sharing and jobs for Colombian navy instructors in U.S.-financed programs in different Latin American nations.
Borda stated Petro’s capacity to vary Colombia’s international coverage may hinge on whether or not he wins the primary spherical outright. If he has to go to a run-off, she stated, he should make offers with events within the heart, which could assist his home reforms in alternate for extra management over safety and worldwide relations.
“His precedence might be to hold out home reforms geared toward lowering inequality and overcoming poverty,” Borda stated. “Petro understands that if he does that he has a better probability of consolidating his political motion.”
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