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Ex-rebel fighter Gustavo Petro wins Colombia’s presidency

Gustavo Petro, a former rebel fighter who has promised profound social and economic change, has won Colombia’s presidency.

The victory in Sunday’s presidential runoff election will make Petro Colombia’s first left-wing president.

He won 50.4 percent of the vote, while his rival Rodolfo Hernandez, a construction magnate, had 47.3 percent.

“As of today, Colombia is changing, a real change that guides us to one of our aims: the politics of love … of understanding and dialogue,” a jubilant Petro told his supporters in the Colombian capital, Bogota.

The win for Petro, a senator and a former mayor of Bogota, underlined a drastic change in presidential politics for a country that has long marginalised the left for its perceived association with the armed conflict. Petro himself was once a rebel with the now-defunct M-19 movement and was granted amnesty after being jailed for his involvement with the group.

In his victory speech, Petro, 62, 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 Colombia”.

“From this government that is beginning there will never be political persecution or legal persecution, there will only be respect and dialogue,” he said, adding that he will listen to not only those who have raised arms but also to “that silent majority of peasants, Indigenous people, women, youth”.

Outgoing conservative President Ivan Duque congratulated Petro shortly after the results were announced, and Hernandez quickly conceded his defeat. “I accept the result, as it should be, if we want our institutions to be firm,” Hernandez said in a video on social media. “I sincerely hope that this decision is beneficial for everyone.”

 

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