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Gustavo Petro was sworn in as Colombia’s first left-wing president

#Gustavo #Petro #sworn #Colombias #leftwing #president

Gustavo Petro took the oath of office in front of hundreds of thousands at his inauguration in Bogota on Sunday as Colombia’s first left-wing president.

The 62-year-old former guerrilla fighter and former mayor takes over from the deeply unpopular Ivan Duque with plans for sweeping reforms in a country wracked by economic inequality and drug-related violence.

Petro’s hard-fought victory in June’s general election propelled Colombia, long ruled by a conservative elite, into an expanding left-wing faction in Latin America.

“I swear to God and promise the people that I will faithfully enforce the constitution and laws of Colombia,” Petro said in his oath of office.

At a ceremony in Bogota on the eve of his inauguration, Petro said his government, which was to be supported by a left-wing majority in Congress, would aim to “bring to Colombia what it hasn’t had for centuries, which is calm and peace.”

“Here begins a government that will fight for environmental justice,” he added.

During his four-year election campaign, Petro promised to raise taxes on the rich, invest in health care and education and reform the police force after last year’s brutal crackdown on internationally condemned inequality protests.

He has promised to suspend oil exploration, promote clean energy and resume diplomatic and commercial ties with Venezuela’s suspended government of Nicolas Maduro since 2019.

Petro starts from an “enviable position, with a large majority in Congress and on the road with support that no government has had in recent years,” analyst Jorge Restrepo of the Resource Center for Conflict Analysis (CERAC) told AFP.

– “Critical” debt burden –

Petro’s presidency is also historic in another respect: he will be joined by the country’s first Afro-Colombian vice president, 40-year-old environmental and women’s rights activist Francia Marquez.

The couple will grapple with an economy shattered by the coronavirus pandemic, a rise in violence and a deep-rooted anger at the political establishment that culminated in last year’s protests.

Almost 40 percent of Colombia’s 50 million inhabitants live in poverty, 11.7 percent are unemployed.

Inflation also hit 10.2 percent yoy in July.

On Monday, a preparatory commission set up by Petro said he inherited “a debt and budget deficit that is… critical.”

– peace talks –

Petro, who was a member of the urban guerrilla M-19 in his youth, has pledged to implement outstanding provisions of the 2016 peace accord in which the FARC rebel movement laid down their arms after nearly six decades of civil war.

The former mayor of Bogota has also promised to continue negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN) armed group.

Although the FARC disbanded to become a political party, Colombia has seen a surge in violence.

Thousands of dissidents continue to battle the ELN and powerful cartels for control of drug fields, illegal gold mines and lucrative smuggling routes.

According to the Indepaz Peace Research Institute, 90 armed groups with around 10,000 members are active in Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer.

Petro has proposed allowing armed groups to hand themselves over in exchange for some form of amnesty.

Colombian presidents serve only one term.

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