For the first time, Colombia will have a leftist president. Gustavo Petro, a former rebel and a longtime legislator, won Colombia’s presidential election Sunday, galvanizing voters frustrated by decades of poverty and inequality under conservative leaders, with promises to expand social programs, tax the wealthy and move away from an economy he has called overly reliant on fossil fuels.
His victory sets the third-largest nation in Latin America on a sharply uncertain path, just as it faces rising poverty and violence that have sent record numbers of Colombians to the United States border; high levels of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon, a key buffer against climate change; and a growing distrust of key democratic institutions, which has become a trend in the region.
Petro, 62, received more than 50% of the vote, with more than 99% counted Sunday evening. His opponent, Rodolfo Hernández, a construction magnate who had energized the country with a scorched-earth anti-corruption platform, won just over 47%.
Shortly after the vote, Hernández conceded to Petro.
“Colombians, today the majority of citizens have chosen the other candidate,” Hernández said. “As I said during the campaign, I accept the results of this election.”
Petro took the stage Sunday night flanked by his vice-presidential pick, Francia Márquez, and three of Petro’s children. The packed stadium went wild, with people standing on chairs and holding phones aloft.