in Colombia have picked a powerful new duo, Gustavo Petro as
president and Francia Márquez as vice president, to take the
nation in a new direction, tackling economic and environmental
the first time ever, Colombia has chosen new leadership that is not
conservative. Voters in the third-most populous nation in Latin
former mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, in a runoff election
against his conservative opponent Rodolfo Hernández, with
50.47 percent of the votes.
who ran on a platform to tackle inequality, is a former rebel soldier
who, at the age of 17 joined
a now-defunct guerilla group called M-19
was briefly imprisoned and tortured. His election is viewed as part
of the ongoing “pink
Latin America where a wave of left-leaning, but
not-hardcore-communist leaders have succeeded in taking power through
even more impressive than Petro is his running mate, Francia
the nation’s first Afro-Colombian vice president and a
celebrated environmental activist.
other Afro-Colombian has risen so far up the ranks of the government
as Márquez—in spite of the fact that nearly 10 percent
of the nation’s population is of African descent—and
neither has anyone with the kind of environmental and social justice
credentials that Márquez has.
from one of the poorest provinces in Colombia, Cauca, Márquez
was awarded the Goldman
2018 for her courageous work against illegal mining. In 2014, she led
80 women on a massive march spanning 10 days and 350 miles and faced
death threats for her environmental work.
Williams Comrie, executive director of the U.S.-based organization
is a long-time friend of Márquez’s and someone she
considers a “sister and comrade.” Comrie traveled to
Colombia for the election and in an interview
shared her elation at seeing someone who looks like her rise to the
position of vice president.
“is loved by the whole country,” says Comrie. “She
has been impacted by the [civil] war, she is an internally displaced
person, and to come from where she comes from and now be the vice
president of a nation, it’s for the people, by the people.”
She adds, that Márquez’s win, “is the whole
a nation that has embraced U.S.-style neoliberal politics and, for
years, been a bulwark against leftist leaders in nations like
Venezuela and Cuba, Colombia’s election results represent a
shattering of the prevailing regional political order in the
has been a United States ally for 200
The U.S. State Department boasts of the more than $1 billion aid it
has given Colombia in recent years, saying on its website that “With
the support of the United States, Colombia has transformed itself
over the past 20 years from a fragile state into a vibrant democracy
with a growing market-oriented economy.”
pro-capitalist Western media outlets are responding negatively to the
election results. Barron’s published an article with a headline
“Colombia’s New President Moves the Country to the Left.
Markets Don’t Seem Enthusiastic.” Bloomberg had a similar
response with a story titled, “Colombian
Markets Sink After Leftist Wins Presidential Election.”
The cryptic desires of “markets” are apparently important
enough to warrant strong opinions from media outlets about the
nation’s new leadership.
missing from the news coverage is how Colombia “has one of the
highest levels of income inequality in the world,” and the
second-highest in Latin America and the Caribbean, as per the World
Further, more than 40
Colombians live below the poverty line.
news outlets like Barron’s and Bloomberg, such statistics are
unimportant. To the State Department, this is apparently
a “vibrant democracy with a growing market-oriented economy”
how reliably conservative and pro-U.S. Colombia’s leadership
has been, how is it that Petro and Márquez won?
explains the election results saying, “people needed a change.”
Petro and Márquez’s “whole platform was around
cambio, which means ‘change’ in Spanish.”
justice is a critical aspect of the change that the new government
has promised. Comrie contextualizes how “[Colombia] is really
the environmental lung to Latin America,” given that a
significant portion of the Amazon rainforest lies within its borders.
Colombia’s rainforest has experienced devastating
and Márquez, according to Comrie, are, “committed to
dealing with the high levels of deforestation,” and to
“figuring out how can we restore what has been depleted and
what has been exploited from an environmental perspective that is
accountable to Mother Earth first, and then to the economy, second.”
significant portion of the United States’ aid to Colombia has
come in the form of mass aerial
glyphosate, a “probable
to supposedly combat Colombia’s cocaine farming efforts.
the United States’ “Plan Colombia” has centered on
a failed drug war that analyst Brendon Lee, in an in-depth
the Harvard International Review, described as, “largely
ineffective, causing drug production to expand into other countries
and creating a militarized war on drugs that has victimized countless
and Márquez have vowed to take the country in a different
direction, moving away from aerial fumigation and focusing instead on
eradicating poverty among farming communities.
to Comrie, the election results are, “not only about Colombia,
it’s about the whole region. And those policies [that Petro and
Márquez plan to implement] will impact how other governments
behave” elsewhere in Latin America.
explains that Márquez and Petro plan to create a Ministry of
Igualdad, or Equality which, “will propose new policies
and new structures,” to address inequality, such as, “giving
women heads of households [who] have been excluded from the economy,
a base salary so that they can then sustain themselves.”
Additionally, there is expected to be an “expansion of social
programs,” and an exploration of programs like “education
the U.S. has opposed left-leaning governments in Latin America whose
focus on eradicating poverty outweighs a desire to enrich industries.
The U.S. has instead preferred
and backed dozens of coups
replacing a pro-U.S. government with one that is focused on
progressive solutions to internal problems, Colombian voters face the
prospect of American interventionism. Comrie advises President Joe
Biden’s administration, saying that if Biden wants to address
climate change, “this is really the administration to work with
on that.” But, she warns, “it can’t be on Biden’s
terms, it really has to be on Petro and Márquez’s
Comrie thinks, “it’s time to really… shift the
power dynamics” between the U.S. and Colombia.
produced by Economy
a project of the Independent Media Institute.