Gustavo Petro: leftist leader assumes command of the Government of Colombia

The leftist Gustavo Petro was sworn in this Sunday as president of Colombia, a position to which he came to succeed Iván Duque, before a crowd that applauded him in the Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá.

“I promise God and I promise the people to faithfully comply with the Constitution and the laws of Colombia,” Petro said when he was sworn in before the president of Congress, Roy Barreras.

In his first speech as head of state, the 62-year-old former senator and former guerrilla outlined profound changes for this country of 50 million inhabitants, plagued by inequality, the economic lags of the pandemic, and cyclical violence for more than 60 years.

Before hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the Plaza de Bolívar, in the center of Bogotá, and nine invited presidents, Petro promised to “achieve true and definitive peace” in his four years in office.

The new Colombian president said that he will comply with the agreement with the FARC, the guerrilla that signed peace in 2016 to become a political party, and offered the groups that remain in arms criminal benefits if they renounce violence.

“We call (…) all the armed to lay down their weapons in the mists of the past. To accept legal benefits in exchange for peace”, he said.

However, he did not specify whether his offer implies a reduction in sentences or alternative sanctions to prison, such as those agreed with the dissolved Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Petro advocated for an international convention that assumes that the war on drugs has failed and has even led states like Colombia to commit crimes and “has evaporated the horizon of democracy.”

“It is time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drugs has failed completely, that it has left a million Latin Americans murdered during these 40 years,” Petro said in his inaugural speech.

The president added that “peace is possible” in Colombia if the war on drugs is changed “for a strong policy of prevention of consumption in developed societies.”

With the assumption of Petro, Colombia enters for the first time in the orbit of the left in the region, which could be consolidated with the probable victory of Lula in Brazil next October.

On the international front, Petro has already announced that it will reactivate diplomatic and commercial relations with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, broken since 2019, although he did not mention this matter in his speech.

Petro emphasized his environmentalist proclamation against the climate crisis by proposing to create an international fund to protect the Colombian Amazon, plagued by deforestation.

He is going with a ministerial cabinet made up of several women and professionals, mostly independent, with the promise of accelerating the transition to clean energy and stopping deforestation in the Amazon.