Gustavo Petro, new President of Colombia, shown by big screens in Plaza de Bolívar, Bogotá. (The Associated Press)
Colombia welcomes its first left-wing President in history.
On August 7 2022 – in the middle of the celebrations for Bogotá’s 484th foundation anniversary – the newly-elected President Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego has sworn in. And it’s already made history.
The very presence of thousands of people come in crowds in Plaza de Bolívar, watched by its Palace of Justice, the Congress, Bogotá’s City Hall, and the Primary Cathedral of Bogotá, with thousands more swarmed in the parks and squares surrounding the city centre, where big screens were installed for the people to attend virtually. This was the first remarkable sign of the coming revolutionary era in Colombian political history.
Gustavo Petro’s life is filled with memorable actions. Since he was very young, his desire of a structural change and his justice hunger led him to fight in different scenarios. Among others, during the early-90s uprising and the Ceasefire Agreement between the Colombian Government and the M-19 Guerrilla group. In this occasion, Petro stepped into the world of politics, where he was elected for the Congress over many consecutive periods. From his position, he made several denunciations against the statal violence and the land dispossesions in wartime. His debating in the Colombian Parliament has aimed at fighting against impunity and inequity. Consequently, he conquered the support of the people and was elected as mayor of Bogotá in 2012.
Eventually, “sí, se pudo!” – yes, it was possible – Petro’s supporters have chanted over these last months following the elections. “We are here against all odds” said Gustavo Petro in his first speech, “against a history which had claimed we would never govern, … against those who did not want to let go of power. But we did it. We made the impossible possible.”
Alongside Petro, Francia Márquez is now Colombia’s first black vice-president. Hailing from the poor and violent south-west of the country – the Cauca region – she became an environmental activist at just 13. Since, she’s always been followed by her people, by her women, holding her ideals high. In particular in her battle against illegal gold mining in her region from 2014, thus being awarded the prestigious Goldman Prize in 2018.
During his speech, Petro staked his all on redeeming Colombia’s violent history of bloodshed and abductions. Even more, his focus was on the people, those who believed in him and his group. Furthermore, he aims at enhancing the government’s efforts on handling drug production and consumption, battling corruption, and safeguarding the environment.
In his final decalogue, he also promised to stand by the Constitution and the Law; to take care of the weak, the elderly, the discriminated. “This will be a government with open doors to all who want to dialogue for Colombia”, he reassured. A whole new approach to culture and public education is a staple in his program, to achieve equality and inclusion.
“To harmonize our lives, unite our peoples, heal humanity, feeling the people’s pain … this all may flow in your veins, in your heart, and may become acts of forgiveness and world reconciliation; but, first, this shall happen in our hearts”. Gustavo Petro shared as a witness the words of an Arhuaco girl during the Ancestral Inauguration Ceremony in the Sierra Nevada.
“This second chance is for her, and for all the children of Colombia” Petro concluded. Ablaze with his people’s hope for a brighter and fairer future.
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