Uncertainty reigns in Colombia voting between ex-rebel and millionaire

Colombians will vote to elect a brand new president on Sunday in an election full of uncertainty, as former combatant Gustavo Petro and millionaire businessman Rodolfo Hernandez vie for energy in a rustic tormented by widespread poverty, violence and different issues.

The abstention price is anticipated to be excessive as voters face a stark alternative between electing their first ever left-wing president or shelling out with an out of doors dissident named Donald Trump of Colombia.

“What now we have within the nation now are questions and doubts,” Patricia Ines Munoz, an knowledgeable on the Pontifical College Gavrian, instructed AFP.

It was a tense marketing campaign, with demise threats in opposition to a number of of the candidates forward of the primary spherical final month, when Colombia’s conventional conservative and liberal forces suffered a brutal defeat.

There are fears {that a} shut end result on Sunday might spark post-election violence.

And the successor to conservative President Evan Duque should take care of a rustic in disaster, reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, recession, rising drug-related violence and deep-rooted anger on the political institution.

Practically 40 p.c of the nation lives in poverty whereas 11 p.c is unemployed.

This anger spilled over into huge anti-government protests in April 2021 that had been controversially suppressed by safety forces.

Polls main as much as the election had been inconclusive, though an abstention is anticipated at 45 p.c whereas as much as 5 p.c stay undecided.

“I’m very confused … I do not like both possibility as president,” Camila Araki, 29, a lawyer in Bogotá, instructed AFP.

‘Comprehensible hysteria’ Voters are “attempting to determine which is the lesser of two evils,” says Michael Schefter, of the Heart for American Dialogue Analysis.

Petro comfortably led the primary spherical of voting with 40 p.c, 12 factors forward of Hernandez.

However Petro’s previous as a radical left-wing city guerrilla fighter within the Eighties – throughout which he spent two years in jail on weapons expenses – made many Colombians worry.

He has been in politics since his M-19 group made peace with the state in 1990 and fashioned a political occasion.

“The priority comes from the expertise of leftist governments within the area, not solely amongst residents but in addition between enterprise and the economic system,” Munoz mentioned.

Some consider that the previous mayor of Bogota will flip Colombia into one other authoritarian populist socialist nation like neighboring Venezuela.

“It is the border of hysteria,” mentioned Schefter, “but it surely’s comprehensible as a result of…greater than some other nation in Latin America, the tragedy and nightmare of Venezuela has affected Colombia,” creating “the horror…they usually’re subsequent.”

Petro, 62, says the nation wants social justice to construct peace after a multi-faceted six-decade battle between leftist rebels, the state, right-wing paramilitaries and drug cartels.

“It means much less poverty, much less starvation, much less inequality and extra rights. Should you do not, violence spreads,” he instructed Radio Caracol on Friday.

Pietro has named environmental feminist advocate Francia Marquez, 40, as his working mate.

This helped entice younger voters.

Melide Perez, 21, who works for a charity, instructed AFP she would vote for Petro as a result of he “helps us in what we younger folks need, which is firstly alternative.”

Just some months in the past, Hernandez was just about unknown outdoors the northern metropolis of Bucaramanga, the place he was mayor from 2016 to 2019.

However his unorthodox politics and a sequence of gaffes, not least when he apparently mistook Adolf Hitler and Albert Einstein in a radio interview, have drawn consideration.

Simply this week, a video was leaked of the 77-year-old having fun with a celebration on a personal yacht in Miami alongside a number of tightly dressed youthful girls.

Though he additionally appointed a lady, tutorial Merlin Castillo, 53, as his deputy, he mentioned not too long ago {that a} girl’s place is dwelling.

However it’s his lack of political or program expertise that worries many.

“As a businessman, he’s accustomed to resolving disputes in a direct and fast method, however exercising governance requires dialogue, agreements and prolonged conferences to search out frequent floor,” Munoz mentioned.

That is one thing he must do if he was elected since he has nearly no illustration in Congress.

“I’m direct, I inform the reality and I don’t depend the results,” he instructed Caracol TV on Friday.

What drew voters to Hernandez is his anti-corruption stance – though he faces a graft investigation by the mayor.

And he pledged, “Between theft, luxurious and waste, a billion weeks disappear, and we’ll put an finish to that from day one.”

Polling stations will open to 39 million voters in Colombia at 8:00 am (1300 GMT) and shut eight hours later, with early outcomes anticipated two hours later.

(AFP)

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