On Sunday, populist conservative Ivan Duque won Colombia’s presidential election with about 54% of the vote. He defeated Gustavo Petro, former guerrilla member and past Bogota mayor, with a platform focused on economic revival and reform of the country’s recent rebel peace deal.
Duque worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington before being elected to Colombia’s senate in 2014, and is now a newcomer to the political world. His political rise is partially thanks to former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a mentor of Duque. There is fear that Duque will be a puppet of Uribe, who is known for his strength and harshness against guerrilla rebels. Uribe was president for two terms from 2002 to 2010, and cannot constitutionally run for a third. Uribe is also a known adamant critic of the country’s 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and Duque has carried this criticism over into his own platform.
Duque is the first to be elected since President Juan Manuel Santos signed the peace accord with FARC. Under the deal, the rebels agreed to lay down their arms, exit the jungle, and pursue their aims via politics rather than guerrilla warfare. The peace deal formally ended over 50 years of rebel warfare that left more than 250,000 dead, but Duque claims the deal is too soft on “FARC terrorists.” This is because many accused of war crimes have avoided prison, and some past guerrilla fighters now sit in congress. The reform of the peace deal was a primary part of Duque’s presidential running platform. Duque says his party “does not want to tear the agreement to shreds” but rather “make it clear that a Colombia at peace is a Colombia where peace meets justice.”
Many enthusiastic Duque supporters were ecstatic with the results of the election. “I am in agreement with peace, but not with the peace accord,” Julio Palacios, a real estate agent in Duquista, told Al Jazeera. “It has to be revised. The FARC have to pay for the crimes they committed in some way.” However, those opposed to Duque fear “more of the same.” Linda Lopez, a university student, told Al Jazeera, “It worries me that Duque could go back on the peace process. The next four years will be difficult.”
Now a political party, the FARC issued a statement after the elections where it credited the peace agreement for the “lack of violent acts” during the presidential election. “During this electoral process, which ended Sunday, something without precedent in the recent history of our country occurred: the absence of violent acts, both today and during the previous round of elections last May,” the statement said. The FARC also expressed its “will” to meet with the president-elect in order to present “its point of view regarding the implementation of the peace process.”
Duque will face many challenges when he takes office in under two months. The economy remains weak, drug trafficking gangs have moved into more areas, and over half a million Venezuelans have crossed into Colombia, looking for food and work.
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