Bogotá, Colombia: Colombians will vote for the new president on Sunday as former guerrilla Gustavo Petro and millionaire businessman Rodolfo Hernandez vie for power in a country full of poverty, violence and other predicaments. Voters are expected to have a high abstention rate as they face the tough choice of electing the first left-wing president or a heretic outsider called Donald Trump of Colombia.

Patricia Ines Munoz, an expert at the University of Bogotá, told AFP: This was a tense campaign, threatening to kill several candidates when Colombia’s traditional conservative and liberal forces suffered a severe defeat prior to the first round of last month.

There are concerns that Sunday’s tight outcomes could lead to post-election violence. The conservative successor to President Ivan Duque must deal with a country at stake, recovering from a coronavirus pandemic, a recession, a surge in violence associated with drug trafficking, and deep-seated anger at political establishment. It will not be.

Almost 40% of the country is in poverty and 11% are unemployed. The anger spilled over into a large anti-government protest in April 2021 and was controversial by security forces. Polls leading up to the election were not definitive, but abstentions are expected to be 45% and up to 5% undecided. “I’m very embarrassed … I don’t like either of the two options as president,” Bogotá lawyer Camila Araque, 29, told AFP.

“Understanding hysteria”

“We’re trying to figure out which of the two evils is smaller,” said Michael Shifter, an Inter-American Dialogue think tank. Petro surpassed Hernandez by 12 points, surpassing 40% in the first vote. But Petro’s past as a radical left-wing city guerrilla in the 1980s-while he spent two years in prison for weapons-frightened many Colombians. He has been involved in politics since his M-19 group made peace with the state in 1990 and formed a political party.

“Concerns come from the experience of the left-wing government in the region, not only among the public, but also among the business and economic sectors,” Munoz said. Some believe that the former mayor of Bogotá will turn Colombia into another authoritarian populist socialist country like neighboring Venezuela. “It borders hysteria,” said Shifter, “it’s understandable because Venezuelan tragedy and nightmares affected Colombia. Venezuelan tragedy and nightmares affected Colombia.”

Petro, 62, states that social justice is needed to build peace after 60 years of multifaceted conflict involving left-wing rebels, nations, right-wing militias, and drug cartels. .. “That means less poverty, less hunger, less inequality and more rights. If you don’t do this, violence will skyrocket,” he told Caracol Radio on Friday.

Petro has nominated environmentalist feminist Francia Marquez, 40, as his running mate. It helped attract young voters. “He’s voting for Petro because he’s supporting us with what our youth want,” 21-year-old Meleidy Perez, who works for a charity, told AFP.

“Necessary dialogue”

Only a few months ago, Hernandez was virtually unknown outside the northern city of Bucaramanga and was mayor from 2016-19. However, his unconventional policies and series of complaints attracted attention, especially when he appeared to have mistaken Adolf Hitler for Albert Einstein in a radio interview. Just this week, a 77-year-old video leaked on a private yacht in Miami enjoying a party with young women dressed slightly. He also nominated a woman, Academic Milleren Castillo, 53 as his running mate, but he recently said that the woman’s place is at home.

But what plagues many is his lack of political experience and programs. “As a businessman, he is accustomed to resolving disputes in a direct and swift way, but exercising governance requires dialogue, consensus, and long meetings to find a common ground,” Munoz said. Mr. says.

Given that he has few representatives in Congress, that’s what he has to do if he is elected. “I’m frank, I tell the truth, I don’t calculate the results,” he told Caracol TV on Friday. It was his anti-corruption stance that attracted voters to Hernandez-although he faced his own graft investigation from the mayor.

“Between theft, luxury and waste, $ 1 billion a week is gone and we’ll end it from day one,” he vowed. Voting for 39 million voters in Colombia begins at 8:00 am (1300 GMT) and ends eight hours later. Initial results are expected hours later. – AFP

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