castaneda81_Robert BonetNurPhoto via Getty Images_gustavo petro Robert Bonet/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Colombia Turns Left

At a time of deep frustration with the status quo, the reasons for Gustavo Petro’s victory in Colombia’s presidential runoff are not difficult to discern. But it is much less clear whether Petro will be able to implement his ambitious reform agenda.

MEXICO CITY – Gustavo Petro, a veteran left-wing politician and ex-guerrilla, has been elected Colombia’s next president, defeating his opponent – the eccentric right-wing populist Rodolfo Hernández Suárez – by a small but uncontested margin. With that, one of Latin America’s most conservative countries has, at long last, joined the list of those that have voted in (and later out) self-proclaimed “progressive” leaders – sometimes with a legislative majority, often without one – since 1998.

In fact, Latin America has lately been experiencing what some might describe as a new “pink tide.” Petro’s victory follows those of Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, Pedro Castillo in Peru, Gabriel Boric in Chile, Luis Arce in Bolivia, Xiomara Castro in Honduras, and Alberto Fernández in Argentina. These democratically elected leftists contrast with the three leftist dictatorships that continue to plague the region: Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

Petro comes from the armed left, though not necessarily the Marxist-Leninist sort. The guerrilla movement of which he was a member back in the 1980s, the M-19, was more a hyper-nationalist, pro-Cuban group – maintaining close links to Havana, as well as to some drug-trafficking activities – than a traditional revolutionary organization.

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