Colombians choose between the left, a business tycoon in a narrow vote

BOGOTA / BUCHARAMANGA, June 19 (Reuters) – Colombians voted Sunday to elect their next president, choosing between a left-wing former guerrilla who pushes for profound social change and an eccentric construction tycoon who has vowed to fight corruption.

Candidates Gustavo Petro, once a member of the M-19 rebels, and Rodolfo Hernandez, who first garnered support through videos on TikTok, are technically linked to the vote. Read more

Petro, a former mayor of the capital Bogota and current senator, has vowed to fight inequality with free university education, pension reforms and high taxes on unproductive land.

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His proposals – especially a ban on new oil projects – shocked some investors, although he promised to abide by current agreements. Read more

“We are one step away from achieving the real change we have been waiting for all our lives,” Petro wrote on Twitter. “No doubt, just security. We will make history.”

Peter, who is running for his third presidential candidacy, will be Colombia’s first left-wing president, adding the Andean nation to the list of Latin American countries that have elected progressives in recent years.

Petro, 62, said he was tortured by the military when he was detained for joining the guerrillas, and his potential victory prompted high-ranking military officials to prepare for change. Read more

“Today I am voting for my daughter – she turned 15 two weeks ago and asked for only one gift: to vote for Petro,” said security guard Pedro Vargas, 48, in southwestern Bogota.

“I hope this man lives up to my daughter’s hopes, she has a lot of faith in his promises,” added Vargas, who said he never voted.

Some voters in Bogota reported long queues at polling stations.

Hernandez, Bucaramanga’s mayor, was a surprise contender in the run-off and promised to shrink the government and fund social programs to stop corruption.

He also promised to provide free drugs to addicts in an attempt to combat drug trafficking.

Despite his anti-corruption rhetoric, Hernandez himself is under investigation for corruption on charges of interfering in a garbage management tender to benefit a company his son is lobbying for. He denied wrongdoing.

Hernandez, like Petro, has vowed to fully implement the 2016 peace deal with the FARC rebels and seek talks with ELN’s still active guerrillas, despite accusing the group of kidnapping and killing his daughter Juliana in 2004.

ELN denied any involvement and her body was never found.

“The election is simple. Vote for someone who is controlled by the same people as always, or vote for me who is not controlled by anyone,” said the 77-year-old, who avoids the traditional campaign in favor of posting bizarre videos on social media. networks.

Jose Mesa, a 43-year-old farmer from Bucaramanga, said he had never voted before but supported Hernandez.

“He has the values ‚Äč‚Äčthat this country needs,” Mesa said. “We like that he says things directly.”

Hernandez vowed to respect the results, while Petro expressed doubts about the integrity of election officials. Read more

Both men have canceled election events because they believe their lives are in danger. Read more

Whoever wins, Colombia will open its first black female vice president in August – Petro France’s Marquez candidate and Hernandez’s second commander, Marelen Castillo, are Afro-Colombians. Read more

Colombian police said this week they were on high alert after unveiling plans by radical groups to commit acts of violence related to the vote. Read more

About 39 million Colombians have the right to vote.

Just under 55% of them showed up for the first round – which, like the second, takes place on a holiday weekend.

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Report by Nelson Boccanegra and Oliver Griffin, additional reports by Carlos Vargas and Luis Jaime Akosta Written by Julia Simes Cobb Edited by Josie Cao, Grant McCool and Chizu Nomiyama

Our standards: Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.

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