A former member of Colombia’s M-19 guerrilla group, Gustavo Petro has been sworn into office on Sunday after winning the presidential election in June. Gustavo Petro who is now Colombia’s first leftist president promised to unite the polarised country in the fight against inequality and climate change, and achieve peace with rebel groups and criminal gangs.
During his popularised inauguration, the 62-year-old stated that he wants a unified and united society. “I do not want two countries, just as I do not want two societies. I want a strong, just and united Colombia,” an emotional Petro said in his inaugural speech. “The challenges and tests that we have as a nation demand a period of unity and basic consensus.”
The president also described U.S.-led antinarcotics policies as a failure but has also said he would like to work with Washington “as equals,” building schemes to combat climate change or bring infrastructure to rural areas where many farmers say coca leaves are the only viable crop.
He concluded by stating that Colombia will stop granting new licenses for oil exploration and will ban fracking projects. (Even though the oil industry makes up almost 50% of the nation’s legal exports). He plans to finance social spending with a $10 billion a year tax reform that would boost taxes on the rich and do away with corporate tax breaks.
The former senator takes over from the deeply unpopular Ivan Duque for a four-year term during which he will enjoy support from a left-leaning majority in Congress.