The Colombian presidential election pits the former left-wing rebel against the populist

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Colombia’s left-wing presidential candidate Gustavo Petro could make history in this Sunday’s presidential ballot by becoming his country’s first left-wing candidate to be elected to office.

While polls are thin between Petro and his populist opponent, Rodolfo Hernández, a victory for the left will only be the latest of numerous victories across the continent.

Critics say a socialist victory in Colombia will undo years of sacrifice and effort to implement and maintain a democratic security policy, respect for freedom, strengthening the rule of law, free trade, greater openness to the world, and even a commitment to become a hub. of innovation and pioneer of the orange economy (creative economy). They note that all these milestones, stability and institutions are at risk.

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This combination of photos shows Colombian presidential candidates Gustavo Petro, on the left, on June 17, 2018, and Rodolfo Hernández on June 2, 2022, in Bogota, Colombia.
(Photo AP / Martin Mejia, Fernando Vergara, File)

The United States had a strategic ally and a reliable partner in Colombia, the flagship that some observers say could be at risk in a world that is rapidly reconfiguring.

Petro reportedly sought to set himself apart from other left-wing leaders across Latin America by promising to seek a single mandate.

“Rest assured I will not seek re-election,” Petro said, according to The Associated Press, adding that “he will respect the laws … Listen carefully, this includes respecting the right to private property.”

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Petro’s opponents say he is not afraid to hide his views and fear that he threatens to overturn and completely change the reality of Colombia by aligning with the socialist agenda of the Sao Paulo Forum, an organization of leftist politicians from the continent and the Caribbean. .

They fear that a close relationship with Venezuela, Russia and China or allies like Iran could, from there, expand its malign influence across the region.

Maria Clara Escobar, executive director of the Instituto de Ciencia Política (ICP), told Fox News Digital “a Petro government represents an opportunity for the Latin American left to consolidate a regional bloc with the ability to influence geopolitically in its efforts. to achieve a change of the international order by legitimizing the dictatorships of the region, facilitating the penetration of authoritarian regimes such as Russia, China and Iran, weakening the inter-American institutional framework (Organization of American States) and creating new regional political and diplomatic blocs, from which they will support the weakening of regional democracy and the rule of law “.

A woman cleans up the capital's main electoral center in preparation for the presidential ballot election in Bogota, Colombia on Friday, June 17, 2022. Sunday's ballot is between the man who could become the first leftist to lead the nation and a millionaire populist who promises to end corruption.

A woman cleans up the capital’s main electoral center in preparation for the presidential ballot election in Bogota, Colombia on Friday, June 17, 2022. Sunday’s ballot is between the man who could become the first leftist to lead the nation and a millionaire populist who promises to end corruption.
(Photo AP / Fernando Vergara)

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With the onset of the COVID pandemic, commentators say anti-establishment sentiment has grown in Latin America due to a lack of inclusive growth and prosperity. The economic and political effects generated by COVID-19 have caused discomfort and frustration in people, something that Petro and other politicians have taken advantage of.

Still, while Petro easily won the first round, polls have gotten much closer in recent weeks as his challenger, Rodolfo Hernández, who some media outlets describe as Colombia’s response to Donald Trump, narrowed Petro’s lead to a statistical tie and now has every chance of winning.

The millionaire businessman has become a social media phenomenon and has positioned himself among those who reject politics as normal. And, to the surprise of many, he came in second, beating the establishment’s conservative candidate last month.

However, Hernández has taken different positions and is largely seen as a populist candidate. At 77, he is a former mayor who has made his money on agriculture and real estate and has said he wants to target corruption and unnecessary spending.

Still others say he has more in common with Mexico’s president, López Obrador (AMLO), than with Petro. This is a concern for some Colombians because, for them, Petro represents a greater threat. Rodolfo, as is known, is seen as not so different.

Some media have compared populist candidate Rodolfo Hernández to former President Donald Trump.

Some media have compared populist candidate Rodolfo Hernández to former President Donald Trump.
(Photo AP / Evan Vucci, File)

Hernández is not affiliated with any of the political parties, and his campaign to become president benefited greatly from his use of social media, where most of his campaign was said to be conducted.

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Rodolfo repeated AMLO’s slogans such as “Do not steal, do not lie and do not betray … There cannot be a rich government with poor people”.

And Rodolfo does not hide his admiration for the Mexican president, who in turn openly supports Petro.

Observers believe that while the choices are far from ideal, a Petro presidency will be problematic for the United States

Colombian Senator Paola Holguin, a member of the conservative Democratic Center, told Fox News Digital that “Rodolfo is an engineer and businessman from Bucaramanga who did well during his tenure as mayor; he likes to be politically incorrect, but now it is the only guarantee for maintaining democracy, freedom and (the institutions).

“His main flags are austerity and the fight against corruption. On the other hand, Gustavo Petro is an amnestied former M-19 guerrilla, former mayor of Bogotá with a questionable administration that has received support from criminal structures such as ELN, FARC and Clan del Golfo (e) can be defined as a radical left populist who has been close to the leaders of the Sao Paulo Forum and the Puebla Group. ”

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Analysts fear that if Petro wins, the United States could lose a major ally in the hemisphere and witness the continued growth of the influence of Russia, China and Iran among its closest neighbors.

Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela, delivers a State of the Union address to the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela on January 15, 2022.

Nicolas Maduro, president of Venezuela, delivers a State of the Union address to the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela on January 15, 2022.
(Gaby Oraa / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The growing wave of left-wing triumphs in Latin America spans from Mexico through Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Argentina. After Colombia, Brazil could be the next domino to fall in a leftward direction if one believes the first polls in Brazil for the upcoming presidential election in October.

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Commentators say there is a lot at stake in Sunday’s elections.

“No president of Colombia will be able to break this alliance so easily,” said Joseph Humire, executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society. “Gustavo Petro might try to do it if he is elected, but like Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, he will need more than four years to radically realign Colombia’s foreign policy. Colombia shares more than the government’s policies with the United States, we share the culture. “.

Whoever wins on Sunday, Colombian presidential policy will change dramatically and Washington will have to adapt and prepare, whatever the outcome.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.