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Colombia election: Colombia’s Gustavo Petro: ‘If I fail, darkness will come and ravage all the things’ | Worldwide


Gustavo Petro discovered that he was going to be president of Colombia at 4.20 pm on Sunday, June 19. When the third report got here out with 4.47% of the votes counted, he turned sure of a long-awaited victory. Alone in his room, whereas members of his closest circle shouted outdoors, he felt a type of inside collapse that he describes as a “deep stupor.” “When all the things stops, when the adrenaline stops flowing, it’s as if a constructing had been crashing down on you. I simply dropped on the mattress,” he recollects.

Petro, 62, is sitting on a settee inside his home in Chía, in a residential property 15 kilometers from the capital, Bogotá. He’s carrying a sports activities jacket, a mandarin collar shirt, denims and buckled footwear. After overcoming the state of numbness, which he confesses lasted two days, he’s trying far more relaxed than when he was campaigning. Once in a while he touches the medal of Saint Benedict, a present from the Pope, which he wears on his left wrist, and he solutions a lot of the questions with out an excessive amount of beating in regards to the bush, which had been practically not possible earlier than this. He conveys an inside calm that solely has one vanishing level: when a problem strikes him, he stamps his foot on the ground, emphasizing the tip of the sentence.. He does it when he talks about poverty, massive capital and tax reform, a measure that he guarantees to hold out as quickly as doable and which value the outgoing president, Iván Duque, a well-liked rebellion. “Reforms are both made within the first yr or they aren’t made in any respect,” says the person who will turn out to be Colombia’s first left-wing president on August 7.

Query. Why has it taken Colombia so lengthy to have a left-wing president? Do not you’re feeling that in the event you fail, the doorways can be closed to different candidates sooner or later?

Reply. If I fail, darkness will come and ravage all the things. I can’t fail.

Q. What darkness are you referring to?

A. We’ve launched a formidable problem. It was unlikely that I’d make it to the tip of the electoral course of alive. And now, if my authorities establishes the situations of the transition, what follows is a brand new period. And if we fail, what comes subsequent, by the legal guidelines of physics, is the response. And it’s a response during which [conservative former president] Álvaro Uribe won’t be the protagonist. Life cycles change. There are circles organizing themselves round fascism. We aren’t going to assault them for now, nothing like that, however we’re going to consider that that is taking place.

Q. You had been as soon as a guerrilla member, you belonged to the M-19 group. You needed to achieve energy by weapons. Now you’ve come to energy by votes…

R. I’ve reached the federal government…

Q. The presidency. Had been you mistaken as a younger man?

A. No. That’s like asking if [Simón] Bolívar was mistaken to take up arms towards Spain and located a republic. It’s historical past. May it have been in any other case? Who is aware of. May Bolívar have been Gandhi? These are all thoughts video games. Let’s simply say that we took up arms towards a tyranny and the product of that’s the 1991 Structure, which we and others created. And I’m the federal government ensuing from the 1991 Structure. You possibly can all the time say that issues may have been like this or that, however historical past comes not after the actual fact, all the time earlier than. Choices are made and historical past strikes on.

Q. You talked about a bodily threat. Are you afraid there could also be an assault?

A. You might be all the time afraid of it. There are all the time violent potentialities. You need to lower them. However they exist.

Q. Your challenge goes to run into some resistance. For instance, the military’s commander, Normal Eduardo Zapateiro, criticized you in the course of the marketing campaign. What are you going to do about it? [shortly after this interview was published in Spanish, Zapateiro announced his resignation]

A. Management adjustments. Each new authorities brings adjustments. This management was deeply imbued by the political line of the manager now reaching the tip of its time period. However this path is unsustainable and turns our safety forces right into a sufferer, as they’ve been led to perpetrate grotesque violations of human rights. What we’re proposing will make our safety forces democratically stronger.

Q. Aren’t you afraid of an antagonistic gesture by the generals?

A. There are currents within the far proper that should be eradicated. Some are speaking overtly about coups and issues like that. However look, inside the military there aren’t any factions pleasant to Petro, there are factions pleasant to the Structure. And that’s what must be developed, a military that obeys the Structure, whatever the authorities which may be in energy.

Q. Colombia reveals a transparent division. What are you going to do to beat that fracture?

A. I’ve known as for a serious nationwide settlement to attempt to construct a unique political local weather. I’ll chat with Álvaro Uribe and with Rodolfo Hernández. It’s time to make reforms, to not go away issues as they’re. We should keep away from sectarian confrontation and open a civilized dialogue. We have to search peace. The political local weather can both encourage or dampen violence. Certainly one of my targets is to realize as a lot peace as doable in Colombia.

Q. How will you cope with the opposition?

A. We aren’t going to construct a authorities that persecutes the opposition. We’ve been victims of that ourselves. The intelligence system is just not going to focus on the opposition, however moderately corruption. In the event that they really feel assured in our authorities and really feel that there can be no persecution and that they are going to be revered within the political, private and household spheres, I believe we will construct on that. They will even be capable of conduct an opposition as they’ve each proper to do: by overseeing our authorities’s actions.

Gustavo Petro at his home in Chía, outside Bogotá.
Gustavo Petro at his house in Chía, outdoors Bogotá.Camilo Rozo

Q. What can be your first measure if you end up president?

A. I’m involved about starvation, which is already at ranges of 20% to 25% of the inhabitants. And poverty is round 40% regardless of the financial restoration and the decline of the coronavirus. As well as, you’ll be able to really feel {that a} international financial melancholy is approaching. The winds usually are not in our favor. That’s the place I see that the primary pressing measures should be taken.

Q. In your victory speech you defended democratic capitalism. Did you do it to take away the stigma of being a radical leftist?

A. Capitalism doesn’t are typically democratic. For it to be, the hassle of the State is required. The financial basis of Colombia is essentially made up of thousands and thousands of small companies, with little or no associative capability. It’s a quite simple market financial system. It’s not capitalism, however moderately a pre-modern type of financial exercise. They should be given entry to credit score to be able to increase agricultural and industrial manufacturing. You possibly can name that populism, however it’s what I name democratic capitalism. Till now, governments have privileged open-pit mining and conventional monopolies which have given rise to nice fortunes, however these don’t account for even 5% of jobs in Colombia.

Q. You have got all the time been very vital of huge capital, of the institution. You have got mentioned that the house owners of the massive conglomerates are towards you, that they use the media to assault you. What are you going to do towards massive capital?

A. Make them pay taxes, mainly. However the type of massive capital that impacts the surroundings, such because the fossil-based financial system or the extraction of hydrocarbons, has no future with us. It would if it groups up with the farmers and pays taxes.

Q. In that vein, one in every of you nice marketing campaign guarantees was agrarian reform. How do you plan to realize it? Will you meet resistance?

A. Sure, clearly. Land tenure in Colombia is feudal. It’s a legacy of Spanish colonial instances that has by no means been overcome as a result of each time it was tried, there was violence. The nation by no means managed to hold out an agrarian reform. As we speak, we are going to strive once more and, I’ll confess, I wish to do it hand in hand with the USA. Not like prior to now, agrarian reform is linked to the opportunity of a considerable lower in cocaine exports. The US has concentrated its efforts in a really ineffective means on glyphosate and extraditions. The outcome has been a complete failure.

Q. Did you point out this to President Joe Biden on the decision you had?

A. (Laughter) No, no, no. In reality, we had communication difficulties with the embassy in the course of the marketing campaign.

Q. The US ambassador to Colombia by no means known as you, did he?

A. As soon as we gained the elections all the things actually flowed, paradoxically. Two days later I obtained the decision from Biden, which is an indication. It signifies that they’re inquisitive about establishing a constructive dialogue with us.

Q. You have got spoken of agrarian reform and poverty discount; these are massive tasks that presumably require many years and even generations. Isn’t 4 years a really quick time to realize it?

A. My authorities has to generate beginnings, as a result of these are long-term points. I name it the federal government of transitions. An period begins and we hope it is going to proceed. That can rely on Colombian society, on their votes, on whether or not they need to return once more or transfer ahead. In that sense we’re going to resemble Chile, in its effort to construct democracy. Spain can be an instance: it emerged from a fascist period right into a democratic one. And it has been an ongoing course of. It’s society that takes steps ahead and, in the long run, the democratic thought turns into irreversible. The identical factor goes to occur right here.

Q. You have got appointed the conservative Álvaro Durán Leyva as the brand new overseas minister. What message are you making an attempt to ship?

A. Leyva is sort of conservative, however he authored the 1991 Structure and has been a peacemaker for a few years, each with the [guerrila groups] FARC and the ELN. And peace in Colombia wants international assist, as a result of at present it has to do with the local weather disaster and drug trafficking. Forty years in the past it was a way more political situation, linked to the Chilly Warfare, however now the complexity is greater and we’d like the world to point out solidarity.

Q. And what position do you need to give to the Catholic Church on this development of peace?

A. A mediator position. I proposed it to the Pope, I discussed it (not publicly) to the Nunciature [diplomatic mission of the Holy See] and to the president of the Episcopal Convention. Now I’ve to get again to it. The Catholic Church is at present the one entity that’s conversant in the specifics of the battle in every area and can assist rather a lot in bringing peace.

Q. Are you interested by the president of the Reality Fee, the Jesuit priest Francisco de Roux?

A. It will likely be whoever is set by the Church.

Q. That’s to say, you’ll settle for the mediator they appoint.

A. Sure, the one they identify. Clearly, the federal government has a job to do to realize the peaceable dismantling of drug trafficking networks. We hear many rumors {that a} debate has begun inside the armed organizations about what to do.

Petro, 62, learned that he was going to be president of Colombia at 4:20 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.
Petro, 62, discovered that he was going to be president of Colombia at 4:20 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.Camilo Rozo

Q. And do you’ve the parliamentary capability to approve a authorized reform to facilitate negotiations in judicial phrases?

A. At the moment, sure.

Q. Are you anxious about time passing?

A. Sure. Reforms are both made the primary yr or they aren’t made in any respect.

Q. The tax reform as effectively?

A. The tax reform should be finished this yr.

Q. Aren’t you afraid of a social outburst like what occurred to Iván Duque?

A. No, as a result of this reform won’t burden the pockets of the individuals, however of the privileged members of society.

Q. And do you plan to name massive capital, entrepreneurs and bankers to open a dialogue with them?

A. That’s what the grand nationwide settlement is all about. We’re going to reform the tax regulation and we’ve invited them to debate the problem. The Colombian tax system is comparatively progressive as much as the higher center class, which pays extra taxes than the center class, which pays extra taxes than the favored class. However above the higher center class lies injustice. A banker pays proportionally fewer taxes than the secretary in his workplace. And that can not be. It’s about being progressive till the tip. This would cut back the fiscal deficit, enhance macroeconomic situations and assist fund progress within the rights of the Colombian inhabitants. That’s what I contemplate the social pact. It includes the willingness of huge capital to pay its taxes.

Q. You have got proposed resuming diplomatic relations with Venezuela and reopening the border. Will that be sufficient?

A. It’s a advanced situation that won’t be solved in a single day by restarting diplomatic relations. In Venezuela there are thousands and thousands of Colombians who must resolve their consular points, tutorial diplomas, paperwork…, and there are two million Venezuelans in Colombia with their very own issues. We should assist those that need to return. And Venezuelans who need to keep in Colombia should take pleasure in rights, not merely immigration safety, however the correct to well being, schooling, baby care… The identical with Colombians struggling in Venezuela. There may be such a magnitude of amassed issues that the hassle should be very nice for issues to return to regular.

Q. There are Venezuelan exiles, activists and journalists persecuted by the Chavista regime, who concern that when relations are restored they might be extradited to Venezuela.

A. No, by no means.

Q. That isn’t going to occur?

A. For us, human rights are basic. The primary dialogue I had with [former Venezuela president Hugo] Chávez whereas he was alive, and maybe the final one earlier than he died, was exactly about respect for the inter-American human rights system, which for these of us who’ve been within the opposition in Colombia is extraordinarily priceless. Many people owe our lives to it, myself included. And Chávez determined to take Venezuela out of the system…

Q. And don’t you assume that Venezuela would do higher with a democratic system with full ensures and a unique president?

A. Venezuela would do higher if its individuals talked with one another, and if they’re those who make their very own choices about elections and their mechanisms. What we’ve to do is be right here to assist.

Q. There may be speak about a brand new progressive axis in Latin America, shaped by the presidents of Mexico, Argentina, Chile, now Colombia and sooner or later maybe Brazil. Do you relate to this?

A. I’d say there are two phases. A primary based mostly on fossil fuels, which we may name the Chávez part. It was like a golden age of social welfare, however it was unsustainable, as a result of it was based mostly on oil. All of that collapsed. Now, it’s time to desert the fossil gasoline financial system, disassociate ourselves from oil, coal and fuel, and construct improvement on the premise of manufacturing and information. Progressivism is just not very clear on this in Latin America. However for me no progressive imaginative and prescient of society could be constructed on the fossil financial system, as a result of the fossil financial system is loss of life. We should contemplate a brand new mannequin of improvement in Latin America, that’s our position within the agenda, our legacy. And that’s going to be the subject of dialogue in that axis.

Gustavo Petro, in an interview with EL PAÍS, at his home in Chía.
Gustavo Petro, in an interview with EL PAÍS, at his house in Chía.Camilo Rozo

Q. Will there be gender parity in your authorities?

A. Sure, that’s my dedication.

Q. A yr in the past you mentioned that feminism had turn out to be outdated…

A. You’re going to get me into one other mess.

Q. Since then you’ve nuanced your place. What do you assume now as president?

A. I believe we’ve to offer energy to thousands and thousands of girls in Colombia, the overwhelming majority within the rural world. It’s not a few girl having the ability to create an organization or begin a enterprise, the problem is how thousands and thousands of girls could be empowered.

Q. Your daughter Sofía mentioned that you simply had been a person within the technique of deconstruction. Is it so?

A. That time period may be very French. To a Colombian, deconstruction appears like destruction. However sure, it’s a deconstruction. However it’s not simply me, there are thousands and thousands of males in Colombia who’re within the technique of deconstruction.

Q. What would you want them to say about you when your time period ends?

A. We’ve three targets: peace, social justice, and environmental justice. If on the finish of the time period I’ve made progress on all three, nice. It will likely be the very best authorities in historical past.

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