Who will be the president of Colombia?
Colombians will choose either a business-friendly protégé of a powerful ex-president or a leftist former guerrilla as their new head of state on Sunday, with the future of a historic peace accord and the nation’s economic model hanging in the balance.
Ivan Duque, hand-picked by former hardline president Alvaro Uribe, is predicted to win Sunday’s runoff as he is polling about 20 points ahead of Gustavo Petro, a former mayor of Bogota and one-time member of the now-defunct M19 rebel group.
At stake is the implementation of a 2016 peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which brought an end to five decades of conflict with the Marxist rebel group, and whether Latin America’s fourth-largest economy will abandon its traditionally market-friendly posture.
“A Duque victory wouldn’t mean the end of the peace agreement, but it could mean it’s reduced to a minimum,” said Yann Basset of Rosario University. “A Petro victory would probably mean a difficult period of economic uncertainty.”
The 41-year-old Duque made a name as senator for his staunch opposition to the peace deal negotiated by outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos, who once counted Uribe among his backers before falling out with him over the talks.
Duque has promised changes to the accord, which he slams as far too lenient on former rebels. His pledge to jail commanders for war crimes has sparked concern among some Colombians that he could upset the deal and send fighters back to the trenches.
Petro has criticized the deal as not resolving deep rural inequality but says he will keep it intact.
It remains to be seen what changes, if any, Duque can make to the deal, which was upheld by the constitutional court.