Colombia must decide between two extremes in presidential run-off

Latin America

This combination of two file photos shows Colombian presidential candidates Gustavo Petro on April 23, 2014, left, and Ivan Duque on May 20, 2018, both in Bogota, Colombia. Colombian voters head to the polls Sunday, May 27, 2018. (AP Photos/Fernando Vergara, File)

Colombia’s electoral choice for president couldn’t be clearer. The nation will choose between a former Marxist guerrilla and a far right-wing senator. It’s a sign of how polarized the country has become.

CGTN’s Toby Muse gives us a look at the two men left fighting for the presidency.

“It’s the first time in recent Colombian history that two extremes have the possibility of reaching the presidential palace. One hand is the extreme right Duque, and the extreme left is Petro,” political analyst Jairo Libreros said.

Ivan Duque

Ivan Duque, presidential candidate for Democratic Center party, holds a campaign rally in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, May 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Ivan Duque is the front-runner, picking up just under 40-percent in the first round of voting. He represents the Centro Democratico party, having spent much of his career at the Inter-American Development Bank. He became a senator in 2014.

Duque will also push for greater foreign investment in Colombia’s mining sector and for opening up more land for exploration. If he wins, he’s promised to stiffen the country’s peace deal with rebels and demand prison time for the top guerrillas.

Ivan Duque addresses supporters after winning the first round presidential election in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, May 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

“We don’t want to tear up the peace agreement. We want to make clear that a Colombia in peace is a Colombia with peace and justice.”

– Presidential candidate Ivan Duque


Gustavo Petro

Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, from the Colombia Humana party, offers a conference press in Bogota, on May 20, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / John VIZCAINO)

Gustavo Petro is a former rebel with the group M-19. The group is most famous for its attack on the Palace of Justice in Bogota that killed 98 people in 1985.

Petro became one of Colombia’s foremost senators, uncovering a congressional scandal that tied dozens of politicians with far-right death squads. He also served as mayor of Bogota. His campaign has focused on tackling Colombia’s massive poverty.

Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro (2-L) celebrates with relatives and supporters in Bogota.. (AFP PHOTO / Raul Arboleda)

“When we’ve talked of overcoming poverty, we’re not talking about impoverishing the rich, we’re talking of enriching the poor people of Colombia.”

– Presidential candidate Gustavo Petro

Petro has said that sustainable development would be the guiding force of his economic policy.

Both candidates have tried to broaden their appeal. Petro is frequently accused of wanting to turn Colombia into another Venezuela. Duque has been accused of being a puppet of controversial ex-president, Alvaro Uribe. During the campaign, Duque emphasized he would be his own man, but he is the candidate of a political party that has a silhouette of Uribe as its logo.

For the moment, the odds are on Duque. He won nearly double the votes of Petro in the first round. Those Colombians in the center will have to make a decision: extreme left or extreme right.