The election victory of Gustavo Petro and Francia Marquez in Colombia has implications for relations with other nations, such as neighboring Venezuela.
This article was originally published in Venezuelanalysis.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro celebrated the triumph of the Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez ticket from the leftist Historic Pact in Colombia’s presidential runoff election Sunday.
“I congratulate Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez for the historic victory in the presidential elections in Colombia. The will of the people was heard, and they came out to defend the path of democracy and peace,” wrote Maduro on Twitter after the results were publicized.
Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement who had run for president twice before, campaigned promising a shift away from Colombia's long dominant conservative politics. The 62-year-old Colombian senator defeated Rodolfo Hernandez, a right-wing businessman who had been embraced by the country’s far right as a means of stopping the election of the country’s first-ever progressive leader.
The election was mostly dominated by social issues that gained prominence after a massive social uprising against rising inequality in 2021 shook the country’s political establishment. As is common in Colombian politics, the specter of Venezuela was also repeatedly raised.
Despite Petro’s association with leftist politics, the president-elect has frequently criticized the Maduro government, unfavorably comparing it to that of former far-right Colombian President Álvaro Uribe. Nonetheless, the Venezuelan government immediately expressed its desire to reestablish diplomatic relations with Bogotá.
Martha Lía Grajales Pineda, a Colombian activist living in Venezuela and a member of Surgentes human rights collective, considers that Petro’s victory will allow for the deepening of regional integration processes.
“I believe that one of the main potentials of a new government in Colombia [is] it will make it possible to promote a process of Latin American integration from a non-colonial perspective, with greater autonomy with respect to the influence of the great powers,” Grajales told Venezuelanalysis. “It will allow Colombia to stop being the bastion in the region to destabilize progressive or uncomfortable governments.”
Grajales added that the restoration of diplomatic relations would likewise provide material benefits to the millions of Venezuelans living in Colombia, as well as the millions of Colombians in Venezuela. In addition to sharing a 2,200-kilometer border, the two countries have a long and storied shared history. However, Caracas broke off diplomatic ties with Bogotá in February 2019 after the Ivan Duque government supported efforts to violate Venezuelan borders under the guise of delivering “humanitarian aid.”
The outgoing president, a protegé of Uribe, faithfully followed the dictates of Washington, supporting regime change efforts in neighboring Venezuela. Petro has previously committed to restoring diplomatic relations with the Maduro government, which would help boost Venezuela’s international standing and would come on the heels of President Maduro’s 11-day tour in Eurasia and Africa where he signed several cooperation deals to strengthen the oil, gas, agriculture, tourism, air transport, science/tech sectors.
Grajales stated that the victory of the Historic Pact ticket also spells good news for Colombia’s peace process, which was largely abandoned by the Duque government. The Colombian government’s failure to fully implement the provisions of the 2016 deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia has allowed violence, particularly in the border regions, to fester.
“It is the first time in more than 200 years that the Colombian people finally have a government of the people and for the people, a government of the ‘nobodies’ of Colombia that delivered a historical mandate to transform what have been the conditions of exclusion, exploitation and violence that have characterized the evolution of Colombian history,” the activist added.
The triumph of the Historic Pact ticket also saw the election of Francia Márquez, an Afro-Colombian land defender from the impoverished Cauca region, as the first Black vice president in the country’s history.
Sunday’s results serve as yet another example of leftist trend in the region, leaving a handful of countries governed by right-wing politicians, including Brazil where former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is widely expected to return to power in elections later this year.
Numerous other regional leaders elected in this leftist wave such as Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Chile’s Gabriel Boric, Peru’s Pedro Castillo and Bolivia’s Lucho Arce likewise sent messages celebrating Petro’s victory.
José Luis Granados Ceja is a journalist, photographer, and podcaster.