Colombia’s first leftist president declared that “the war on drugs has failed” during his swearing-in ceremony on Sunday.
Gustavo Petro, a former member of Colombia’s M-19 guerrillas, has vowed to fight inequality and bring peace to a country long haunted by bloody feuds between the government, drug traffickers and rebels.
Mr Petro won the presidential election in June beating conservative parties that proposed moderate changes to the market economy, but failed to connect with voters frustrated by rising poverty and poverty. violence against human rights defenders and environmental groups in rural areas.
On Sunday, he said Colombia had a ‘second chance’ to fight violence and poverty and promised his government would implement economic policies aimed at ending long-standing inequality and ensuring ‘solidarity’. with the country’s most vulnerable.
The new president has said he is ready to start peace talks with armed groups across the country, calling on the United States and other developed countries to change drug policies that have focused on drug abuse. prohibition of substances like cocaine and have fueled violent conflicts in Colombia and other Latin countries. American nations.
“It’s time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drugs has failed,” he said.
“Of course, peace is possible. But that depends on replacing current drug policies with strong measures that prevent use in developed societies.
Mr. Petro is part of a growing group of left-leaning politicians and political outsiders who since the start of the pandemic have won elections in Latin America and hurt incumbents who have fought against his economic aftershocks.
The ex-rebel’s victory was also exceptional for Colombia, where voters had historically been reluctant to back leftist politicians, often accused of being soft on crime or allied with guerrillas.
A 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia diverted voters’ attention from violent conflicts in rural areas and highlighted issues such as poverty and corruption, fueling the popularity of left-wing parties in national elections.
However, smaller rebel groups like the National Liberation Army and the Gulf Clan continue to fight over drug trafficking routes, illegal gold mines and other resources abandoned by the FARC.
Mr Petro, 62, described US anti-narcotics policies as a failure, but also said he would like to work with Washington “on an equal footing”, building programs to fight against climate change or bring infrastructure to rural areas where many farmers say coca leaves are the only viable crop.
He also formed alliances with environmentalists during his presidential campaign and promised to make Colombia a “global power for life” by slowing deforestation and reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.
He said Colombia would stop granting new licenses for oil exploration and ban hydraulic fracturing projects, even though the oil industry accounts for almost 50% of the country’s legal exports. He plans to fund social spending with an £8.3billion-a-year tax reform that would raise taxes on the wealthy and scrap tax breaks for businesses.