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The Meaning Of Petro: A Former Guerrilla As President Is Colombian Democracy At Work

Gustavo Petro's victory is not only a response to the social ills of today, but having been part of a Marxist guerrilla group that negotiated with the state decades ago, and returned to the social fold, he embodies the nation's democratic future.

The Meaning Of Petro: A Former Guerrilla As President Is Colombian Democracy At Work

President-elect Gustavo Petro (left) and his vice-president Francia Márquez (right) give a speech in Bogota, Colombia after Petro was elected president.

El Espectador

-Editorial-

BOGOTÁ — After decades of stigmatizing anything to do with the Left — to the point of annihilating an entire political party for its ideas — Colombia has elected for the first time — and quite decisively — a president of the Left. The election of Gustavo Petro and his vice-president, Francia Márquez, was itself one of the promises of the peace Colombia has sought for so long: with an orderly handover of power, the inclusion of all political positions and the possibility to work through our differences by voting.


The elections were a thumping rejection of the outgoing government of President Iván Duque and decades of dominance by the conservative currents led by his mentor, the former president Álvaro Uribe. The question now is: how shall we heal so many festering wounds in this country?

Looking back on Petro's Marxist past

It is important to look back. Petro was a member of the M-19, the Marxist guerrilla group that negotiated with the state decades ago, and returned to the social fold. Since then, its members have been crucial to the state-building effort.

Petro's election confirms the guerrilla's former initiatives and shows the importance of a peaceful path and rejection of arms to win power. The elections have shown that Colombia is committed to the democratic and institutional option, which in itself is to be celebrated.

The figures attained should also mean a decisive mandate, and the presidential authority that comes with it. The experts had their doubts before, but Petro added three million votes to his first-round score, and some 700,000 more than his rival, Rodolfo Hernández.

The participation rate was at around 58%, which is a historic high in our electoral history. If we add to this the votes given to the (leftist) Historical Pact (Pacto histórico) in parliamentary elections, it is clear most Colombians are asking for change.

Unity and reconstruction

Supporters of Gustavo Petro, Colombia's new left-wing president, celebrate his victory in Bogota, Colombia on Monday.

Cristian Bayona/LongVisual/ZUMA

Petro must now be allowed to govern. Clearly we need oversight, with vigorous institutions that act as counterweights. Political deadlock would particularly signify a rejection of the majority's choice. But the president must also see the massive number of votes cast for his rival as a need to take that constituency into account, and the same may be said of a half million blank votes.

The damage done after a vicious campaign

After a vicious campaign, it is now time to speak of unity and reconstruction, with actions complementing the important work of finding the right words.

The election of the country's first Afro-Caribbean vice-president is furthermore a message to the country's forgotten and downtrodden communities. The country's most vulnerable territories backed the Petro ticket, and expect an Equality ministry to start working on healing the country's immense rifts.

Colombia wanted change and has voted for it. What comes next will depend on how well the tattered social threads can be put back together after an election that was particularly divisive.

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Society

Papá, Papá, On Repeat: Are We Men Ready For Fatherhood To Change Our Lives?

There is a moment on Saturday or Sunday, after having spent ten hours with my kids, that I get a little exasperated, I lose my patience. I find it hard to identify the emotion, I definitely feel some guilt too. I know that time alone with them improves our relationship... but I get bored! Yes, I feel bored. I want some time in the car for them to talk to each other while I can talk about the stupid things we adults talk about.

A baby builds stack of blocks

Ignacio Pereyra*

This is what a friend tells me. He tends to spend several weekends alone with his two children and prefers to make plans with other people instead of being alone with them. As I listened to him, I immediately remembered my long days with Lorenzo, my son, now three-and-a-half years old. I thought especially of the first two-and-a-half years of his life, when he hardly went to daycare (thanks, COVID!) and we’d spend the whole day together.

It also reminded me of a question I often ask myself in moments of boredom — which I had virtually ignored in my life before becoming a father: how willing are we men to let fatherhood change our lives?

It is clear that the routines and habits of a couple change completely when they have children, although we also know that this rarely happens equally.

With the arrival of a child, men continue to work as much or more than before, while women face a different reality: either they double their working day — maintaining a paid job but adding household and care tasks — or they are forced to abandon all or part of their paid work to devote themselves to caregiving.

In other words, "the arrival of a child tends to strengthen the role of economic provider in men (...), while women reinforce their role as caregivers," says an extensive Equimundo report on Latin America and the Caribbean, highlighting a trend that repeats itself in most Western countries.

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