The winner of Colombia’s presidential election, Gustavo Petro, addressed his supporters on Sunday night with his first speech as president-elect. “There is no doubt that this is a historic day, that what we are writing right now is the history of Colombia,” said Petro. “We aren’t going to betray the electorate, which has shouted at the country, at history, that from this day on, Colombia will change. It’s a different Colombia… What is coming here is true change, real change, in which we challenge our existence, life itself.”
Petro said that as of August 7, when he takes office, “a government of life will begin, a government that wants to build Colombia into a global power for life.”
He referred to three specific areas in which this would be accomplished: peace, social justice, and environmental justice. He also declared in his speech that there would not be vengeance nor sectarianism, and that change involves understanding and mutual comprehension, and the opening of opportunities for all. He also stated that his administration would propose “a great national agreement to construct peace,” in which Colombian society will have “more opportunities.”
“We are going to use power to destroy our opposition,” said Petro. “It means that we must forgive each other.”
Petro also made a request to the attorney general of Colombia to “free our youth,” in reference to the young people who have been detained without justification for their political activism. He also demanded that democratically elected mayors be put back in office. “It is not time for hate anymore!” he said, referring to Daniel Quintero, the mayor of Medellín who was reportedly suspended from his post for supporting Petro.
“This government won’t make sense if we don’t make bringing peace to Colombian society our central objective,” said Petro. “Peace means that someone like me can be president, or that someone like Francia can be vice president. Peace means that we stop killing each other.”
Petro asked that “weapons no longer be used, that guns no longer be shot, that they stop existing outside of the Colombian state. It’s not about killing each other, its about loving each other.”
“Developing capitalism” to “overcome feudalism”
In another part of his speech, Petro said that “we are going to develop capitalism in Colombia … not because we adore it, but because first we have to overcome the pre-modernity and feudalism, the new slaveries. We have to get over prehistoric ways of thinking linked to that world of serfs which was mirrored by the slave owners. We need to construct a democracy.”
Petro said that his administration will support an economy that can make itself stronger “through connectivity, education, and cheap credit, and from there we will create forms of capitalism that hopefully are democratic and productive, not speculative, new forms of relations with humanity through new technologies,” said Petro. He also called on production to respect nature, through “social and environmental justice.”
Dialogue of the Americas with the US for the environment
“Almost all of the presidents of Latin America have called me, and I think today we can propose, on the grounds of this triumph of the Colombian people, a dialogue in America without the exclusion of any peoples or nation, with all of the diversity that is America,” Petro said. “I think the moment has come to sit down with the government of the US and talk, have a dialogue,” highlighting that the US emits greenhouse gases “like no other country does,” while in Latin America “we absorb it through our Amazon rain forest.
“If over there they emit [greenhouse gases] and here we absorb them, why don’t they stop emitting so much over there?” Petro asked. “I propose that the government of the US and all of the governments of America sit down to talk about energy transition, to construct a decarbonized economy, an economy for life in all of America.”
“I propose to Latin America that we integrate ourselves more decisively,” Petro added. “I propose to Colombia that we look at ourselves as Latin Americans, which is what we are… The races—which is not the word we should use anymore—the ethnic groups led us to think we were the cosmic summary of the planet. Latin America is also Indigenous America, it’s also Afro-America, it’s also Anglo-Saxon America, it’s also multicolored America. It has to find itself in a great dialogue that saves humanity.”
“Stop thinking about social justice” based on the “high prices of petroleum”
Petro called on progressives in Latin America to “stop thinking about social justice, the redistribution of wealth, to stop thinking about a future based on the high prices of petroleum, of coal, gas, because it’s unsustainable for human kind.” Instead he proposed that “Latin America needs to build itself around agriculture, agrarian reform, agro-industrialization, new technologies for industry, and production through re-connection with nature.”
Petro gave his thanks to the Colombian people and said that at times he doubted if this day was going to come.
The mother of Dilan Cruz, the young high school student killed in 2019 during the ESMAD protests, appeared among those supporting Petro and welcomed him as president, asking for justice for her son and other victims.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
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