By Julian Ochoa

Today millions of Colombians go out to vote for their next president. These elections have been the most controversial in the country`s most recent history. For the first time in 30 years, Colombia has a left-wing candidate, Gustavo Petro, running against a first-time independent and controversial businessman Rodolfo Hernandez.

The general elections were initially held on May 29th, 2022, it was expected that Gustavo would reach the second round of elections against the popular conservative Federico Gutierrez, however, during the first round of elections the results turned out differently. (1)

To win the presidential election in Colombia, any candidate must win at least 50% of the national votes. In these elections, Petro did not make 50% of the votes and in a turn of events, he is now facing Rodolfo Hernandez in the second round of elections. In the second round of elections, the candidate with the most votes will win. (2)

These elections are controversial, due to their colorful candidates. Petro a former left-wing guerrilla and political ideologue was an elected senator and lord mayor of Bogota, the Colombian Capital. In the early 2000s as Senator, Petro exposed the war crimes committed by right-wing paramilitary groups against regional populations and their connection to the drug cartels and the then President Alvaro Uribe and his party. Petros’s crusade to expose the war crimes committed by the paramilitaries gave him a bad name amongst conservatives and people that suffered under the left-wing guerrillas that have been fighting the state for the last 50 years. (3)

On the other hand, Rodolfo Hernandez is a former businessman and mayor of a regional city, Bucaramanga. Rodolfo was suspended from his term as mayor for slapping an elected official. Rodolfo is currently being investigated for corruption and has been recorded several times making controversial comments and partaking in extravagant parties during his election campaign. (4)

Rodolfo ran as an independent using a similar political platform to Petro, claiming that he “will fight corruption”, cut down on government spending, and introduce a universal basic income. Hernandez upon winning in the first round of elections, received the immediate support of all the conservative parties as he has openly stated that he is a close friend of Uribe which would indicate that he will follow the steps of the retiring president Ivan Duque who was Uribe`s protégé and simultaneously the most unpopular Colombian president in recent history. (5)

The Colombian ruling elites are not happy with the possibility of seeing a left-wing politician as president as Petro is running on a land reform initiative, wage increases, labor rights, and fighting corruption. Although Petro believes he has been misunderstood by his opponents, it is obvious that reaching the presidency will put Colombia in a critical situation. As the ruling elite will not go down quietly and will give a fierce opposition.

Regionally there has been a resurgence of left-wing leaders like that of the early 2000s When Hugo Chavez was in power, Lula in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and others. Colombia being the only country that has never had a left-leaning president has always been seen as a pawn of the United States. Colombia has 7 U.S military bases and depends on the U.S Government for funding to fight drug traffickers and left-wing guerrillas. The Colombian elites believe the country can’t afford to have a left-leaning politician that is open to re-establishing relations with Venezuela, and that has openly stated that he is open to having better relations with Russia and China. (6)

Recently the neighboring country of Nicaragua announced that it will be allowing Russia to deploy soldiers on its territory. (7) Venezuela already allows Russian frigates and submarines to visit their ports, and China is currently operating a military space station in Argentina. (8) Economically China plans to develop greater ties with Latin America, countries like Brazil have strong economic ties with China. Russia and China are slowly penetrating Latin America in a plan to destabilize the region and challenge the U.S. in its own backyard. This strategy would take U.S. Focus from other regions in which it is already engaged in proxy wars or economic competition with Russia and China. (9)

The new president of Colombia will have to navigate carefully as the local elites support the U.S. and it is not simple to do away with agreements and ties that go back 200 years when Colombia received support from the U.S.

Colombian elites and middle-class voters fear Petro will drag the country into a crisis like that of neighboring Venezuela. However, Colombia is already in Crisis, in 2021 there was a national strike in which millions marched nationally against economic reforms that would see an increase in food prices and other products. Human rights violations have risen under Duque, union organizers and climate activists are systematically and regularly murdered, and community leaders live in fear and cannot advocate for their community without running the danger of disappearing or suffering police brutality. (10)

Both presidential candidates have reported having received death threats, the country is politically polarised.  whoever wins these elections will have no small feat ahead of them. The country is currently undergoing a multifaceted crisis, the COVID pandemic strained the health system, Climate change is increasing crime and human rights violations in the regions, the refugee crisis from Venezuela has peaked at 2 million people, corruption, the increase in drug trafficking, housing affordability and increase in food and fuel prices due to the war in Ukraine are issues that the new president will have to face.

No matter what side of politics the candidates are on or who will win, whatever decisions the new president takes in the next four years will affect the course of the country and its place in the region.



  1. Buschschluter, V. (2022) “Tik Tok King, 77, Challenges ex-rebel for Colombia’s top job,” BBC, (2022).
  2. Buschschluter, V. (2022) “Tik Tok King, 77, Challenges ex-rebel for Colombia’s top job,” BBC, (2022).
  3. Alsema, A. (2018), “Why Colombia`s Establishment and Gustavo Petro don’t get along,” Colombia Reports, (2022).
  4. Alexander, I. (2022) “The Controversial Tik Tok King Vying for Colombia`s Presidency,” Al-Jazeera (2022).
  5. Alexander, I. (2022) “The Controversial Tik Tok King Vying for Colombia`s Presidency,” Al-Jazeera (2022).
  6. Roy, D. (2022), “Colombia`s 2022 Presidential Election What to Know,” Council on Foreign Relations, (2022).
  7. Lopez, I. (2022) “Nicaragua Congress renews Russian training exercise approval,” REUTERS, (2022).
  8. Garrison, C. (2019), China`s military-run space station in Argentina is a `black box`” REUTERS, (2022).
  9. Larter, D.B. (2020) “US General says Russian and Chinese deals in Latin America risk destabilizing region,” (2022).
  10. Rubio G.T. (2022), “Colombia`s 2022 Presidential Elections,” Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA), (2022).

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