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Why Colombia’s Election Has Voters Looking Left

Gustavo Petro
Gustavo PetroPhotographer: Nathalia Angarita/Bloomberg
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Colombians are forecast to elect a radical leftist president for the first time in their history this year. Senator Gustavo Petro, who is calling for a new economic model and a shift away from oil and coal, has maintained a lead over all his rivals, which has investors on edge. Elsewhere in the Andes, Chile and Peru elected leftist leaders in 2021. Presidential elections will be held May 29, with a runoff three weeks later if no one wins a majority. 

Crude and coal account for about half of Colombia’s exports, so Petro’s pledge to halt oil exploration, if carried out, would be a break from a history of reliably pro-business administrations. The bonds of state oil company Ecopetrol SA have lagged behind other emerging-market oil companies since August, when Petro first said he would end oil exploration. Petro also wants to convert Ecopetrol into a green energy producer and raise tariffs to protect local agricultural producers. Such policies would come at a time when the nation is enjoying a bonanza from the surge in energy prices triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.