Colombia Elects Conservative Candidate Ivan Duque to Be Next President


Millions of Colombians voted in a presidential election run-off on Sunday. The winner is Ivan Duque a 41-year-old conservative. And, after a divisive campaign between left and right, he has vowed to unite his country. But he has also promised to make changes to the 2016 peace deal between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as the FARC, and the Colombian government. The peace accord ended a decades-long conflict that killed more than 220,000 people.

To discuss the path forward for Colombia, Anand Naidoo, host of CGTN’s The Heat, spoke with Bernardo Perez Salazar, Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Gustau Alegret, and Michael Shifter.

“Duque doesn’t have a lot of political experience, just four years in the Senate, and he has a lot of pressure coming from the party and from President Uribe [in regards to the peace deal]. He has to show that he is not continuing the policies of Santos. At the same time, if he radically rolls back, he risks fueling the polarization that already exists and further fracture and divide the country. If he does this, his presidency will be in trouble, because he needs the consensus to pursue some of the ideas that he has, which he really cares about. He has to make some moderate adjustments to the peace deal, but really focus on his forward-looking agenda.”

“Duque has to strike a balance. I don’t believe that he is a puppet of Uribe, but before Uribe selected him as his candidate, he had 4% of the vote. Nobody knew him in Colombia. So he owes his success to Alvaro Uribe, he can’t simply ignore that. Uribe may not have influence in other issues, but on the issue with the FARC and justice, which Uribe really cares about, it is hard to see how Duque may have to see the ability to move too far away from that.”

“It is true that Duque is very political, but he has no structure at all, he is a novice in politics. He is not like his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, who moved away from Uribe. He cannot do that, he doesn’t have the political backing, structure and network in order to do that. So he needs to do something on the issues that he really cares about. I think he is smart enough to know that if he rolls back the peace deal too radically, he risks further instability and violence.”

“Duque is someone that has spent 12 years in Washington, he knows Washington well, and I think his positions on economic policy and how to deal with the FARC or Venezuela are much more aligned with Washington than Petro’s. Having said that, when he spoke a couple of months ago at the Inter-American Dialogue, he showed concern about the relationship between the US and Colombia being totally driven by the drug issue, as it was in the 1990s. Then the agenda became much broader, much more diverse. And I don’t think that Duque, even though he may have a more traditional approach to the drug problem, is going to want the relationship to be only about drugs. There may be some tension there because Washington is so concerned about the drug issue that it is really going to pressure the government to take action against that problem.”

Watch the full recording here:

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