Petro first left head of state: Colombia's president proposes Amazon funds

Colombia's new left-wing head of state Petro presents his plans: make peace with the guerrillas, redistribute wealth downwards and open the borders with Venezuela.

Petro first left head of state: Colombia's president proposes Amazon funds

Colombia's new left-wing head of state Petro presents his plans: make peace with the guerrillas, redistribute wealth downwards and open the borders with Venezuela. He also proposes an international fund for the Amazon rainforest. The hopes and fears in the country are great.

The new Colombian President Gustavo Petro has taken office. The left-wing politician took his oath of office on the Plaza Bolívar in the center of the capital Bogotá. Several colleagues such as Chile's President Gabriel Boric, Argentine President Alberto Fernández, Bolivian President Luis Arce and Spain's King Felipe VI. attended the celebration. Petro is the first left-wing head of state in Colombia's history.

Petro had previously been a deputy, senator and mayor of Bogotá. In the run-off election on June 19, he defeated the populist real estate entrepreneur Rodolfo Hernández. Vice-President Francia Márquez is the first black woman to head the state.

In his inaugural speech after being sworn in, Petro proposed an international fund to protect the Amazon rainforest. "We can turn the entire population of the Colombian Amazon into forest protectors, but we need financial help from around the world to do that," he said. In order to protect the "lungs of the planet", the international community could reduce his country's foreign debt in order to finance actions to protect and reforest the rainforests. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) could convert the debt into "direct action against climate change".

Petro wants to normalize relations with Venezuela and reopen the borders with the neighboring country. He also wants to consistently implement the peace treaty signed six years ago with the guerrilla organization FARC and also start talks with the country's other armed groups. The ex-guerrilla and economist has also announced that he will slow down the exploitation of raw material deposits. This could also have consequences for Germany, which wants to import more coal from Colombia in the future because of the sanctions against Russia because of the war of aggression against Ukraine.

One of Petro's most difficult tasks will be to take away the fears of a left-wing government among businessmen, large landowners and the military. Before the election, many of their representatives had warned of a development similar to that in Colombia's authoritarian neighbor Venezuela.

Colombia is struggling with the economic consequences of the corona pandemic, great social injustice and widespread violence. The previous conservative government of President Iván Duque implemented the peace agreement with the FARC only half-heartedly. Many ex-combatants therefore went underground again and joined criminal gangs.

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