FUSAGASUGA, Colombia (AP) — Flanked by bodyguards with bulletproof shields, Gustavo Petro stood on a phase and lashed out at Colombia’s political elite in a speech to the residents of Fusagasuga, a rural town wherever farmers are struggling.

The leftist presidential candidate spoke of the need to shield local farmers from heavily subsidized overseas competition. In the crowded general public sq., supporters waving the flags of opposition functions cheered when Petro promised to oust a political course that “prefers to work with criminals.”

“What we present is a distinct way to understand Colombia,” Petro stated in an hourlong handle. “We want a region the place the point out delivers elementary legal rights like instruction and wellness, and can finance them for the reason that there is a productive economic system.”

With an emotional anti-establishment discourse and guarantees to increase state involvement in the financial system, Petro has garnered a at ease guide in polls as Colombia heads into Sunday’s presidential election.

The senator, who commenced his career in politics as a rebel, is aiming to become the very first leftist president in a nation that has long been dominated by politicians with ties to wealthy families and potent organization teams. The current president — who cannot seek reelection — is Ivan Duque, a conservative from Bogota’s elite.

Petro’s supporters say he will emphasis on minimizing longstanding inequalities that have fueled a long time of political violence and led to the creation of effective drug cartels.

His critics, on the other hand, worry that Petro will upend the country’s market place-helpful economy.

Politicians on the correct frequently solid the senator as a populist leader in the mildew of previous Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and concern his dedication to democracy. It is an accusation denied by Petro, who states he needs tranquil alterations that will benefit lengthy-neglected teams.

“If he wins, we are in for four turbulent years” reported Laura Gil, a political scientist at Bogota’s Javeriana University. “He will have to demonstrate that his leftist movement is willing to operate within the policies of democracy and command the most radical customers of his coalition, even though facing proper-wing teams that will make every effort to block his proposals.”

Petro has been preventing against the odds for a long time in his quest to transform Colombian politics.

He began his vocation as a group organizer for the M-19 guerrilla movement, serving to a team of 400 squatter households acquire in excess of a plot of land in the town of Zipaquira.

He won the housing struggle, but was captured and put in two several years in jail on weapons rates. He resurfaced in Colombia’s political scene in the early 90s, when his rebel business designed a peace deal with Colombia’s governing administration and participated in drafting a new structure.

Petro received countrywide recognition as a congressman in 2006, when he investigated conservative legislators with ties to paramilitary groups and unveiled evidence of their crimes on nationally televised debates.

Struggling with various dying threats, he’s run for Colombia’s presidency twice and served as Bogota’s mayor from 2011 to 2015, wherever he led attempts to cut down bus fares and wrestle the city’s trash selection system from private contractors that cost the metropolis millions of dollars.

While some of his ideas, like cellular well being care units in lousy neighborhoods, proved thriving, his administration was also marked by large quantities of unexecuted tasks and repeated clashes with technological advisers and users of his individual cabinet.

A examine financed by the central authorities proposing a subway in the city was ditched by Petro, who needed to use the dollars for a tramway. When that turned unfeasible, the mayor returned to the subway strategy, but had as well very little time still left to execute it, claimed Juan Carlos Florez, a historian who was then a metropolis council member.

Petro’s third presidential operate comes as Colombia is reeling from significant premiums of unemployment and inflation fed by the pandemic. Malnutrition has increased to stages unseen in a 10 years, and violence proceeds in some rural parts inspite of a 2016 peace offer with the Innovative Armed Forces of Colombia, that was designed to stop 50 percent a century of conflict that charge 220,000 lives and displaced millions.

Now smaller armed teams are preventing above drug routes, mines and other assets abandoned by the rebel team regarded as the FARC.

Petro has promised to resume peace talks with another guerrilla team, the Countrywide Liberation Military, that where by suspended through Duque’s administration and he also proposed a peace offer with the Gulf Clan drug trafficking group that would include reduced sentences in trade for telling the real truth about their crimes and reparations for their victims.

Petro suggests he needs to reduce further outbreaks of rural violence by building work opportunities in the countryside and making certain farms are commercially practical. For Petro, that will begin with larger import responsibilities on foodstuff that can be manufactured in Colombia and owning the point out purchases crops from area farmers.

The senator has also proposed no cost college or university tuition for all youth and supplying work with a primary income to “those who just cannot obtain perform through other usually means.”

Even though these guarantees seem ambitious, Petro’s advisors say they are vital.

“We do not believe that Colombia’s challenge is no matter whether it veers to the remaining or to the right,” reported Alfonso Prada, a centrist politician who joined Petro’s marketing campaign two months ago as a discussion strategist. “What Gustavo Petro is proposing is taking a leap forward, to peace with social justice, giving individuals the chance to reside with dignity.”

But critics have expressed doubts above how Petro will finance his programs.

The prospect, who describes himself as an environmentalist, has reported that oil wells are “poisoning” the countryside and has promised to suspend oil exploration on getting office.

He’s vowed to change oil royalties with income from tourism and higher company taxes, even though his critics say this is unrealistic. According to Colombia’s Central Financial institution, the place attained $3.1 billion from tourism in 2021, but oil exports generated just about four situations as much money.

“We need a improve in this country, but it simply cannot be a leap of faith without a parachute,” explained Federico Gutierrez, a former Medellin mayor who has been Petro’s major opponent for most of the presidential race. Gutierrez has mentioned he will secure firms and produce employment by higher personal expense.

Gutierrez and his allies normally look at Petro to Chavez, who undermined the independence of his country’s judiciary, nationalized hundreds of businesses and made legislation to censure impartial media.

Petro has responded with symbolic gestures like signing a notarized pledge that mentioned he will not nationalize private residence. He’s also backtracked on a earlier proposal to draft a new constitution.

But the candidate and his staff have also instructed that they will meddle with some institutions. In a current television debate, Petro known as for improvements in the way the central bank’s board of administrators is picked so that “productive sectors” are represented.

Analysts say there will be constraints on Petro’s power if he turns into president. “His movement will not have a bulk in congress,” stated Daniel García Peña, a columnist and previous aide to Petro who now backs centrist prospect Sergio Fajardo.

Polls propose that Petro is possible to drop limited of the 50% mark desired to stay away from a runoff with whomever destinations 2nd in the subject of 7 candidates.

Surveys give Petro a relaxed lead against Gutierrez in a head-to-head race, but reveal the election would be extremely shut if he has to encounter Rodolfo Hernandez, a 77-12 months-old genuine estate tycoon with no ties to political functions, who has promised to slash authorities spending and tackle corruption.

Hernandez, who is spending for his campaign with his particular money, has stated he will switch the presidential palace into a museum, and has promised rewards for citizens who denounce corrupt officers.

Florez reported that the election underlines how Colombia’s populace has tired of the nation’s institution and is craving for a chief who defies the position quo.

“Petro is an illustration of how the environment is returning to the politics of enthusiasm,” Florez said. “To crusading leaders who chance it all” for their cause.