ICONONZO, COLOMBIA – A handful of former guerrilla fighters met Sunday at La Tienda (The Store), the only store and social area in the FARC reintegration zone near Icononzo, Tolima, to watch the election results. But the space that is normally full of laughter and banter was grim Sunday afternoon. Many wondered what will be in store for them now that the right-wing Ivan Duque – an outspoken critic of the peace agreements – is their new president.
‘This is bad. This is really bad,’ said Sonia, staring blankly in front of her, before hurrying away to continue with her tasks, trying to remain busy.
This year, Colombians had to choose between two figures from the extreme opposite sides of the political spectrum: the left-wing former mayor of Bogota and former M-19 guerrilla fighter, Gustavo Petro, or the right-wing Ivan Duque who lead a campaign promising to change the peace deal.
Less than an hour after the voting stations had closed, Duque was announced president, taking 54 percent of the vote. Petro finished with 42 percent while four percent spoilt their ballots.
At the FARC reintegration zone at Icononzo, some 136 km from the capital Bogota, most of the approximately 200 former guerrilla residents went to cast their votes Sunday morning. They organized trucks to bring them into town, almost an hour down a narrow, dirt road full of gaping holes – a symbol of state neglect, they say, and common in Colombia’s countryside that has been entangled in over 50 years of war.
There were mixed emotions throughout the day, as some of the former guerrillas remained hopeful for a Petro win, their only possibility for a government who would comply with the peace deal created in Havana, Cuba after four years of negotiation with the government of Juan Manuel Santos.
But others knew Duque was too powerful to lose.
‘The political machine behind him is too strong,’ former guerrilla fighter Fabio Rodriguez told New Internationalist from his small one room home at the reintegration zone.
A large part of Duque’s popularity comes from his close ties to Alvaro Uribe, a powerful but controversial figure in Colombian politics. Uribe was president between 2002-2010 where he gained a large following for his pro-business economic policies, but also his strong militant stance against the guerrillas. This includes his involvement in the ‘false-positive’ scandal, in which over 10,000 innocent civilians were killed and presented to Colombian authorities as guerrillas in order to get large payments promised to them by the state, making the state appear more successful in the war.
Despite this, many people continue to see Uribe as a man with a firm hand who brought stability to the country. But many others fear his militant policies, mainly those in the country-side where most of the violence has taken place.