Not even 12 hours have passed since Gustavo Petro announced his number two and he is already facing the first consequences of that decision. The leftist movement that he leads is experiencing a major crisis with the Liberal Party, a potential ally ahead of the first round of elections in Colombia. Francia Márquez, the one chosen by Petro, a prestigious Afro social leader who paid for her law studies by working as a domestic worker, attacked the leader of that party, former president César Gaviria, whom she said represents neoliberalism and “more of the same” in a country that requires a change.
Petro has had ten days of intense debate among his own about who to choose as the presidential ticket. On one side was Márquez, the second most voted in the primaries on the left. A new voice, representative of the forgotten Colombia. On the other, someone from the liberals related to Gaviria, who is famous for dragging a couple of million votes that could be decisive in the first vote. Petro aspires to defeat the first, without going to a second round, for which he needs a simple majority. Only someone has achieved it before, Álvaro Uribe on two occasions. Both choices carried risks. Leaving her out meant disappointing part of her faithful electorate, with the danger that they would find shelter in the center, with Sergio Fajardo. Not having Gaviria and his people means cornering oneself and being left without the possibility of new allies. If they end up going with Federico Gutierrez, ficsor, the Petro-Márquez binomial will sail alone.
What was not expected, at least so soon, is the clash between the two factions that seemed destined to understand each other. Gaviria took Márquez’s words as an affront and issued a harsh statement: “The rude, false and malicious statements made by Mrs. Francia Márquez, candidate for the Vice Presidency of the Pact, in the presence of the candidate Gustavo Petro, constitute an unacceptable offense. And they make any dialogue with that political sector unfeasible.” In the text, she assures that it is the second time that she has expressed herself in those terms against him and that days ago she had asked Petro not to repeat a similar scene. Since it hasn’t, she continues, she breaks off conversations with them.
Márquez clarified that he has no problem with the Liberal Party, which he considers necessary for change. He referred exclusively to Gaviria. Petro tried to soften what he had said. On Twitter he said he did not want to disqualify anyone and that he recognized Gaviria as the representative of the Liberals. He invited them to join the project and take on the criticism. “If liberalism wants to embrace fascism, we cannot prevent it. History will judge him harshly.” Other allies such as veteran senator Roy Barreras wrote that offending him was a mistake, since Gaviria had defended the peace agreement and had managed the 1991 Constitution, the scaffolding of modern Colombian politics. “I hope you understand that not everyone has experience building unity,” he said.
The relationship is, at best, very deteriorated. Petro’s options narrow. Now the question remains whether the momentum of change will be enough to win or if breaking all relationship with traditional politics will be a fatal move. The elections may end up being a fight that he faces alone.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.