Last Updated on June 21, 2022
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other Florida leaders expressed concern after Columbia elected a former leftist guerrilla fighter as president. Gustavo Petro, 62, won the race on Sunday by a small margin to become the first leftist president in the country’s history.
“The results of that election have been very very troubling for people who believe in freedom in the Western Hemisphere, to elect a former narco-terrorist and a Marxist to lead Colombia is gonna be disastrous,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a press conference near Jacksonville. “We were all hoping that the outcome would be different, but we’ve got a problem in the Western Hemisphere with Marxism, with totalitarianism, really spreading.”
The election in Colombia of a former narco-terrorist Marxist is troubling and disappointing. The spread of left-wing totalitarian ideology in the Western Hemisphere is a growing threat. Florida stands with Colombian Americans on the side of freedom. pic.twitter.com/0O7UVccH6M
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 20, 2022
Petro was formerly a member of M-19, a leftist paramilitary organization responsible for a long insurgency. The group’s most prominent act was the Palace of Justice siege in 1985, when M-19 members held dozens of judges and court officials hostage in Bogotá.
M-19 eventually signed a peace treaty with the Columbian government after a number of the group’s key leaders were killed.
Petro was elected on Sunday after receiving with 50.4% of the vote against his rival, businessman Rodolfo Hernandez, who obtained 47.3% of the vote.
DeSantis, as well as a number of Florida politicians on both sides of the aisle, worry that Gustavo Petro could turn the country towards a totalitarianism, much like Venezuela.
Florida has the largest population of Colombian-Americans in the United States. According to the Tampa Bay Times, 1.2 million of them live in the state, far surpassing New York’s population of 503,128, and New jersey’s 238,551.
The new president-elect claims that he left his extremist past behind him when the group signed the treaty in 1990. This has not stopped comparisons to the Western Hemisphere’s notable leftist dictators, however.
Manny Díaz, Florida Democratic Party chairman and former Miami mayor, expressed concern over Petro’s election.
“I am concerned that the newly elected leader, Gustavo Petro, has in the past aligned himself with the policies of the Castros, Hugo Chavez, and Nicolas Maduro, which have brought so much pain and suffering to Cubans and Venezuelans,” he said in a press release.
“My sincerest hope is that Petro respects the Colombian Constitution and protects private property, freedom of the press, and the private industry that has brought Colombia so much prosperity in the past decades,” he added.
The United States is currently Columbia’s largest trading partner. Florida accounts for 27% of U.S. trade with Columbia, more than any other state.