Bogota Mayor-Elect Carlos Fernando Galán

Bogota Mayor-Elect Carlos Fernando Galán. (AP)


LatAmFocus: Did Colombia's Local Elections Spell Problems for Petro?

By Jon Orbach

Colombia Risk Analysis’ Sergio Guzmán covers the mood in the country and the implications for the rest of Gustavo Petro’s presidency.

On October 29, Colombians voted in big local elections for governors, mayors, council members, and other local positions. And politicians aligned with President Gustavo Petro didn’t fare well. 

Take the mayoral race in Colombia’s biggest city Bogotá. The capital city competition is the country’s only one that allows for a runoff—but it wasn’t necessary. Carlos Fernando Galán, a former senator and 2019 mayoral candidate whose father was assassinated while running for president, won the contest in the first round. Petro-backed novelist Gustavo Bolívar finished third. In Medellín, right-wing engineer and former Medellín Mayor (2016–2019) Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez won the race with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Sergio Guzman

The elections were “a big blow for President Petro because ultimately it was the only chance where Colombians at the polls had an opportunity to either reassert [him] or have him face consequences for his year and four months in office,” says Sergio Guzmán, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, a risk consultancy firm based in Bogotá. He notes that Colombians are pessimistic about security, corruption, the economy, education, and the implementation of the peace deal, and that “all of these things were partly factored into voters' choices. Ignoring that and trying to say, ‘this had nothing to do with the administration’ would also be naïve,” he says.

Guzmán also concluded that, despite global crises drawing attention away from Latin America, it is important for Washington to pay attention to Colombia's domestic politics. “Not only are we a very important hemispheric ally, but we're also a country that is geopolitically and strategically important,” he says. “And although local elections can often be dismissed as ‘these are things that only affect national politics,’ bear in mind that these are important milestones politically for a country to have.”

Production and text by Jon Orbach. Luisa Leme is the executive producer. Carin Zissis is the host. 

Subscribe and access other episodes of Latin America in Focus. Share feedback to: 

The music in this episode is "Gentil montaña," performed by the Fabian Forero Trio. Find out about upcoming concerts at:  

Opinions expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Society/Council of the Americas or its members.