The symbols and promises at Gustavo Petro's inauguration
Peace, climate change measures, Latin American integration, women's empowerment, and the fight against poverty and corruption are all part of his agenda.
After three o'clock in the afternoon, Colombia's first left-wing president Gustavo Petro took the oath of office before Roy Barreras, president of the Senate. He did so amid the excitement of millions of Colombians, who followed the ceremony on television and some 100,000 who packed Bogotá's Plaza de Bolívar, the ceremony's venue, and nearby plazas.
Alongside Petro, Francia Márquez was sworn in as vice president, the first Afro-Colombian woman to hold the position in Colombia's history.
The day was full of symbols. The first was the call for ordinary people to gather in downtown Bogota to witness the historic event, surrounded by a wide cultural display of Colombian diversity. In addition, at least a hundred cities held cultural activities and watched the livestream of the change of government on giant screens.
Secondly, Senator María José Pizarro put the presidential sash on Petro. She is the daughter of Carlos Pizarro, commander of the M-19 guerrilla group assassinated in 1990 when he was a presidential candidate. By then, the armed group had signed the peace agreement and was advancing in the constituent assembly that reformed the National Constitution in 1991. Petro was part of the group and had since began to participate in political life within the institutional framework.
The third symbol was Petro's decision, now president, to order the army to immediately remove a sword that belonged to Simón Bolívar, the Liberator, which was in the Casa de Nariño, seat of government, and take it to the plaza. The outgoing president, Iván Duque, had denied the removal of the sword, which in the 1970s gained notoriety because the M-19 stole it from a museum when it announced its creation as an armed group. It returned to the hands of the state when the ex-guerrillas returned it after signing their peace agreement. Petro's order brought the ceremony, which included his first speech as president, to a halt for about 20 minutes.
The fourth symbol was Petro's investiture of ordinary people from different regions of the country, such as a street sweeper, a coffee grower, and a fisherman. He even mentioned them by name at the beginning of his speech together with the King of Spain, the presidents of Chile, Argentina, Honduras, and Ecuador, among others, and officials from the United States and other countries.
In his speech, Petro referred to what will be his international policy — the change in the fight against drugs and Latin American integration. He spoke to the central themes that he classified as his 10 commitments for the next four years — definitive peace; attention to the elderly, children, the marginalized and the disabled; governing with and for women; dialogue without exceptions or exclusions; governing for the regions; seeking solutions to violence; not tolerating corruption; protecting natural resources; developing national industry, the popular economy and the rural sector, and enforcing the Constitution.