Ivan Duque, a 41-year-old lawyer and former senator who wants to modify parts of a peace process and cut corporate taxes, will be Colombia’s next president following a decisive election victory on June 17.
Duque, who spent half his adult life in Washington, is the protege of former President
Alvaro Uribe, a polarising security hard-liner. Whether he’ll be able to emerge from Uribe’s shadow to promote his technocratic plans to boost the “creative economy” and overhaul the tax agency may depend on the severity of a series of crises hitting the country.
These include a flood of hungry Venezuelan refugees and the threat of further downgrades in Colombia’s credit rating.
“Duque is very much a creature of Washington who’d love to be Colombia’s Emmanuel Macron, a young modern leader who makes a virtue of being a technocrat,” said Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, who knows Duque well. “The challenge is that Colombia isn’t France.”
Duque defeated Gustavo Petro, a leftist former mayor of Bogota who wants to tax wealthy Colombians and redistribute land, by 54 percent to 42 percent in June 17’s runoff vote, with four percent casting so-called blank ballots in protest. Petro, 58, will get an automatic seat in the senate, from where he’ll lead an energised left-wing opposition in the only major nation in Latin America that has never had a leftist government.
He and his supporters already have their eyes on 2022. Petro tweeted: “There’s no defeat. We won’t govern for now.”
Speaking after his victory to supporters in Bogota, Duque reiterated that he wouldn’t rip up the peace accord, would simplify the tax system and defend the country’s fiscal stability. He vowed to make half his cabinet women.
Despite lawlessness, Colombia, a country of 50 million, is the most peaceful it has been since the 1970s, and the elections suffered no violence or sabotage.
After getting a law degree in Bogota, Duque received an advanced degree in international legal studies in 2004 from American University in Washington and a master’s in public policy from Georgetown in 2007 and worked at the Inter-American Development Bank there. The Colombian peso is the best performer in emerging markets this year, as investors bet on a Duque victory.