Colombia’s new right-wing president vows to ‘correct’ Farc peace deal

Populist Ivan Duque sweeps aside leftist challenger in election run-off

Iván Duque vowed to make “corrections” to Colombia’s controversial 2016 peace agreement after he was elected president of the South American nation on Sunday.

Speaking at his victory rally in the capital Bogotá, he threatened tougher punishments for crimes committed during the Farc guerrilla movement's half-century insurgency and even hinted at stripping its leaders of seats reserved for them in Congress.

A right-wing senator, Mr Duque defeated he leftist opponent Gustavo Petro by 12 points, taking 54 per cent in the run-off round against 42 per cent for his opponent. In his concession speech, Mr Petro said his opponents had told "lie after lie after lie" in order to defeat him.

The former mayor of Bogotá had been the target of a widespread and vicious disinformation campaign waged by part of the traditional media and on social media.


A lawyer who previously worked at the Inter-American Development Bank, Mr Duque will be just 42 years old when he is sworn in in August, making him the youngest president in Colombia’s history. His running mate, Marta Lucía Ramírez, will become its first ever female vice-president.

But while Mr Duque sought all through the campaign to portray himself as a young and energetic leader of a new generation, he is the protégé of Colombia’s former president Álvaro Uribe, the country’s most polarising politician.

During the campaign Mr Uribe had to deny that if elected Mr Duque would interfere in Colombia’s judicial process in order to block the multiple investigations into human rights abuses and corruption targeting the former president and his circle.

Referendum defeat

It was Mr Uribe who led the campaign that successfully called for a no vote on the peace terms with the Farc in a referendum in 2016, leading to fears a victory for Mr Duque could push the former guerrillas, now transformed into a political party called the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force, back towards conflict.

The Farc’s principle leader Rodrigo Londoño said after the election result that the group is “disposed to meet with the president-elect to discuss its points of view about the implication of the peace accord”.

After the referendum failed, outgoing president Juan Manuel Santos pushed the agreement through Congress instead, stripping it of legitimacy in the eyes of many Colombians. Should he push for major adjustments to the deal, Mr Duque will be able to count on a majority in both houses, where his coalition will be led by Mr Uribe from his seat in the Senate. But such efforts could still be blocked by the country’s constitutional court.

It also remains unclear if Mr Duque will remain committed to the land redistribution programme enshrined in the peace agreement. Large landowners are one of the main components of Mr Uribe’s political movement. Since the Farc called off its campaign, the right-wing paramilitaries traditionally backed by landlords have stepped up their campaign of assassinations against land reform activists.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America