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Petro faces first street protests since taking office

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Elected in June and sworn in a month later, Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro is still in his honeymoon period, with two-thirds of the population backing him. However, the first signs of adversity have emerged, with his administration facing sizable protests yesterday against Mr. Petro’s first reform package.

A bid to overhaul the tax system would raise taxes on individuals’ wealth and personal income, as well as exports such as coal and oil, part of a plan to expand the country’s welfare state as well as contain its worrying fiscal deficit.

But protest leader Pierre Onzaga claims he is fighting Mr. Petro’s “pre-dictatorial” reforms, arguing that a simultaneous plan to reform the country’s electoral system could hand the government power to go after the opposition’s political rights.

Mr. Petro responded by saying his critics ‘“rights to freely express themselves will always be respected,” but that his government will also “have the right to inform in response to misinformation.”

Mr. Petro is the first left-winger to be elected president in Colombian history, and is facing pushback from a part of the population. He will meet with former president Álvaro Uribe today, whom most analysts see as the real leader of Colombia’s political right.

This will be the second Uribe-Petro meeting after a decades-long rivalry, with the leaders accusing each other of promoting or tolerating paramilitary and guerrilla violence, respectively.

According to Colombian media, Mr. Petro’s reform agenda will be at the center of discussions, with Mr. Petro looking to gain centrist credibility while Mr. Uribe tries to rebuild his image after a historic electoral defeat.

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