Skip to Content

Populist Conservative Iván Duque Elected President of Colombia

Iván Duque, a populist conservative, won Colombia’s presidential election Sunday with about 54% of the vote. He defeated former guerrilla member and past Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro with a platform focused on economic revival and reform of the country’s recent rebel peace deal.

Duque, 41, will become one of the youngest presidents in the country’s history. A newcomer to politics, Duque worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington before being elected to Colombia’s senate in 2014. His political rise is thanks much in part to former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who mentored Duque.

Many fear Duque will be a puppet of Uribe, a politician known for his strength and harsh tactics against guerrilla rebels. Uribe was president for two terms from 2002 to 2010, but is constitutionally barred from running for a third term. Uribe is also known as an adamant critic of the country’s 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and Duque has carried this criticism into his own platform.

The peace deal formally ended more than 50 years of rebel warfare that left more than 250,000 dead, but Duque says the deal is too soft on “FARC terrorists.” Many accused of war crimes have avoided prison, and past guerrilla fighters now sit in the Colombia congress. The reform of the peace deal was a primary part of Duque’s presidential running platform. Duque says his party “does not want to tear the agreement to shreds” but rather “make it clear that a Colombia at peace is a Colombia where peace meets justice.”

Duque has also promised to cut business taxes, simplify the tax-code, and boost the nation’s coal and oil exports, making him a friend of those in the business community. These moves are an effort to improve and maintain Colombia’s $324 billion economy. After his victory Sunday, Duque tweeted support for building a diverse range of companies. “This will be the government that brings entrepreneurship to all of Colombia because we want to make the country of micro, small, medium and large companies,” he wrote.

When it comes to drug control, Duque’s stance doesn’t stray far from that of his mentor’s. The president-elect aims to completely eradicate coca, supporting the use of aerial spraying to do so. Chemical spraying had been banned under the previous administration due to health concerns.

Aside from Duque’s conservative plans for Colombia, his election was notable for another reason: his vice president, Marta Lucia Ramirez, will become the country’s first female VP. This milestone was not lost on anyone, sparking comment from Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Duque will take office this August.