What Do Businessmen Think of Gustavo Petro and His Next Government in Colombia?

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Petro was, without a doubt, the candidate that Colombian businessmen saw as a great threat to the economy before the presidential elections. How do they see him now that the leader of the left has been appointed as president of Colombia?

France Marquez and Gustavo Petro

Photo: TW-petrogustavo

LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez Hernández

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Leer en español: ¿Qué piensan los empresarios de Gustavo Petro y su próximo gobierno en Colombia?

On August 7, Gustavo Petro will take office as the new president of Colombia, after winning the elections on June 19, against Rodolfo Hernández. He was one of the opponents who, despite not being one of the most popular at the beginning of the campaign in 2021, ended up becoming the great threat of Petrismo in the search for power.

For several experts, one of the keys why Hernández got so far in the electoral contest is precisely his past as a businessman and the peace of mind he offered his colleagues in the development of free enterprise in Colombia and its importance for the economic growth of the country.

“Rodolfo (Hernández) is very consistent, and I like that. He talks about austerity, and hopefully he can do that because it will help the country. Since the results were known, I said that I will accompany Rodolfo because I don't want the left to come to power", said the fashion entrepreneur Mario Hernández. In the first round he supported the rightist Federico Gutiérrez; but then he decided to give all his approval to the former mayor of Bucaramanga in the second round.

Looking for Business Support

Now, Petro knew that to turn this reality in his favor he had to incline his ear to listen, precisely, to the business sector in the country, and try to reassure him about what his government would be in Colombia.

Even before the first presidential round, the Colombian media began to record various meetings between the leader of the Pacto Histórico and the country's businessmen, especially with figures of great importance to the Colombian economy such as Christian Daes, head of several social projects in Barranquilla, or Jean Claude Bessudo, owner of Aviatur and leader of the Confederation of Jewish Communities of Colombia.

On the other hand, Petro also tried to lighten a bit the media load that had been created around his idea of abandoning hydrocarbon energy to make way for a more environmentally friendly one, ensuring that the change will not take place in the short term.

"The word transition implies gradualness. They wanted to show that this was for August 8, and it is not. I had votes against derived from that belief, it is not that we are not going to explore because there are 180 contracts in force. What I have said is that there will be no new exploration contracts,” explained the president-elect.

You can also read: Interview: Gustavo Petro's Cabinet Will Be Evaluated for Its Management: Marelen Castillo

Waiting for What's to Come

Seeing this scenario, the businessmen, who were showing great concern before the election, have decided to incline their position to a more neutral one; trust before fear. This was demonstrated by some of the most important union leaders in the country, who considered, from the moment that Gustavo Petro was elected as president of Colombia, to wait to see what the new president's cards are before creating an economic panic in the country.

For example, the president of Asobancaria, the most influential banking association in Colombia, Hernando José Gómez, said that it was time to put polarization aside and try, by all means, to validate the opinions and efforts of others, without that this negatively affects the Colombian economy.

“We express to the president-elect our willingness to maintain an open dialogue and contribute, independently, to the construction of the economic and social policies that will be deployed in the next four years,” said Gómez.

The same thought was shown by the businessman Arturo Calle, one of the most renowned in the fashion industry in the country, who was calm with the election of Petro, assuring that on his part he only had respect for the leader of the Colombian left and that his future was not far from Colombia.

“What else can you expect? Great respect. What else? Here we stay. This country has supported us. What we have, we owe to the country. We were born without five cents. The capital we have belongs to Colombia. And this is not the time to run away, ” he said.

He also mentioned that it is of the utmost importance that Petro does not turn the rudder with great force or in an accelerated way, as it could cause economic catastrophes even worse than those currently experienced with the dollar “through the roof” and inflation at its point highest in recent years. “That the dollar is at the prices it is very serious, it seems to me, because it makes inflation much higher, that people no longer have enough to buy everything they want,” added Calle.

Another of the characters who has also been calm in front of the Petro government was his maximum political opponent, Álvaro Uribe. The former president met with the new president at the end of June to show him his intention to work hand in hand with the new government and thus overcome differences in favor of changing Colombia.

For this reason, after the talk between the two, Uribe assured that the conclusion was reached that the two share “all the effort that is made so that this country accelerates the overcoming of poverty”. However, he stressed that it is of great importance “not to affect the private sector, which is ultimately the source to overcome poverty”.

In conclusion, it seems that Petro's political strategy of bringing tranquility to private companies in Colombia has borne fruit, consolidating unions with sectors that before the elections seemed more distant than ever from the Colombian president-elect. However, there are still doubts as to what the new leftist government could be, which is why the business community has preferred to wait: will it be as mediating as that of AMLO in Mexico and Gabriel Boric in Chile, or as challenging as that of the Chavismo in Venezuela?