Colombia is the latest Latin American country to turn from the right, and possibly stand up to Washington, with the inauguration of Gustavo Petro Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and is author of the recently-released No More War: How the West Violates International Law by Using “Humanitarian” Intervention to Advance Economic and Strategic Interests.Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and is author of the recently-released No More War: How the West Violates International Law by Using “Humanitarian” Intervention to Advance Economic and Strategic Interests.Gustavo Petro © Daniel Munoz / VIEW press / Corbis via Getty Images

It’s a historic day in Colombia, as the country inaugurates former guerrilla Gustavo Petro as its first leftist president, and Francia Marquez as its first vice president of African descent. This was unthinkable not long ago, and before this unlikely team now lie the combined challenges of standing up to US domination and fixing decades of social injustice.

The last time it appeared Colombia would have a leftist president was in 1948 with the candidacy of the fiery and popular Liberal Party leader Jorge Gaitan. Tragically, Gaitan was assassinated before the election, leading to the period of ‘La Violencia’, in which between 200,000 and 300,000 Colombians were killed over the following decade. In the melee which immediately followed Gaitan’s assassination, a young Fidel Castro and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who would later become life-long friends, would briefly encounter each other in the streets of Bogota. It is uncertain who was behind the assassination of Gaitan, though one of the main versions, and certainly my belief, is that it was the newly-created CIA, which became the US’ regime-change instrument for decades to come.

Colombia elects leftist president for first time Colombia elects leftist president for first time

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Colombia elects leftist president for first time

Even after La Violencia, Colombia has continued to be marked by gruesome political violence, even to the present time, with over 220,000 killed in such violence since 1958. In recent years, this violence has mostly been carried out by US-backed military and paramilitary death squads closely aligned with the right-wing governments which have seamlessly governed Colombia since 2002. The state violence since 2002 has been staggering, with the military murdering at least 6,400 and possibly 10,000 people from 2002 to 2008 alone. Meanwhile, over 92,000 Colombians have been disappeared, and over 5 million Colombians are internally displaced, amounting to one of the largest numbers of internally-displaced people in the world.

Given this landscape and the numerous death threats both Petro and Marquez received during the presidential campaign, and for years before, many have feared they could suffer the same fate as Gaitan. Indeed, the two campaigned behind bullet-proof shields to protect them from the very real threat of assassination. This threat has not abated simply because they have been elected, and just surviving their full term in office will be a very real feat. (RT)