Colombia peso rallies after Duque's strong results in presidential primary

ElectionsColombia closes borders and opens polling stations for legislative elections by Adriaan Alsema

Colombia's former FARC rebels will not field a candidate in the country's May presidential election as its hopeful, Rodrigo Londono, battles heart problems, the group said on Thursday.

March 12, 2018 The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, today welcomed the decision of the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to resume peace talks with the ELN guerilla in Quito, that had been suspended in January.

But the major winners of the election, a coalition of right-wing forces centered around former president Alvaro Uribe's Centro Democratico party, have led opposition to the peace deal, and what they see as indulgent treatment of organizations involved in atrocious crimes.

Investors have been uneasy over possibility of Petro, a former member of the disbanded M-19 guerrilla group and ex-mayor of Bogota, winning the presidency as he has been running neck and neck with Duque in opinion polls. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a second round will be held in June.

With 99.67 percent of the tally sheets processed, Petro won the official candidacy for his coalition with 2,848,868 votes or 84.69 percent, while Carlos Caicedo, the former mayor of Santa Marta, got 514,805 (15.3 percent).

Petro, 57, and his Colombia Humana party pledges to improve conditions for the poor, ban open pit mining and use clean energy.

Santos, who cast his vote near the presidential headquarters in Bogota just past 8 a.m., also celebrated the FARC's participation in the electoral process.

The group will, however, have candidates in Sunday's congressional election, its first outing as an unarmed political party, after it demobilized under a 2016 peace deal with the government. "That said, the uncertainty surrounding the future of the peace agreement could be enough to moderate any recovery in financial markets if Duque's rise in the polls continues in the coming weeks", analysts said. The group is guaranteed 10 seats in the body through 2026 under the terms of the peace deal.

Duque and Vargas Lleras, from the Radical Change party, have strong party machines behind them and can count on backing in Congress if they win.

They both favour improvements to infrastructure and tax cuts for businesses, though Fajardo is considered left-leaning.

Other candidates include Liberal party elder statesman Humberto de la Calle, who lead government negotiators at FARC talks, and former defence minister and USA ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzon.



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