The leftist Gustavo Petro was sworn in on Sunday as president of Colombia, a post he took to succeed Iván Duque

New Colombian President Gustavo Petro: "Latin American unity cannot be rhetoric"

The leftist Gustavo Petro was sworn in on Sunday as president of Colombia, a position he took to succeed Iván Duque, before a cheering crowd in Bogotá's Plaza de Bolívar. 

"I promise to God and I promise the people to faithfully comply with the constitution and the laws of Colombia," Petro said as he was sworn in by the president of Congress, Roy Barreras. 

The president was sworn in by Senator María José Pizarro, daughter of Carlos Pizarro, who was Petro's partner in the M-19 guerrilla movement and was assassinated in 1990 when he was a presidential candidate and had a 60% share of the vote. 

The congresswoman, in tears, placed the presidential sash on the new president and gave him a hug amidst a standing ovation from the audience. 

After being sworn in, Barreras placed a "dove of peace" in his lapel, symbolising one of the main actions he will try to carry out during his government, that of achieving "total peace" in Colombia. 

The President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, assured that "Latin American unity cannot be rhetoric", which is why he called for unity so that the region can be strong in a "complex world". 

"Today we need to be more united and united than ever. As Simón Bolívar once said: 'Union must save us, as division will destroy us if it is introduced among us'. Let there be an end to the division of Latin America. But Latin American unity cannot be a rhetoric, a mere discourse," Petro said in his speech. 

The Colombian leader, who succeeds Iván Duque, said that for Latin America it is "time to leave behind blocs, groups and ideological differences in order to work together".

"Let us understand once and for all that there is much more that unites us than separates us. And that together we are stronger. Let us realise the unity that our heroes, such as Bolívar, San Martín, Artigas, Sucre and O'Higgins, dreamed of. It is not utopia or romanticism," he added. 

For this reason, he considered that the region must unite its "power of knowledge, of the economy and of life", because if the countries act together "the voice of Latin America will be heard in the concert of the peoples of the world". 

"We have just lived through perhaps the worst of the covid pandemic, and Latin America was not capable of coming together, of coordinating, to buy the cheapest vaccines, it was practically used without negotiating capacity, dispersed among its governments," he criticised. 

The Colombian leader, who is the first leftist president to come to power in the country, pointed out that joint Latin American projects should be worked on, such as connecting all the electricity grids, ensuring that energy sources are clean, and promoting public oil companies. 

"I am grateful for the presence of presidents, presidents and other representatives of the brotherly peoples of Latin America and the world. At a time when we see sister nations bombing each other, here, in the heart of Colombia, in the heart of Latin America, there are a dozen presidents from the region, with ideological diversity and different backgrounds, but all united in sharing this true celebration of democracy," he said.

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