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Colombia chooses its future after more than half a century of war with the FARC

The country celebrates the first presidential elections without the threat of the guerrillas. Experts rely on the stability of the country beyond the outcome

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Colombia chooses its future after more than half a century of war with the FARC

In photograph are dozens of young people, mostly minors, who until today have dealt with violence of one of most contentious departments in Colombia, Chocó, on Pacific coast. Along with m, some authorities headed by country's vice president, Óscar Naranjo. On outskirts of municipality of Quibdó, you can hear ir experiences, determined by bullets and crime. "We want to get out of this life," says Harold Cuesta. You also hear a promise from general of police that was decisive in fall of Pablo Escobar: The opening of a channel of direct communication between se teenagers, who have delivered ir weapons, and government of Juan Manuel Santos to avoid networks of corruption Local.

This image, from a meeting that was held a few weeks ago, illustrates stage in which Colombia is located, which today celebrates first round of presidential elections. The country ended in 2016 with war with FARC, which founded a political party, but do not present mselves to se elections for almost null support of citizenry. However, authorities have yet to resolve problem of violence and oblivion to which some territories are doomed. The transition has just begun and re are still many pitfalls, guerrilla of National Liberation Army (ELN) negotiates with executive in Havana, criminal gangs thrive at borders with Venezuela and Ecuador, and agreements with insurgent group more Ancient America pass perhaps for its most delicate moment. Colombians elect president in a climate of transparency, according to observers, and, for first time in more than half a century, without threat of FARC. But that peace needs to be consolidated, in a broad sense, to underpin security and economic stability. And that is what is behind, with approaches sometimes in antipodes, of five main candidates who aspire to arrive at house of Nariño.

Ivan Duque, aspirant Uribe, heads for months all polls and already has a foot in runoff, to be held on May 17. Ex-senator and former counselor of Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington, says he has no intention of "shattering" agreements as demanded by most radical sectors of his coalition, promoted by former Presidents Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana, though it will make major modifications. His coalition, of conservative positions, his speech in recovery. Colombia has favorable macroeconomic prospects – it entered OECD on Friday, has just obtained a line of credit of more than 11.4 billion of IMF dollars without conditions-but inequality continues to mark routine of millions of citizens. "I assume challenge of recovering Colombian economy, eliminating wastefulness, corruption and evasion. We're going to lower taxes and raise workers ' salaries, "he promised during campaign closing.

Its main opponent, also with many possibilities of reaching second round, is former mayor of Bogotá Gustavo Petro, who was guerrilla of M-19, a demobilized movement in 1990. This candidate climbed positions driven by an antiestablishment speech applauded especially by young people and popular classes. Throughout campaign he received criticism for his populist forms and his old friendship with Hugo Chavez. The ghost of Venezuela and its impact in Colombia, where in recent months have entered hundreds of thousands of citizens fleeing regime of Nicolas Maduro, has been one of axes of ideological polarization of this presidential race.

Sergio Fajardo, an exalderman from Medellín, and Humberto de la Calle, negotiator of agreements with FARC, of Centro and left, respectively, have dedicated, instead, ir campaigns to reconciliation, a central idea that supports aspiration to leave behind Past and start a new stage.

Germán Vargas Lleras, vice president of Santos and politician of centre, represents in se elections interests of ruling classes and has not had so far special projection. It counts, however, with a wide base of territorial support, so-called machinery, difficult to measure in surveys, so it could become one of surprises of election day.

A part of population, which is still very divided on peace accords, is concerned about ideological confrontation embodied mainly by Duque and Petro. However, according to majority of experts, stability of country will not ultimately depend on se elections. The Fitch rating agency, for example, shows no concern and does not anticipate changes in macroeconomic policies regardless of winner. But Colombia does play a large part in its country project. "We have some options that are very drastic and people are very restless, but important changes are not going to be given because we have a Congress that is divided," says analyst Sergio Guzmán of British consultancy Control risks, so that Any candidate who wins presidency will find it very difficult to legislate. Behind ir decisions, debates about energy model, security, role of Colombia in international alliances. In short, future.

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