Lengthy earlier than Gustavo Petro emerged because the apparently victorious leftist candidate for president, he was a part of the M-19, an city guerrilla group that sought to grab energy by means of violence within the title of selling social justice.
For some Colombian voters, his previous was a supply of concern after a long time of armed battle. For others, it provided an indication of hope for one among most inequitable international locations in Latin America.
The M-19 was born in 1970 as a response to alleged fraud in that 12 months’s presidential elections. It was far smaller than the nation’s fundamental guerrilla power, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which was Marxist and sought haven in Colombia’s jungles and rural areas.
The M-19 was an city army group shaped by college college students, activists and artists who needed to topple a governing system they believed did not bridge a continual divide between the wealthy and the poor.
“The M-19 was born in arms to construct a democracy,” Mr. Petro instructed The New York Instances in an interview.
It initially tried to advertise a Robin Hood picture, robbing milk from grocery store vans to distribute in poor neighborhoods and, in a symbolic act of riot, stole a sword from a museum that Simón Bolívar utilized in Colombia’s warfare for independence.
Mr. Petro, 62, joined the group when he was 17 and an economics pupil, dismayed by the poverty he witnessed within the city the place has residing, outdoors Bogotá, the capital.
Whereas the M-19 was much less brutal than different insurgent teams, it did orchestrate what is taken into account one of many bloodiest acts within the nation’s current historical past: the 1985 siege of Colombia’s nationwide judicial constructing that led to a battle with the police and the army, leaving 94 folks useless.
The group additionally stole 5,000 weapons from the Colombian army and used kidnapping as a tactic to attempt to wrest concessions from the federal government.
Mr. Petro, who spent 10 years within the M-19, largely stockpiled stolen weapons, stated Sandra Borda, a political science professor on the College of the Andes in Bogotá.
“What’s secret is that he wasn’t a part of the principle circle who made the choices in M-19. He was very younger at that second,” she stated. “He didn’t take part in a very powerful operations of the M-19, the army operations.”
On the time of the justice constructing takeover, Mr. Petro was in jail for his involvement with the group and he has described being crushed and electrocuted by the authorities.
The group ultimately demobilized in 1990, which was thought of probably the most profitable peace processes within the nation’s lengthy historical past of battle. It become a political social gathering that helped rewrite the nation’s structure to focus extra on equality and human rights.
Mr. Petro ran for Senate as a member of the social gathering, launching his political profession.
Sofía Villamil and Julie Turkewitz contributed reporting from Bogotá.