Petro lends a hand to Castillo, a lonely president

The similarities between Gustavo Petro and Pedro Castillo today are reduced to the fact that they are two Latin American leftist presidents. Because his victory at the polls, in Colombia on June 19 and in Peru a year ago, was described as historic. Little more. The two shook hands on Monday in Lima (Peru) while going through totally opposite moments. Petro, the Colombian president since August 7, lives a sweet moment. He amasses a 64% approval rating. For Castillo, the Peruvian president, the first year has seemed eternal. Besieged by allegations of corruption and with a replacement of up to 40 ministers in his cabinet, barely 8% of Peruvians believe much in his government. Petro, who has just received the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, in Colombia, became the first president to visit Castillo on Monday.

The Colombian president wants to set the agenda for the region and lead what has been called the new Latin American progressive axis. A group from which the Peruvian president has felt excluded and which would include the Chilean Gabriel Boric, the Argentine Alberto Fernández and which Lula could join if he wins the next elections in Brazil. After the private meeting with Castillo, Petro participated in the presidential summit of the Andean Community, where he made it clear who he wants on his side.

There, before the presidents of Ecuador and Bolivia, Guillermo Lasso and Luis Arce, and Castillo himself, he asked that the organization integrate new countries such as Chile and Venezuela, and eventually Argentina. “The more voices we bring together, the more powerful we will be,” he warned. Both countries had already been part of the group, but Chile withdrew in 1976 and Venezuela in 2006. Now Petro wants them inside, as part of its regional policy.

With this visit, his first outing outside of Colombia, Petro gives an endorsement to a weak Castillo and makes up for his absence at the inauguration held this month in Bogotá. The Peruvian president was unable to attend because Congress prohibited him from leaving the country while the allegations of corruption in his environment are being investigated.

In the private meeting between the two, of which only a few images emerged, issues of bilateral trade, security and the environment were discussed. Petro called for improvements in trade between the two countries, such as lifting tariffs, but above all he gave his support to the Peruvian president in advancing regional integration. Castillo, locked in an eternal political crisis, has hardly had a chance to look beyond his borders.

This first trip takes place precisely on the same day that relations between Colombia and Venezuela are resumed, with the swearing-in of Ambassador Armando Benedetti in Caracas, after years of cooling off. Also in the midst of the controversy over the absence of Colombia as the only OAS member country that did not support a resolution condemning human rights violations in Nicaragua. Petro will return to Bogotá this Monday, but in the few hours that her trip to Peru lasts, she seeks to make it clear that Colombia is going to look at the region and who it wants as travel companions.

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