Iván Duque was elected as the new president of Colombia after the second round of elections on Sunday. He defeated Gustavo Petro, former mayor of Bogota and was supported by current president Juan Manuel Santos.
At 41, Duke will take office on August 7. He is a fierce critic of the peace agreement with the revolutionary Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), which secured the Nobel Peace Prize for Santos.
“What we Colombians want is for those who have committed crimes against humanity to be punished with proportional punishment … so that there is no impunity,” Duque told AFP during the campaign.
A lawyer and also a graduate in economics, Duque defends “structural changes” in the agreement with the former guerrilla group that turned into a political party, the Common Revolutionary Force, maintaining the acronym FARC.
The conflict between the revolutionary group and its counterparts like the National Liberation Army (ELN) against the state has left more than 260,000 dead, 83,000 missing and forced displacement of 7.4 million.
Duque protested against the Colombian left, expressing fears that it could drag the country to the same economic swamp in which neighboring Venezuela is mired, while ignoring the intense international sanctions against the Bolivarian state.
The left, in turn, accuses him of being a puppet of Alvaro Uribe, the former two-term president who took a hard line against the left when he was in power eight years ago.
“No one knows if they have their own criteria or whether they will obey orders,” said Fabian Acuna, a political analyst at the Javeriana University in Cali, when speaking about Duque.
Although he is a newcomer to politics – he has been a senator since 2014 – politics is in his blood.
He was born in Bogotá on August 1, 1976, and his father was a liberal politician.
But it was Santos, the retiring president, who highlighted Duque’s role in the 1990s by employing him as a financial adviser. Later, Duque worked for 13 years for the Inter-American Development Bank, based in Washington.
Today, Duque is in opposition to Santos on the peace agreement.
“He’s very dynamic when it comes to public relations, very clever,” said a former Duque co-worker.
While working in the United States, Duque met Uribe, who persuaded him to run for the Senate.
“Ivan is very intelligent and I’m sure he has a bright future ahead,” Uribe wrote in his 2012 book “No Causes Lost.”
But for Roy Barreras, a Santos party senator, “a president must have experience, autonomy, political ability – all lost items with Ivan, who is, as everyone knows, a good little boy.”
A father of three, Duque used to play bass in a rock band, but his relaxed image contrasts sharply with his conservative ideals – he is a strong opponent of gay marriage, euthanasia, and drug decriminalization.
He has strong support from the far right as well as from an increasingly influential evangelical Christian bloc.