Petro Allies Defeated in Key Colombian Cities, Risking Paralysis

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(Bloomberg) -- Allies of President Gustavo Petro lost control of all of Colombia’s major cities in regional elections Sunday, signaling potential paralysis as new mayors clash with the government.

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The popularity of Petro, the nation’s first leftist leader, has plummeted as he struggles to keep his political coalition together in congress. Candidates aligned with his ideas lost in Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla, according to data from the electoral authority.

In the capital, Carlos Fernando Galan, a centrist former senator promising to crack down on crime and to build new roads, won with 49% support against Juan Daniel Oviedo, former head of the nation’s statistics agency who secured 20%. The government’s candidate, Gustavo Bolivar, came in third with 19%, with more than 96% of the votes tallied.

In Medellin, the second-largest city, right-wing former presidential candidate Federico Gutierrez, who lost to Petro in 2022, won the mayoral race. Alejandro Char, a businessman and member of one of Colombia’s richest families, won in the Caribbean port city of Barranquilla. Alejandro Eder, part of a wealthy family with a sugar mill business, won in Cali.

With Petro’s rivals now in control of all of Colombia’s main cities, analysts fear the government could cut municipal financing or deny approvals for big infrastructure projects, delaying progress on key projects including Bogota’s new rapid-transit system.

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