Colombia: Ivan Duque sworn in as new president | News | DW | 07.08.2018
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Colombia: Ivan Duque sworn in as new president

Ivan Duque has been sworn in as Colombia's president. He is the youngest man to ever hold the office. As a protege of former presdident Uriibe, analysts wonder how much of his own man he will be.

Ivan Duque, who at 42 will be the youngest Colombian president ever elected in a popular vote, was sworn in on Tuesday.

He describes himself as a centrist who will unite the nation at a time when many are still fiercely divided over the peace agreement that ended more than five decades of bloody conflict. 

Duque succeeds center-right liberal Juan Manuel Santos, who had been in power since 2010 for two terms.

Duque took the oath of office for a four-year term during a public ceremony on Bolivar Square in the historic center of Bogota.

His detractors, however, fear he will be little more than a puppet for Alvaro Uribe, the conservative ex-president who led a referendum defeat of the initial version of peace accord in 2016.

Uribe is still backed by millions of Colombians, though he is perhaps equally detested by legions who decry human rights abuses during his administration.

Ivan Duque (picture-alliance/AP Photo/F. Vergara)

Aiming for the presidency since an early age

Groomed for presidency

Duque is the son of a former governor and energy minister and friends say that he has harbored presidential aspirations since an early age.

But his rise from unknown technocrat to a popular senator and now president has been extraordinarily rapid, thanks in large part to the support of his mentor, Uribe.

Four years ago, Duque was living in Washington DC working at an international development bank. It was there that he developed close ties to Uribe.

He helped Uribe when he taught a course at Georgetown University. Later Duque helped Uribe lead a United Nations probe into Israel's deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. He also helped him write his memoir.

In 2014, Uribe propelled Duque into the political limelight when he encouraged him to return to Colombia to run for a Senate seat and put him on a list of newcomer candidates that he urged his multitude of supporters to elect.

Colombia in crisis

Colombia is at a critical juncture as Duque takes over the presidency. Coca production is soaring to record levels, holdout illegal armed groups are battling for territory where the state has little or no presence and a raft of killings of social activists has underlined the fact that peace remains a relative term.

Colombian president Juan Manuel and Santos Timochenko Waffenstillstandsabkommen FARC (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Ernesto)

Peace agreement with the FARC rebels

All throughout his campaign, Duque promised to push for changes in the peace agreement, which include creating tougher penalties for former leaders of the now defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia responsible for crimes against humanity.

Currently, under the accord, most rebels who fully confess their crimes will be spared any jail time, which is a sore point for many Colombians.

Colombia's conflict between leftist rebels, the state and paramilitary groups left at least 260,000 dead, some 60,000 missing and millions displaced.

av/aw (AP, AFP, DPA)

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