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Lengthy prior to Gustavo Petro emerged as a leftist candidate for president, he used to be a part of the M-19, an city guerrilla workforce that sought to clutch energy via violence within the title of selling social justice.

For some Colombian citizens, his previous is a supply of shock after many years of armed battle. For others, it provides an indication of hope for one in every of maximum inequitable international locations in Latin The united states.

The M-19 used to be born in 1970 as a reaction to alleged fraud in that 12 months’s presidential elections. It used to be a ways smaller than the rustic’s primary guerrilla pressure, the Innovative Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which used to be Marxist and sought haven in Colombia’s jungles and rural spaces.

The M-19 used to be an city army workforce shaped through college scholars, activists and artists who sought after to topple a governing machine they believed didn’t bridge a prolonged divide between the wealthy and the deficient.

“The M-19 used to be born in fingers to construct a democracy,” Mr. Petro instructed The New York Instances in an interview.

It initially attempted to advertise a Robin Hood symbol, robbing milk from grocery store vehicles to distribute in deficient neighborhoods and, in a symbolic act of rise up, stole a sword from a museum that Simón Bolívar utilized in Colombia’s warfare for independence.

Mr. Petro, 62, joined the crowd when he used to be 17 and an economics scholar, dismayed through the poverty he witnessed within the the town the place has residing, out of doors Bogotá, the capital.

Whilst the M-19 used to be much less brutal than different riot teams, it did orchestrate what is regarded as one of the vital bloodiest acts within the nation’s contemporary historical past: the 1985 siege of Colombia’s nationwide judicial construction that ended in a combat with the police and the army, leaving 94 folks lifeless.

The crowd additionally stole 5,000 guns from the Colombian army and used kidnapping as a tactic to take a look at to wrest concessions from the federal government.

Mr. Petro, who spent 10 years within the M-19, in large part stockpiled stolen guns, stated Sandra Borda, a political science professor on the College of the Andes in Bogotá.

“What’s key’s that he wasn’t a part of the primary circle who made the choices in M-19. He used to be very younger at that second,” she stated. “He didn’t take part in crucial operations of the M-19, the army operations.”

On the time of the justice construction takeover, Mr. Petro used to be in jail for his involvement with the crowd and he has described being crushed and electrocuted through the government.

The crowd sooner or later demobilized in 1990, which used to be regarded as one of the vital a hit peace processes within the nation’s lengthy historical past of battle. It was a political birthday celebration that helped rewrite the rustic’s charter to center of attention extra on equality and human rights.

Mr. Petro ran for Senate as a member of the birthday celebration, launching his political occupation.

Sofía Villamil and Julie Turkewitz contributed reporting from Bogotá.

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