A supporter of Gustavo Pedro shows an old photo of the presidential candidate, third from left, surrounded by former squatters he helped organize as a clandestine militant in the 80's at "Bolivar 83" community in the town of Zipaquira, north of Bogota, Colombia, Saturday, June 16, 2018. The two-man race between Petro and frontrunner Ivan Duque has tightened in the final stretch ahead of Sunday’s voting, with one poll indicating Petro having climbed to within 6 points of his conservative rival. In the first round of voting three weeks ago, Duque topped Petro by more than 14 points. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Ex-rebel looks to defy odds in Colombia presidential race

June 16, 2018 - 6:40 pm

ZIPAQUIRA, Colombia (AP) — Gustavo Petro began his long ascent to the cusp of Colombia's presidency in this self-built barrio named after South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

In 1983, equipped with little more than a shovel and a surplus of revolutionary ideals, the then-clandestine militant led some 400 squatter families in a months-long battle with authorities to secure a plot of land to build their ramshackle homes here in Zipaquira, north of Bogota. Their rallying cry was: "A roof and a dignified life."

Thirty five years later, the founders of the "Bolivar 83" barrio still living in the slum celebrate Petro's rise as their own. The leftist candidate will run against Ivan Duque Sunday in Colombia's presidential runoff.

"He taught us to call each other comrades, not neighbors," remembers Ana Miriam Chitiva.

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