June 7, 2018 / 9:23 PM / 6 months ago

Colombia industry group backs right-wing candidate in June vote

FILE PHOTO: Right wing presidential candidate Ivan Duque speaks during an event in Bogota, Colombia May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A group representing Colombian retailers, bankers and other industries said on Thursday it will back right-wing candidate Ivan Duque and his economic plans in the June 17 presidential election.

The endorsement from the National Council of Industry Groups (CGN), which includes pension funds and trade groups from the sugar, banking, palm and retail industries is unusual. Trade groups in the Andean nation tend not to openly back candidates.

Pro-market Duque, a protégé of ex-president Alvaro Uribe, will face leftist Gustavo Petro in the run-off vote. Duque has promised to bolster investment and cut taxes while raising revenue from a crackdown on evasion.

The CGN, which says its members provide 73 percent of formal employment in the country, said Duque’s economic plan would help unite Colombia.

“His programme is clear in affirming that the reformist agenda it proposes would take place within institutional structures to inspire a new country,” CGN president Jorge Humberto Botero told journalists.

Petro, a former mayor of Bogota and once a member of the now defunct M19 rebel group, has proposed restricting extractive industries and raising property taxes, worrying some investors, who fear deep changes to the country’s economic model.

The CGN’s announcement came two days after the agricultural federation, which includes the country’s coffee growers, said it would be backing Duque in the vote. 

Colombia is the world’s top producer of washed arabica, and more than half a million families make their living from coffee farming alone.

Reporting by Carlos Vargas; Writing by Steven Grattan; Editing by Julia Symmes Cobb and Susan Thomas

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