Prominent Colombian socialist and former guerrilla fighter Gustavo Petro announced his endorsement of Joe Biden.
Petro declared his support for Biden Monday on CNN En Español. "If I could vote in the United States, in the interest of my Latin American people, I would vote for Biden, without a doubt," Petro said, doubling down on a tweet endorsement he issued last week.
The socialist was a member of the far-left guerrilla movement M-19 in the 1980s, and later ran for president in 2018 on a socialist platform. M-19 attacked Colombia’s Palace of Justice in 1985 with the alleged support of Medellín Cartel leader Pablo Escobar. Taking hostage and killing Colombian judges, the attackers also destroyed evidence in approximately 6,000 criminal cases, some of which pertained to Escobar himself.
American Enterprise Institute research fellow Ryan C. Berg told the Washington Free Beacon Petro’s record in politics resembles the ideology of the far-left guerrilla group. "As a politician, Petro is closely associated with the '21st Century Socialism' movement of Hugo Chávez and other leftist leaders in Latin America," he said. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó once called Petro "an accomplice of the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro."
Though he finished second to conservative Iván Duque Márquez in the 2018 election, many Colombian Americans still consider Petro a dangerous figure. Petro won support from only 9 percent of Colombian Americans who voted in the 2018 election, and his socialist policies make him highly unpopular among the community.
Colombian-American activist Fabio Andrade said he found Petro's endorsement of Biden "offensive."
"We’re offended, it’s very simple. Knowing what we know about this terrorist, a person that has the blood of Colombians on his hands," Andrade told the Free Beacon. "This endorsement is pathetic and very dangerous."
The Biden campaign has not condemned Petro’s endorsement and did not respond to a request for comment before press time.
A negative reaction to Petro's endorsement could have an electoral impact, particularly in Florida. "If this has any impact on the election, it could play into Trump's rhetoric that Democrats are happy to be associated with socialists in foreign countries and thereby hurt Biden with Hispanic voters in key swing states such as Florida," Berg told the Free Beacon.
This was not the first time in recent weeks the Biden campaign has dealt with accusations of socialism within its ranks. Rep. Karen Bass (D., Calif.), once widely considered a leading candidate for Biden's vice presidential selection, has expressed an affinity for socialist conferences and Castro’s Cuba. One Democratic consultant said Bass made "Bernie Sanders look like Ronald Reagan."
"Just as Biden is entering the party convention and needs to balance between moderate and progressive voices in the Democratic Party, Petro's endorsement pops up and provides Trump with another chance to equate a vote for Biden with socialism in Latin America," Berg said.
Trump campaign spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp agreed. "By endorsing Joe Biden, socialist Gustavo Petro has confirmed what millions of Hispanics already know: A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for the ‘progressive’ Castrochavista ideology that Petro and other Latin American socialists promote and that Biden has embraced," Schlapp said.