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Colombia: Leftist Petro signs oath against expropriation

Ex-guerrilla Gustavo Petro, who leads in opinion polls ahead of Colombian elections next month, signed an oath Tuesday not to expropriate property if he becomes the country's first-ever leftist president.

In a bid to appeal to skeptics of his left-wing economic policy, Petro called the media to a notary's office in Bogota to watch him sign a document under oath, stating that he will respect private ownership.

"My proposal of transformation for this country is not grounded in, and does not include, any kind of expropriation," the 61-year-old senator told reporters.

Legal experts told local media the oath is not binding.

In March primaries, Colombians voted for Petro as the left's presidential nominee by a wide margin, making him the front-runner in a country that has always been ruled by the political right.

Petro has vowed to reduce income inequality by ending Colombia's neoliberal economic model, inviting accusations from right-wing rival Federico Gutierrez that he is "populist and authoritarian."

Colombian voters have a deep-rooted distrust of the left, which is associated with the FARC and other rebel groups that fought the government in a nearly six-decade civil conflict.

Petro himself was a member of the former M-19 guerilla group.

"There are those who constantly try to sow doubts about my proposals... and cast the shadow of supposed expropriation to scare" leftist voters, he said on Monday.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," he added.