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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Colombian voters elect country’s first black vice president

When Colombian voters cast aside their long-standing antipathy towards the left and elected one of them as their new president, they also passed another milestone by electing the country’s first black vice president.

When former left-wing rebel Gustavo Petro takes office on August 7, Francia Márquez, his running mate in Sunday’s elections, will be a key player in his administration.

Marquez is an eco-activist from La Toma, a remote village surrounded by mountains, where she first campaigned against the construction of a hydroelectric power plant and then defied wild gold miners who were encroaching on collective Afro-Colombian lands.

The politician has faced numerous death threats for her environmental work and has become an influential spokesperson for black Colombians and other marginalized communities.

“She is completely unlike any other person who has ever served as vice president in Colombia,” said Jimena Sanchez, director of the Andean rights group’s Washington office for Latin America.

“She comes from the countryside, from the point of view of a peasant woman and from the point of view of areas of Colombia that have suffered from armed conflicts for many years. Most of the Colombian politicians who have served as president did not live in the way she did,” Sanchez said.

She said that Marquez would likely be tasked with dealing with gender issues as well as policies affecting the country’s Afro-Colombian population.

In several interviews. Petro discussed the creation of a Ministry of Equality, which will be led by Marquez and will work in several sectors of the economy on issues such as reducing gender inequalities and addressing the inequalities faced by ethnic minorities.

Marquez said Sunday that part of her mission as vice president will be to reduce inequality.

“This will be a government for those who have calluses on their hands,” she said on stage, celebrating the election results with thousands of supporters at a popular concert venue. “We are here to advance social justice and help women end patriarchy.”

Cleaned houses, studied law, energized rural voters

Marquez grew up in a small house built by her family, and at the age of 16 she had a daughter, whom she raised alone. To support her daughter, Marquez cleaned houses in the nearby town of Cali and also worked in a restaurant while studying law.

In 2018, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Award for her successful efforts to expel gold miners from the collectively owned Afro-Colombian lands around her village.

Márquez entered the presidential race last year as the candidate of the Democratic Pole party, although in March she lost in cross-party consultations to Gustavo Petro. But she won national recognition during the primaries and received 700,000 votes, ahead of most veteran politicians.

In speeches calling on Colombia to confront racism and gender inequality and secure the basic rights of the poor, Márquez inspired rural voters affected by the country’s long armed conflict, as well as young people and women in urban areas.

“All of us who work with her now believe in the power of women,” said Vivian Tibaque, a community leader in Bogota who worked on the Marquez campaign. “We believe we can also defend rights, as Francia defended hers.”

Political scientists say Márquez contributed to Petro’s campaign by reaching out to voters who felt excluded from the political system but distrusted the parties of the left, which Petro, a former member of the rebel group, was a part of for most of his careers.

They said her presence on Petro’s ticket also motivated Afro-Colombian voters on the Pacific coast, where Petro won by a wide margin on Sunday, though he narrowly won the contest by three percentage points.

“I don’t think Petro could have been president without her,” Sanchez said. “There is a lot of distrust and suspicion towards the left in Colombia, in part because many leftists were armed at some point.”

This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

World Nation News Desk
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