For the first time in history, the left, headed by the former mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, will govern Colombia after the overwhelming victory in one of the most closely contested elections in recent times in the Latin American country, held on June 19.
In addition to the undisputed victory, the running mate of the president-elect, Francia Márquez, also made history by being the first woman of Afro-descendant roots and the second woman to ascend to the vice presidency of Colombia.
Who is Francia Marquez?
Francia Márquez is a 40-year-old renowned environmentalist and social activist, mother of two children and a lawyer graduated from the Santiago de Cali University, who has had to deal with racism, classism and even an assassination attempt.
The elected vice president of Colombia was born into a low-income family in the southwestern department of Cauca, a region devastated by violence linked to armed groups fighting for drug trafficking and illegal mining resources.
A single mother at just 16 years old, she fled her home region as a result of threats and began working as a domestic worker while studying law. However, she returned home to participate in local politics to promote minority rights. Her charisma and background helped Márquez connect with some of the most marginalized groups in the country, including the Afro-Colombian community to which she belongs.
In 2014, he led a campaign against illegal gold mining in La Toma, the community where he grew up, which contaminated the region’s river with mercury. In addition, she led a group of 80 women in a 560-kilometre march from the region to Bogotá, pressuring the government to intervene.
Because of her struggle, a government-established task force helped put an end to illegal mining, earning her the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2018 in recognition of her work. In 2019, Márquez survived an attack by armed men who tried to assassinate her for her work defending the region’s water resources against mining companies.
We, the nobody, those whose humanity is not recognized, whose rights are not recognized in this country, rise up to change history, to occupy politics.
– Francia Márquez, for ‘Agence France-Presse’, in March 2022
Her proposals as vice president of Colombia
In left-wing primaries earlier this year, Márquez came in second behind Petro, who named her as his running mate. The activist made headlines in the electoral campaign for her feminist, environmentalist and leftist speeches and for her proposal of “tasty life”, a popular idea among the Afro-Colombian community that fights for peace and a life in harmony with nature. .
In addition, he promised to work for reconciliation with the armed groups responsible for the increase in violence, reversing the decline that followed the 2016 peace agreement between the state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
After the victory of the Gustavo Petro/Francia Márquez formula in the second round of the country’s presidential elections, on June 19, the elected vice president of Colombia issued an emotional speech, framed by a recognition of minorities:
Thank you, brothers and sisters, for having walked with us all these months, for believing that it was possible to change the history of Colombia. […] After 214 years we achieved a government of the people, a popular government. The government of the people, of calloused hands, the government of ordinary people, the government of the nobody and the nobody in Colombia.
Let’s reconcile this nation. We are going for peace decisively, without fear, with love and with joy. We go for dignity. We go for social justice. We women are going to eradicate the patriarchy of our country. We stand up for the rights of the diverse LGBTQ+ community. We are going for the rights of our mother earth, of the big house. To take care of biodiversity. Let’s go together to eradicate structural racism. I am the first Afro-descendant woman in Colombia. I’m your vice president.