On October 27, Claudia López, a member of the Green Alliance party, became the first woman to be elected mayor of Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. These were the first local elections since the signing of a peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016, ending a 52-year long conflict. Colombia’s elections were not without incident, with seven candidates being killed and over 100 receiving threats during the campaign season. However, Lopez’s win is bringing attention to her platform of fighting against corruption and improving public education and transportation and is an important victory for women and the LGBTQ+ community.
Conservative former president Álvaro Uribe acknowledged the strong showing of left-leaning candidates in this election, tweeting, “We lost, I recognize the defeat with humility.” Meanwhile, López celebrated her victory, saying, “This is the day of the woman.” Arlene Tickner, a political science professor at Rosario University, commented on Lopez’s election, saying “Claudia Lopez’s win in Bogota is historical on several levels. She will be the first woman and the first openly gay politician to occupy the second most important elected office in Colombia, and her long-standing fight against corruption will hopefully create a battle cry that other like-minded elected officials throughout Colombia can join.” Many also commented on her election as the first openly lesbian mayor of a capital city in Latin America, where cultural biases and inequality in LGBTQ+ rights remain barriers, as setting a good example. With Jorge Gallego, a professor at Colombia’s Rosario University saying, “It’s a good signal that we’re sending from Bogota to the rest of the nation and Latin America.”
In Colombia, where violence against women and other human rights abuses are too common, the election of women like Lopez is an important step for the feminist movement. Colombian women have engaged in social activism and grassroots organizing, with groups like the Feminist Antimilitarist Network holding large protests against gender-based-violence in 2018 and 2019. Women are now also seeking to work within the political system to create change and continue fighting for human rights with the resources of the government behind them. According to Sara Fernández, a professor at the University of Antioquia in Medellín, “the idea is to create a movement that gets to have representatives, that gets a political base and that lays the foundation for a trustworthy, honest movement that really pushes for women’s policies.”
During decades of conflict with the FARC and continued violence during the recent campaign season, women have used peaceful strategies like protest in seeking to end the violence and human rights abuses. The recent election of Claudia Lopez and other women like Mercedes Tunabala Velasco, the first indigenous woman elected mayor in Colombia, is a great example of using the power to vote and run for political office to raise their voices against violence. Hopefully, Claudia Lopez’s victory will inspire more women and LGBTQ+ people to run for political office and continue to fight corruption and protect human rights.
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