Colombia Elections 2022: Francia Márquez, the Colombian electoral phenomenon | International

Environmental leader Francia Márquez, in Medellín, Colombia, in February 2022.
Environmental leader Francia Márquez, in Medellín, Colombia, in February 2022.JOAQUIN SARMIENTO (AFP)

Francia Márquez has done nothing but smile after these unprecedented primaries. Although he did not win the consultation of the left-wing coalition, the Historical Pact, where Gustavo Petro swept as expected, everything has been a party at his campaign headquarters: “The people do not give up, damn it”, they sing and dance with a chorus that has made her known and was sung during the social protests of 2021. It is not for less, the environmentalist leader has become the Colombian electoral phenomenon.

With almost 97% of voting tables counted, she obtained 757,000 ballots and became the third most voted candidate, behind Gustavo Petro and Federico Gutiérrez, on the right. Márquez not only outvoted the former mayor of Medellín Sergio Fajardo, a three-time presidential candidate (who achieved 701,000 in the central consultation), and left behind politicians with recognition in the country such as the former minister Alejandro Gaviria or the former governor of Boyacá Carlos Amaya , but managed to grow a campaign in just three months without being a recognized figure throughout the country.

With her vote, Márquez has been the representative of women in elections that lack pre-candidates, except for Ingrid Betancourt, who is running outside the coalitions. The social leader is the one who has put central issues such as women’s economic inequality and the decriminalization of abortion on the public agenda and debates, which she openly supports. She has been recognized by Angela María Robledo, a renowned feminist and Petro’s former vice-presidential formula in 2018: “Go ahead, brave woman,” Robledo wrote.

Born 40 years ago in La Toma, a town of Afro-descendants in Cauca, she denounced the illegal gold mining that was destroying the Ovejas River and putting a multitude of inhabitants at risk of displacement, since she supports 250,000 people in her community. She organized 80 local women and walked with them for 10 days and 350 kilometers to Bogotá. She led a resistance march to the Colombian Parliament to make herself heard and won The Goldman Environmental Prize 2018, known as the environmental Nobel Prize.

Now he achieved a national achievement with his movement Soy por Somos. Although he obtained 15% of the votes of the leftist coalition, where the undisputed winner was Gustavo Petro with 80% (4.3 million votes), he knew how to grow his support in a short time. In fact, at least half of his votes were won in Bogotá. “We hail this great step with joy. The vote we have obtained has been super important for the challenge we have, to win a project of change and transformation that puts life at the center. I greet the nobodies, the nobodies of Colombia, those who accompanied us from the mountains, plains and neighborhoods of this country”, she said on the stage with Gustavo Petro.

The woman, who is a law student and a farmer, joined the Historical Pact, where they publicly promised to give the second person in the consultation the key to accompany Petro as vice president, but in recent days campaign spokesmen said they would opt for another vice-presidential candidate to bring together liberal sectors. Strong and direct, she had already rebuked Petro when he did not include Afro candidates in the first places of the lists for Congress. Petro admitted it but did not change his decision: “Francia Márquez is absolutely right about his claim. The electoral college of the Pact blew up the ethnic line. He did it due to internal contradictions of the parties, but he subordinated a general principle: the inclusion of the ethnic diversity of Colombia”.

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The high vote for this environmental leader sends a message in a country where social leaders are assassinated every day. Colombia is precisely one of the most dangerous countries for those who defend the territory and defend the environment. Francia Márquez ranks among those defenders.

With her in second place, it remains to be seen if Petro keeps his word and in the process reestablishes relations with the feminists, one of the weakest flanks of the left-wing candidate. Regardless of what Petro decides, Francia Márquez has established himself as the political surprise of a country that has been repeating the same names for years.

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