PanaTimes

Saturday, Feb 04, 2023

How Francia Marquez aims to break barriers in Colombia

How Francia Marquez aims to break barriers in Colombia

Longtime activist has faced challenges, achieved stunning successes in world’s most dangerous country for environmental defenders.

In 2019, Francia Marquez survived an assassination attempt by men wielding firearms and grenades – an attack that came on the heels of a string of death threats against the award-winning Colombian environmentalist.

Now, three years later, Marquez could become the first Afro-Colombian vice president – a historic development in a country where politics has traditionally been the domain of wealthy white men. She was tapped for the position by leftist presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, widely viewed as the frontrunner in the upcoming May election.

“This is an important moment for the ‘nobodies’ of this country who have never had a voice,” Marquez told a news conference after her nomination last week. “This is a moment of racial justice, of gender justice, ecological justice – and a moment of social justice.”

As supporters pointed to the momentum of the “new left” movement in Colombia, Marquez received more than 700,000 votes in a presidential primary earlier this month. Supporters hope her appointment will mean greater representation at the national level for regions long neglected by policies crafted in Bogota.

She will run for vice president alongside Petro, a senator and former mayor of Bogota who once took up arms against the Colombian state as a member of the rebel group M-19. Petro has maintained a double-digit lead in recent polls over his closest presidential rival, right-wing politician Federico Gutierrez.


Marquez has focused her campaign on the need for economic investment in conflict zones, environmentalism, and ensuring implementation of Colombia’s 2016 peace accord. She has vocally opposed the drug wars in Colombia, known as the world’s most dangerous country for environmental defenders.

“We are living a historic moment,” Cha Dorina Hernandez, the first Black congresswoman from San Basilio de Palenque, a historic district known as the first free town in the Americas, told Al Jazeera. Black communities “have historically been excluded from decision-making and economic opportunity in Colombia”, she added.

“We have never had real power over our lives, over our future. She is now in a position to make what we have been fighting for a reality.”

‘Cemeteries and mass graves’


A lawyer and mother of two, Marquez was born in Yolombo, Cauca, a conflict-hit region in southwestern Colombia.

A longtime activist, she earned a Goldman Environmental Prize in 2018 for her mobilisation efforts against illegal gold mining. As part of that campaign, Marquez led dozens of women in a 10-day, 563km (350 mile) march from La Toma, Cauca, to Bogota, demanding an end to the mining operations.

In an open letter last year to Kamala Harris, congratulating her on becoming the first African American vice president, Marquez expressed hope that the United States would pay more attention to Colombia’s strife: “Afro-Colombian and Indigenous people are tired of being in the midst of violent confrontations, and of seeing our rivers and lands become cemeteries and mass graves.”

Marquez (left) and Petro gesture during a presentation event in Bogota, March 23


Cauca, a focal point of Marquez’s activism, has been struggling in recent years against armed groups and rampant lawlessness.

Social activists often end up in the crosshairs: Across Colombia, 138 human rights defenders were killed in 2021, accounting for more than a third of the global total.

Through her own work, Marquez has spearheaded sustainable farming programmes, advocated for Indigenous communities in territorial struggles against international firms, and helped to build alliances among Afro-Colombian communities in the Pacific coast region.

“She has always been a disciplined representative of the movement,” Hernandez said. “She has always been at the front of our marches, of our activism. She [makes visible] the issues that so many here would like to ignore.”

Brigitte Baptiste, the former director of Colombia’s Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Research on Biological Resources, told Al Jazeera that Marquez represents a sharp departure from the established political party system, in which voices like hers are often excluded: “She is a symbol of a new generation that demands things be done differently.”

Politician Angela Maria Robledo said Marquez could be a decisive factor in the May election. “Francia isn’t only an important figure in symbolic terms, she is a politician who brings a lot of hope, especially because of what she represents and what this struggle means for human rights and environmental protections,” Robledo told Al Jazeera.


Marquez recently announced plans to base her campaign in Medellin, the power base of right-wing political parties in Colombia. She hopes this will be a powerful symbol, as her attempts to bring attention to historically marginalised populations are launched from the heart of conservative power.

“This is only the first step in a long journey,” Marquez said at her recent news conference. “The moment has arrived for Colombians to choose their path. The time has arrived to write a new story for Colombia.”

Newsletter

Related Articles

PanaTimes
Close
0:00
0:00
Charlie Munger, calls for a ban on cryptocurrencies in the US, following China's lead
EU found a way to use frozen Russian funds
First generation unopened iPhone set to fetch more than $50,000 at auction.
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he will block Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
What is ChatGPT?
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Germany confirms it will provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
Opinion | Israel’s Supreme Court Claims a Veto on Democracy
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Who’s Threatening Israeli Democracy?
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
China's first population drop in six decades
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
Lisa Marie Presley, singer and daughter of Elvis, dies aged 54
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo
Will Canada ever become a real democracy?
Hong Kong property brokerages slash payrolls in choppy market
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Effect of EU sanctions on Moscow is ‘less than zero’ – Belgian MEP
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
FTX assets worth $3.5bn held by Bahamas securities regulator
A Republican congressman-elect is under investigation in New York after he admitted he lied about his education and work experience.
Brazilian football legend Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has died at the age of 82.
Hong Kong to scrap almost all its Covid rules
EU calls screening of travellers from China unjustified
US imposes Covid testing for visitors from China
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Addresses Joint Session of Congress - FULL SPEECH
Where is Rishi? Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's excuses about the UK's economic challenges just don't make sense
Former FTX CEO Bankman-Fried finally arrested in Bahamas after U.S. files charges
Corruption works: House Financial Services Chair Waters doesn't plan to subpoena her donor, Sam Bankman-Fried, to testify at hearing on FTX collapse
Ronaldo's new contract...
Prince William's godmother resigns honorary royal role after exposing her/their racism
Tax fraud verdict again exposes illusion of Trump the master businessman
Tax fraud verdict again exposes illusion of Trump the master businessman.
×