Francia Márquez, Colombia's first black vice president, calls for 'reconciliation' after elections

Francia Márquez, vice president-elect of Colombia, celebrates victory in the elections in Bogotá, June 19, 2022 – AFP

Environmentalist Francia Márquez, the first Afro-descendant to reach the vice presidency of Colombia as a running mate of leftist Gustavo Petro, called for “reconciliation” after the second round of voting this Sunday (19).

“The great challenge that all Colombians have is reconciliation (…) Amid differences, we can build a nation that looks forward, a prosperous nation,” Márquez, 40, said in an interview with Radio Caracol.

She will head, alongside Petro, the first left-wing government in the history of a country ruled until now by liberal and conservative elites.

The duo defeated, with 50.5% of the votes, the ticket of the millionaire contractor and outsider Rodolfo Hernández and Marelen Castillo – also of Afro origin -, who obtained 47.3%.

Ten percent of the Colombian population identifies as Afro-descendant.

“We hope together to build a country of peace, a country with dignity, a country with opportunities, with justice,” the activist told her opponents, who arrived at the campaign relatively unknown and defeated traditional parties in the first round.

In the final stretch, the campaign turned dirty, with leaks and low blows from both sides.

Now, Petro and Márquez will lead a polarized country with reservations in the face of the ambitious changes they propose on the left, including ceasing oil exploration in the face of the climate crisis and increasing risk taxes to strengthen the state.

“May the difference not be a reason to continue raping us, to continue murdering us,” said Márquez, who in 2019 was the target of an attack with gunfire in his native department of Cauca (southwest), where armed groups vying for the reins of drug trafficking and illegal mining, despite the disarmament of the FARC guerrillas in 2017.

“The time has come to build peace, a peace that implies social justice,” said Márquez.

“I see myself ruling this country from the most forgotten places (…) From the peripheries”, she anticipated, adding that Petro has tasked her with leading a new “ministry of equality”, which will take care of the rights of women, youth, ethnic peoples and society. LGBTIQ+ population.

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