Francia Márquez’s route to being elected the first Black female vice president of Colombia is still on track—even if it has hit a surprising hurdle.

Márquez, a Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN, Process of Black Communities) human-rights activist who has won awards for her environmental work, is campaigning alongside Senator Gustavo Petro, the leftist presidential candidate of the Pacto Histórico (Historic Pact) coalition, to govern the nation for the period of 2022 to 2026.

When the first round of elections were held on Sunday, May 29, Petro garnered 40% of the vote and Rodolfo Hernández, the candidate of the LIGA de Gobernantes Anticorrupción (League of Anti-Corruption Governors) party, received 28%. Since the Petro-Márquez ticket did not win an outright majority, a second round of voting will take place between Petro-Márquez and Rodolfo Hernández and his running mate, Marelen Castillo, on June 19.

Again, if the Petro-Márquez ticket wins, Francia Márquez would become Colombia’s first Black, female vice president—and the first vice president with progressive leanings. Colombia has never, in its history, been governed by a leftist oriented administration. And Petro is a former left-wing guerrilla fighter from the now-defunct M-19 movement—a group that disarmed and became a left-wing political party. The Petro-Márquez ticket is promising to confront the nation’s stark wealth inequality by “democratizing the economy” via tax reforms and with the institution of more anti-poverty programs. They also want to put a halt on new oil and gas exploration in the country while promoting Colombia as a tourist destination.

Francia Márquez is the balm Colombia needs

This is Gustavo Petro’s third run for the presidency, and he appears to have garnered tantalizing support with the addition of Francia Márquez to his ticket. Márquez has brought the philosophy of her people-led Soy Porque Somos (I Am Because We Are) movement to the Pacto Histórico.

“It took 30 years for a person of the stature of Francia Márquez to burst onto the public stage and represent the new political perspectives that have emerged with the development of the 1991 Constitution,” noted Dr. Claudia Mosquera Rosero-Labbé, head of the University of Colombia’s IDCARÁN, a research group on racial equality, cultural differences, environmental conflicts and racism in the Black Americas, in a recent article. “Francia Márquez is the balm that Colombia needed after the COVID-19 pandemic, which revealed the crudeness of socio-territorial inequalities in regards to access to health and in the number of households that became even more vulnerable due to the loss of formal and informal income for families.”

The opposition candidate, real estate tycoon Rodolfo Hernández, also has an Afro Colombian female in the running to be his vice president: Marelen Castillo has had an extensive academic background, and many were surprised that she signed on to run with Hernández. Castillo is from a middle class background and has taught and had administrative roles at the Universidad Minuto de Dios (UNIMINUTO)—a private, Catholic, non-profit that is part of a group called the “Minute of God Organization.”

Castillo’s campaigning alongside Hernández, who is known to refer to indigenous and Black people in derogatory terms, marks them as the center right choice for Colombia. Those who want to ensure that Colombia’s political persuasion does not change, are lining up to vote the Hernández-Castillo ticket.

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