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  • Claudia Lopez, mayoral candidate for Bogota, speaks after winning local elections in Bogota, Colombia October 27, 2019.

    Claudia Lopez, mayoral candidate for Bogota, speaks after winning local elections in Bogota, Colombia October 27, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 October 2019

Lopez, who was elected with a record 1.1 million votes, or 35.21 percent of the ballots, said that after taking office on Jan. 1, she will focus on fighting corruption and impunity, and improving health care and education.

The election of Colombian Claudia Lopez as the first openly gay woman mayor of Bogota - and of any capital in the Americas - shows rising acceptance of not just LGBT+ but broader human rights across the region, LGBT rights groups celebrated on Monday.

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In her first official press conference as a mayor, Lopez said that people in government must understand the needs of society and the reasons for its unrest in order to provide solutions and overcome inequalities.

“Our great concern is to understand the needs behind the social unrest and then deal with them,” Lopez, a member of the Green Alliance party, said when asked about her position regarding the protests of different social sectors over the past few weeks in Bogota and other Colombian cities.

The job of mayor is regarded as the most powerful political post in Colombia after the presidency, and at least nine other openly LGBT+ people were elected to local positions, double the number from the last regional elections in 2015.

“As mayor I will dedicate myself to doing something about that social unrest, and will propose to the President of the Republic that we focus on it,” Lopez said.

“All of Latin America is showing us today that it is not with force, not with ESMAD (riot police), not with beatings that we will overcome the enormous inequalities, inequities and injustices existing in our cities and in our countries,” Lopez said.

During her campaign, the left-wing former senator and the presidential candidate did not focus on LGBT+ rights or her sexuality.

Instead, Lopez pledged to fight all forms of discrimination and inequality suffered by Colombians in the capital city of seven million people, particularly the high levels of violence against women and children, and to improve access to education.

"Bogota voted so that through citizen culture, quality education and equality we will defeat, overcome and unlearn machismo, racism, classism, homophobia and xenophobia," Lopez said during her acceptance speech on Sunday evening.

Her victory shows progress for the political participation of LGBT+ people and for others who have been sidelined or discriminated in the past, said Wilson Castaneda, head of the Colombian LGBT+ rights group Caribe Afirmativo.

"It's a guarantee that Claudia will defend equality, the equal rights we've achieved, and that equality isn't up for discussion," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Her victory sends a message that sexual, political and or religious diversity aren't impediments to participate in politics."

According to Caribe Afirmativo, this was the first election of an openly gay woman as mayor of a capital city in the Americas.

Parts of South America have made progress on LGBT+ rights in the past decade, including passing laws allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

But less progress has been made on increasing the participation of LGBT+ people as elected officials in local and central government.

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