On Tuesday, the environmentalist activist Francia Marquez became the vice-presidential candidate of progressive candidate Gustavo Petro, which marked a dramatic turn in the Colombian presidential elections.
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At the possibility of a black woman becoming vice president for the first time in history, many women and ethnic minorities have expressed their excitement, which has also been accompanied by racist and sexist responses from other groups.
Former President César Gaviria, for his part, has broken off conversations with Petro about a possible Liberal Party endorsement of the progressive candidate. However, Francia Márquez did not seem to be impressed by the Liberal's response. The social leader, who claims to represent Colombia's "nobodies," has been the target of criticism from traditional politicians such as César Gaviria for more than a decade. Francia Márquez revealed that she represents women and ethnic minorities who have historically been neglected in national politics.
"What comes is nation-building from below, from the roots, by women, youth and ethnic minorities," said the activist, noting that her advocacy for the rights of women and ethnic minorities made her one of the most forceful critics of the policies of neoliberalism.
Francia Márquez was born and raised in a rural community in the Colombian Pacific region and worked as a maid to finance her law degree. Her policy proposals are steeped in the philosophies and belief systems of the Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities of that region of Colombia. She won the Goldman Environmental Prize for her opposition to illegal mining in her home province of Cauca in 2018.