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News > Latin America

Gustavo Petro's Cabinet to Include Three Indigenous Leaders

  • Giovanni Yule (L), Maria Patricia Tobon (C),  and Leonor Zalabata (R).

    Giovanni Yule (L), Maria Patricia Tobon (C), and Leonor Zalabata (R). | Photo: Twitter/ @Citytv

Published 19 July 2022

The Arhuaco, Nasa, and Embera peoples are represented in the next Colombian government that will be installed on August 7.

On Tuesday, Colombia's President-elect Gustavo Petro announced that his cabinet will include three well-known Indigenous leaders and human rights defenders.


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Leonor Zalabata Torres will be the Colombian ambassador to the United Nations. This politician, writer, and social activists belongs to the Arhuaco people, which inhabits the Sierra Nevada in the department of Magdalena.

She was a delegate in the Indigenous Rights Working Group of the 1991 Constituent Assembly. Zabaleta Torres led a march that culminated in the seizure of the headquarters of the Episcopal Conference in Bogota in 1996, which allowed the installation of a permanent consultation table for the defense of Indigenous peoples.

This Arhuaco woman has been also delegated by the Colombian Indigenous peoples to the meetings of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of the United Nations.

Sociologist Giovani Yule, who belongs to the Nasa people, will lead the "Land Restitution Unit." He was a counselor of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) and is member of the Alternative Indigenous and Social Movement (MAIS). He was governor of the Huellas reservation and took part in the national strike against President Ivan Duque in 2021.

Finally, the "Victims Unit" will be directed by Maria Patricia Tobon, a woman from the Emberra people who is a lawyer specializing in constitutional law and territorial ethnic rights.

She took part in the "Truth Commission", an institution created from the 2016 Peace Agreement reached between the Colombian state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Tobon has also been an advisor to Indigenous communities, human rights organizations, and UN agencies.


Gustavo Petro
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