As Colombian voters overcame a long-held aversion to the left and elected a leftist president, they also elected the country's first African-American vice president.
Francia Marquez, his running mate in Sunday's runoff election, will play a crucial role in former Marxist rebel Gustavo Petro's cabinet when he becomes office on August 7.
Marquez is an environmental activist from La Toma, a small village surrounded by mountains. She initially coordinated protests against a hydropower project and confronted illegal gold miners invading Afro-Colombian territories.
Due to her environmental activism, the lawmaker has received multiple death threats and developed as a primary spokesperson for Black Colombians and other oppressed communities.
Gimena Sanchez, the Andes director for the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights organization, remarked, "She is unlike anyone else who has ever held the vice presidency in Colombia."
"She comes from a rural location, from the perspective of a Campesina woman, and sections of Colombia devastated by armed conflict for decades. "Most politicians who have held the presidency in Colombia have not lived as she has," Sanchez stated.
She stated that Marquez would likely be tasked with working on gender issues and policies affecting the Afro-Colombian people.
In multiple interviews. Petro has considered establishing a Ministry of Equality, which would be led by Marquez and work across all sectors of the economy to address issues such as eliminating gender gaps and addressing imbalances faced by ethnic minorities.
Sunday, Marquez stated that one of her responsibilities as vice president would be to alleviate inequity.
This will be a government for those with calluses. "We are here to promote social justice and to assist women in eradicating patriarchy," she declared on stage as she celebrated the election results with thousands of supporters at a renowned concert venue.
Marquez grew up in a modest home built by her family and, at 16, gave birth to and reared her daughter on her own. While pursuing a law degree, Marquez cleaned houses in the nearby city of Cali and worked in a restaurant to support her kid.
She was awarded the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize for her practical efforts to remove gold miners from the Afro-Colombian grounds surrounding her village that are jointly held.
Marquez ran for president last year as a candidate for the Democratic Pole party, but she lost to Gustavo Petro in an inter-party consultation in March. During the primaries, however, she achieved national prominence and earned 700,000 votes, surpassing most veteran politicians.
In remarks urging Colombia to combat racism and gender inequality and provide fundamental rights for the poor, Marquez rallied rural voters who have suffered from the country's protracted armed conflict, urban youth, and women.
Vivian Tibaque, a Bogota-based community activist who worked on Marquez's campaign, said, "All of us who work with her now believe in the power of women." "We believe that we can defend our rights just as Francia did."
According to political observers, Marquez aided Petro's campaign by reaching out to voters who felt excluded by the political system but did not trust the communist parties that Petro, a former member of a rebel organization, had been affiliated with for the most of his career.
According to them, her presence on Petro's ticket also inspired Afro-Colombian voters along the Pacific coast, where he won by large percentages despite barely winning the election by three percentage points.
Without her, I do not believe Petro could have won the presidency. Sanchez stated. In Colombia, there is a great deal of mistrust and skepticism of the left, partly because a significant portion of the left has been armed at some point.