In April 2018, Francia Márquez received the Goldman Prize, considered by many to be the Nobel Prize awarded in tribute to social leaders who fight for the environment and the preservation of ecosystems.
At that time, Márquez had 20 years of opposition to mining, deforestation and illegal groups that devastated the mountains in Cauca; He also claimed the rights of Afro communities for their territories and raised his voice for generations that had been silenced in the periphery of Colombia.
It was for this award, which he received when he was 36 years old, that the political country first heard the name of Francia Márquez. And today she is one of the political figures with the most projection, endorsed by the more than 782,000 votes that she achieved in the consultation of the Historical Pact. Her success is so important that she prevailed over experienced candidates such as Sergio Fajardo, Álex Char or David Barguil. In short, in addition to her Petro, above her was only the former mayor of Medellín Federico Gutiérrez.
It is important to note that the majority of votes obtained by the candidate were concentrated in cities such as Medellín, Bogotá and Manizales, where the participation of opinion has much more weight thanks to independent political processes.
Now, the purpose of Francia Márquez was to run for the presidential elections for an independent movement leveraged by signatures, but days before the deadline set by the National Electoral Council (CNE) expired, he told the media that he was far from the goal. –which was 580,620 signatures–, so I would have to give up: “Honestly and without shame I have to say that we have not managed to collect the signatures”.
Given the size of this leader, who gathers the support of feminists and environmentalists -in a country with relentless persecution against social leaders-, Gustavo Petro invited her to be part of the consultation of candidates for the Historical Pact next to by Alfredo Saade, Arelis Uriana, Camilo Romero and Petro himself. A list in which only Romero, former governor of Nariño, shone.
Many considered that the consultation of the Pact was just a process of democratic simulation, since Petro was expected to sweep with more than 5 million votes, which almost happened. However, the big surprise was given by Márquez.
It is evident that the leader from Cauca grew very strong during the presidential debates, in which she did not engage in personal discussions with the opponents nor did she engage in attacking them; on the contrary, it focused on progressive proposals that sought to fight against inequality.
While the bunch of contenders focused on talking about generalities such as the fight against corruption -the great concern that everyone wants to attack, but they do not say how-, Francia Márquez, who like no other applicant spoke properly about these issues, denounced the abandonment Afro, indigenous and peasant communities. This led her to land proposals for productive models in agriculture, educational projection and infrastructure. Márquez knowingly pointed out the country’s inequalities. She summed it all up in a phrase that became her campaign horse: “The people don’t give up, damn it.”
In no debate did she find a contender who adequately dealt with the issues she dealt with and which have been a clamor from the regions and rural communities.
She advocated against the economic inequality of women and, like few others in the race for the House of Nariño, she supported the decriminalization of abortion. But among all, what resonated the most was that –unlike the candidates that appear every year– Márquez connected with the majorities of a country that was victimized and relegated to the margins. For France 24 he said: “I grew up with those visions of colonialism, racism, armed violence, structural violence, but also with the resistance of my mother, my grandmother, who did not learn a single letter, but who always taught us that the important thing is to take care of life, to see the territory as an ancestral heritage”.
The only thing his opponents could point to was his lack of experience in public administration, to which Francia replied – he said in an interview with EL COLOMBIANO –: “That is not a weakness. Colombia has had traditional politicians with a lot of experience, but that experience today has us being a hungry country, they have made us suffer from armed conflict for decades. I have another experience in social resistance, in promoting scenarios of peace, protecting the environment, life, social struggles, from there I want to build”.
Born in Suárez, Cauca, in 2017 she made a protest walk from the south of the country to Bogotá, in a protest in which she was accompanied by 80 women. Months later, she was awarded the environmental Nobel Prize: “Today thinking about development means stopping the environmental crisis. This implies actions to transition from the extractivist economy to a sustainable one. That happens by rethinking an agroecological production system, my dream is that the first line of the economy is food sovereignty. Today many Colombians are starving as a result of the environmental crisis and the failure of an economic model that is not capable of feeding its own people.”
In addition to her proposals, she had her charisma in her favor and that no one could accuse her of controversial alliances. She only once saw a photograph in which she appeared next to Temístocles Ortega, former governor of Cauca who aspired to the senate for Cambio Radical, but who burned last Sunday.
About the piece, in which many saw alleged alliances with the electoral machines, she said: “That photo was in Cauca, my territory. There was a meeting with different political sectors and I was invited to that space with 2,000 young people. In those scenarios it’s hard to say no to photos on a platform. They took a picture of me with everyone and now they say that I sold myself to Uribismo, that is not the case, I have no alliance with Cambio Radical”. She added that it was a portrait of Cauca, of the faces that represent a very diverse population.
In a quick-response interview conducted by EL COLOMBIANO, in which the candidates were shown photographs of their contenders, Francia took the exercise with humor and sorority. She said of Fajardo that “they call him the sleepyhead”; She called Petro “brave”; President Iván Duque highlighted “his young face”; and about Íngrid Betancourt, Mábel Lara and Caterine Ibargüen she only had words of admiration and solidarity.
It was not just that France came from the Afro-descendant territories of Cauca or that it defended the environment, it was that for the first time a candidate showed what the Colombia that lives in the regions was like. No one could point out controversial alliances, bureaucratic or political benefits, his grassroots work led her to win a position in the Historical Pact. But in that community he was not treated very well either. Gustavo Petro preferred the anointed of Mayor Daniel Quintero to the representatives of Márquez’s ideology in good positions on his list.
Everything seems to indicate that Gustavo Petro, after seeking allies in the Liberal Party and in other machinery, will decide to have Francia Márquez as Vice President, a position that would come to him deservedly. No other politician had had such growth. Among the surprises of the elections (Carlos Amaya and David Barguil), none compares to this woman because of her territory, she has already confronted the machinery (mining and electoral) and illegal groups. Everything indicates that France is not giving up, damn it.
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Francia Márquez: the leader who renews politics from the regions