Francia Márquez, the next vice president | Opinion

Pedro Luis Barco DiazPedro Luis Barco Diaz

Shadows began to fall on the village of Lomitas in the municipality of Santander de Quilichao, in May 2019, when an unidentified armed group broke into the meeting held by several social leaders coordinated by Francia Márquez and Carlos Rosero. They were preparing a meeting with the national government, within the framework of the protests that year with the indigenous minga. They were miraculously saved, but two bodyguards were injured. Even when the possible material authors were captured, nothing is known about the determiners.

The news shook national public opinion, since Francia Márquez, a year earlier, had won the Goldman Prize, considered the alternative environmental Nobel Prize that “honor ordinary people who take extraordinary actions to protect our planet”. And because the Buenos Aires anthropologist Carlos Rosero is the most important Afro spiritual leader in the country and is considered the father of Law 70 of 1993, a rule that recognizes the collective ownership of Afro-Colombian communities over their ancestral territories.

It is that the life of Francia Márquez has been, from a very young age, one of struggle, of great dangers and enormous difficulties, just as the lives of millions of Colombians who have been born into poverty and state abandonment tend to be. She determinedly graduated as a lawyer from the Santiago de Cali University with an award-winning thesis: “Violation of the Fundamental Right to Prior Consultation as a Manifestation of Structural Racism in Colombia”.

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Francia was born in the village of Yolombó in the village of La Toma, municipality of Suarez, in the north of the department of Cauca, a municipality bathed by seven rivers -among them the Cauca- but which does not have drinking water, despite the fact that they built a huge 30 kilometers long, which could supply water to the south of Valle del Cauca and to the north of Cauca. A railway passes through its urban center that, since 1928, connects Cali with Popayán, but for fifty years it has not seen any train pass.

In the 1600’swhen the tyrant sent”, the Spaniards brought slaves from Africa to exploit the gold in the bowels of Cauca and plunged them into absolute poverty. Once slavery was abolished, the descendants dedicated themselves to agriculture and artisanal mining; later the gringos mechanized the exploitation with dredgers; until, in the middle of the last century, the department legalized their ancestral possessions for the settlers. However, their territories are still coveted because water and gold abound.

The socio-environmental leadership of Francia Elena has been clear and forceful. Surely she is the most precocious social leader in the history of our country. Suffice it to keep in mind that in 1994, when she was only 13 years old, she already showed her leadership against the Ovejas river diversion project to the Salvajina dam. She also denounced the breaches of the CVC in the construction of the promised rural aqueducts and other compensations to the communities for the environmental impacts of the dam.

In 2004, the government of President Uribe granted the company Kedahda SA a concession of 50,000 hectares of which “not even the cemetery of La Toma1 was saved”. This company, in 2007, showed its real name: Anglogoldashanti, one of the three most powerful gold mining companies on the planet.

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The community stood up hard against the South African company. They knew the tremendous and irreparable environmental damage to water, soil and biodiversity caused by large-scale mining on fertile land. Soon the threats and displacements arrived. At that time, the Águilas Negras, the Rastrojos and the Bloque Calima were operating in the area, for which the Community Council of La Toma and its leaders, like Francia, were declared a military target.

From 2013 to 2016, she was the legal representative of the Community Council of Afro-descendant communities of La Toma, a space of time in which she polished her skills as a leader in the defense of the territory. “Territory is life, and life is not for sale, it is loved and defended”.

In 2014, he participated in the interethnic and intercultural roundtable of northern Cauca from which the National Government was demanded to stop illegal mining and the granting of mining titles without prior consultation in ethnic territories and he undertook a walk: “the march of the turbans” from the north of Cauca to the capital, to demand from the National Government guarantees for the rights of women and black peoples. The country began to know her.

2016 was a year of consolidation: he participated in the strike carried out by the National Agrarian, Peasant, Ethnic and Popular Summit. She traveled to Switzerland to discuss the challenges of the peace process, and the rights of Afro-Colombian and indigenous ethnic peoples. Later, she traveled to Paris to a forum on mining and good practices, organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

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As I said, in 2018 she won the Goldman Prize that gave her worldwide recognition and in 2020 she was launched as a candidate for the presidency of the republic for the Historical Pact in the movement “I am because we are”, but did not manage to collect the required signatures. Given this circumstance, the Alternative Democratic Pole party gave him the endorsement and in the elections of March 13 of this year, he got 783,000 votes, obtaining the third vote in the presidential elections, being only surpassed by Petro and Federico Gutiérrez. Eight days later, she officially became the candidate for the vice presidency of Colombia for the Historical Pact led by Gustavo Petro.

France Elena Márquez Mina: young Afro woman from an impoverished region who swims in gold; miner and family house worker; mother of two children; example of overcoming, of dignity and resistance; socio-environmental leader by vocation and lawyer by profession; winner of several international awards; survivor of attacks, displacements and threats; worshiper of the ancestors and ancestors of her; defender of the nobodies; and one of the 100 most influential women in the world, according to the BBC in London.

Now he is the political sensation of the present presidential campaign. She has traveled half of the country’s geography filling seats without requiring Petro to accompany her and in the debates she has shown that she is an intelligent polemicist without nerves or complexes. France Marquez She will be, with all certainty, the next vice president of Colombia. Much deserved!

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Francia Márquez, the next vice president | Opinion