Francia Marques, First Afro-Colombian Woman Vice-president Elect

Francia Marquez, shoo-in for the May election in Colombia, sitting at a  conference.

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Francia Marquez, shoo-in for the May election in Colombia, sitting at a conference.

Tomas Sanchez Jurado, Reporter

Francia Marquez, an afro-Colombian woman, is a shoo-in for the vice-presidency after leftist frontrunner, Gustavo Petro, picked her as his running mate in the upcoming May election, a move that has shocked conservatives and civil rights activists across the region.

Marquez, a lawyer, and mother of two, was born in Yolombo, Cauca, a conflict-hit region in Southwest Colombia. She’s a longtime activist, earning a Goldman Environmental Prize in 2018 for her mobilization efforts against illegal gold mining in her hometown. As part of that protest, Marquez led dozens of women in a 10-day, 350-mile march from La Toma, Cauca, to Bogota (The capitol), demanding to end the mining operations.

This achievement follows a difficult road as Marquez has faced many challenges from the birth of her career. In 2019, Francia Marquez survived an assassination attempt by armed men wielding firearms and grenades, which follows a mass of death threats against the award-winning Colombian environmentalist.

“This is an important moment for the ‘nobodies’ of this country who have never had a voice,” Marquez told a news conference after her nomination last week. “This is a moment of racial justice, of gender justice, ecological justice – and a moment of social justice.”

As supporters pointed to the “new left” movement in Colombia, Marquez received more than 700,000 votes in a primary poll earlier this month. Supporters hope her election will mean greater representation at the national level for regions long neglected by policies crafted in Bogota.