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The first woman as mayor of the Colombian capital

Iuliia Vashchenko
Iuliia Vashchenko
Ph.D. en Ciencias Políticas,
La Paz, Bolivia

On October 27, elections were held in Bogota, where residents of the Colombian capital elected the head of the municipal government. To the surprise of many international observers, Claudia Lopez, who became the first woman in this responsible position, won the elections as the mayor of the capital. What do we know about Lopez? What are the hopes of the inhabitants of the Colombian capital?

On the last Sunday of October, residents of Bogota went to the polls in order to cast their ballots for candidates for the post of head of the Colombian capital. According to official statistics, out of 5,850,035 residents eligible to vote; 3,219,343 people visited polling stations. It is known that for the first time more than one million people voted for the new mayor of the Colombian capital.

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This time, the inhabitants of Bogota chose a woman for the main post in the municipal government. After processing 100% of the ballots, Claudia Lopez (Spanish – Claudia Nayibe López Hernández), representing the center-left “Green Alliance” party (Spanish – Alianza Verde), received 1,028,541 votes (35.21%), which led to her victory. The closest rival of Lopez, an independent candidate from the social movement “Bogotá for People” (Spanish – Bogotá Para La Gente), Carlos Galan (Spanish – Carlos Fernando Galán), gained 32.48%, 1,022,362 people voted for him. In third place was Hollman Morris from the political bloc “Patriotic Union” (Spanish – Unión Patriótica) with 440 591 votes (13.99%) and, finally, a lawyer Miguel Uribe (Spanish – Miguel Uribe Turbay) closed the “electoral race” from the “Colombian Liberal Party” (Spanish – Partido Liberal Colombiano) with 13.56%, with 426 982 votes.

Claudia Lopez will take over from January 1, 2020 and will remain in this post until December 31, 2023. Lopez noted that her new government will have to deal with issues in such sensitive areas as security, the environment and transport, which are key problems for residents of the capital.

In turn, the current head of the municipal government of the city, Enrique Peñalosa (Spanish – Enrique Peñalosa Londoño), congratulated the elected mayor in his address: “For the sake of Bogotá and all its citizens, I wish Claudia Lopez all the best in her work as mayor of the capital”. During a joint meeting with the current administration, the elected mayor discussed several issues, such as the expansion of the “TransMilenio” transport system, the construction of the Bogotá metro, the maintenance and restoration of the Thomas Van der Hammen nature reserve and other ecosystems, the revision and adjustment of the Territorial Plan, which is believed to be if approved, will make many changes to the life of the capital.

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The mayor of Bogotá, a city with a population of more than seven million people, a metropolis that has a gross domestic product higher than the whole of Uruguay, ranks second in political importance after the presidency of Colombia. That is why the triumph of the leader of the environmental party “Green Alliance”, which, according to the polls, was not so predictable, is an important milestone in Colombian history.

What do we know about Claudia Lopez, which all of Latin America is talking about today, because her name has become known far beyond the region? The daughter of a teacher, she grew up in a large family in Ciudad Bolívar, one of the harshest districts of the agglomeration of Bogotá. Lopez graduated in the Department of Public Administration and International Relations at Columbia University “Externado”, then received a Master’s degree in Public Administration and Urban Policy in Columbia University in New York. She has always been an activist in the youth student movement. Subsequently, Claudia Lopez received a doctorate in political science at Northwestern University of Chicago.

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She “burst” into big politics almost 15 years ago when her research work revealed the relationship between government officials, drug trafficking and extreme right-wing armed groups. As a researcher for “Arcoíris” Corporation and the Electoral Observation Mission, Lopez conducted her analysis, which was the starting point for uncovering a parapolitical scandal in 2006. Her research led to the conviction of more than 40 government officials, and she still continues to cause controversy over the disclosure of information about the government of former President Alvaro Uribe (Spanish – Álvaro Uribe Vélez), who led Colombia from 2002 to 2010, and his political allies.

Lopez officially entered in politics in 2014, when she in the general elections went to the Senate and showed the highest result from the “Green Alliance” party, gaining more than 81,000 votes. In the upper house of the Colombian parliament, she focused her work on democratic revival and the fight against corruption.

A former senator, an active supporter of peace agreements with the FARC, a feminist, Lopez continues to fight social inequality, as well as for LGBT rights. A kiss of Lopez, captured at the celebration of the election victory with her partner, Senator Angelica Lozano (Spanish – Angélica Lozano Correa), became the most discussed photo of last month. However, despite the indignation of the radical “right” sector, especially on social networks, the residents of Bogota considered this act as a normal gesture in the country of conservative and predominantly Catholic traditions.

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Starting January 1, Claudia Lopez will be faced with realizing the promises of her election campaign. Namely, it is a question of concretizing the project of building and developing the metro of the Colombian capital, because conversations about improving the transport system of Bogotá have been going on since the middle of the last century. According to Lopez, people who voted for her candidacy voted for a new capital without corruption, free from fear and impunity, open to advanced technologies and respecting the environment. The leader of the “Green Party” believes that solving the problems of the transport system will also improve the environment and guarantee the safety of the city. Whether the elected mayor of Bogota will be able to live up to the expectations of the inhabitants of the city, we will learn in the New Year. Nevertheless, the triumph of Claudia Lopez will definitely go down in history not only throughout Colombia, but also in Latin America as a whole.

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