Vice-presidential candidate Francia Márquez receives death threats

The Historic Pact presidential ticket with Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez is favored to win the upcoming presidential elections in Colombia, according to latest opinion polls

March 30, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Environmental activist and lawyer, Francia Márquez, could be the first Black woman to serve as vice president in Colombia. Photo: Francia Márquez/Twitter

The candidate for the vice presidency of Colombia for the left-wing Historic Pact coalition, Francia Márquez, on March 27, reported that she received death threats for the second time this month and demanded that the right-wing government of President Iván Duque guarantee her safety.

“As if the slander, racist demonstrations were not enough, but in less than a month, they have threatened to kill me twice, along with other social leaders. President Iván Duque, I request you to guarantee my physical integrity, that of my family and the leaders mentioned here,” Márquez tweeted along with the photographs of two letters from the paramilitary group Aguilas Negras or Black Eagles, in which the group made threats against her and other progressive political and social leaders.

Márquez also requested the State Attorney General’s Office to thoroughly investigate the reported events. “Hopefully this time impunity will not win,” she said, adding that she had faced disadvantages with the operation of her UNP protection scheme.

Who is Francia Márquez?

40-year-old Francia Márquez is a renowned Afro-Colombian environmental activist and lawyer. She hails from the Cauca department in southwestern Colombia. In 2018, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work in defense of nature. She organized a 350-mile and 10-day-long protest march from La Toma district, in the Suarez municipality, Cauca, to the capital Bogotá with 80 women, demanding an end to all illegal mining operations from Suarez.

She is running for vice-presidency alongside Gustavo Petro, a former senator and former mayor of Bogotá, for the Historic Pact coalition, which brings together various progressive parties and social movements and organizations. She is the first Afro-descendant woman to run in presidential elections in Colombia’s history, and could become the first Afro-Colombian vice president of the country. According to latest opinion polls, the duo is favored to win the upcoming presidential elections on May 29, with about 37% of the voting preference.

Marquez has focused her campaign on the need for economic investment in rural areas hit by armed conflicts, environmentalism, and ensuring the implementation of the 2016 peace agreements.

What are the Aguilas Negras?

The Aguilas Negras or Black Eagles is a far-right paramilitary organization, operating in Colombia since 2006. The organization is involved in several illegal activities, such as extortion, robbery, kidnapping, land thefts, cultivation of illicit crops and illegal gold mining. Its operations are entirely financed from drug trafficking.

For years, it has been targeting social and peasant leaders, who work to defend land and natural resources in their territories and pose a threat to the organization’s illegal operations. According to various civil society organizations, Aguilas Negras is a name used by far-right extremists in politics, private sector and security forces to impose terror.

Paramilitarism in Colombia

Paramilitary violence continues unabated in Colombia. Almost every day, at least one citizen is assassinated in the country by paramilitaries.The Duque administration has yet to take effective measures to protect its people and dismantle paramilitary groups operating in different regions.

According to the Institute of Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ), in the first three months of this year, 48 environmentalists, land defenders, human rights defenders, Afro-descendent, Indigenous, peasant and social leaders have been assassinated in different departments of the country. Additionally, during this period, 11 former combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerilla group, who were in the reincorporation process, had also been murdered. In addition to these assassinations, between January and March 2022, over 120 people had been killed in 28 massacres.