Leftist vice-presidential candidate Francia Márquez threatened amid campaign rally in Colombia

The Historic Pact presidential ticket, with Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez, is favored to win the upcoming presidential elections on May 29, but the candidates have faced several threats to their lives

May 23, 2022 by Tanya Wadhwa
Francia Márquez, the candidate for the vice presidency of Colombia for the left-wing Historic Pact coalition, protected behind bulletproof shields. Photo: Carlos Duque/Twitter

Francia Márquez, the candidate for the vice presidency of Colombia for the left-wing Historic Pact coalition, once again had her life threatened on the night of May 21. During a campaign rally at the Journalists’ Park in the capital Bogotá, Márquez was pointed at with a laser when she was on stage addressing a multitude of supporters.

Videos shared on social media networks showed that Márquez’s bodyguards immediately covered her with bulletproof shields to protect her and prevent an attack against her life. She was forced to abruptly finish her speech and leave the stage in the face of the alleged danger.

“They shall not pass, we are going to liberate our people,” Márquez shouted as she was being surrounded with protection shields and removed from the stage.

Later, through her Twitter account, she stated that the violence would be defeated and the peace would prevail. “During the commemoration of the Day of Afro-Colombians, they wanted to intimidate me by pointing a laser at me from a nearby building. They will not be able to silence us! Our fight is and has always been against all types of violence that seek to instill fear in us. Peace will win!,” she tweeted.

This was the fourth and the most serious death threat that Márquez had faced since March. The Historic Pact’s presidential candidate Gustavo Petro had also been threatened with life, more than once since April, and had been carrying out his election campaign under heavy security.

The death threats that are haunting the current electoral process have a history of political careers ending in a hail of bullets. In the 1990 presidential elections, three candidates were assassinated, two were from the left, and one was a liberal.

The Historic Pact presidential ticket, with Petro and Márquez, is favored to win the upcoming presidential elections on May 29, with between 37.9% to 48% of votes, according to various opinion polls. Their potential victory threatens to break the decades-long rule of conservatives in the country. Since the beginning of the election campaign, they have been constantly targeted with threats by illegal paramilitary groups, allegedly supported by the Colombian right-wing oligarchy.

Nevertheless, despite the grave threats, the duo bravely continued their campaign and closed it together with a massive rally at the historic Bolívar square in Bogotá on May 22. Tens of thousands of citizens joined the rally to express their support for the progressive leaders. “Change in first,” “Let’s live a sustainable life,” “Petro, Francia, Petro, Francia,” were among the slogans chanted by the gathered crowd.

In his speech, the frontrunner Petro vowed to build a government that prioritizes life, environment and productive development in the country. He also promised to fight inequalities, corruption, impunity, drug trafficking, paramilitarism and consolidate peace. At the same time, he urged people to remain alert in the face of a possible plan to suspend the elections or other maneuvers to sabotage them by the outgoing far-right government of President Iván Duque.

For her part, Francia pledged to work in favor of the historically dispossessed and neglected minorities and committed to change that reality, together with Petro and the people of Colombia.

In the midst of concerns over the lives of frontrunners and the possibility of electoral fraud, the far-right government’s decision to deport US activist and election observer Teri Mattson, Latin American coordinator for CodePink, has raised questions over the transparency of the upcoming elections.

Mattson, who was invited by one of Colombia’s most prestigious human rights organizations, the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, was detained by Colombian immigration and denied entry into the country. The official reason given for denying her entry was that she represented a risk to the state.

Common Frontiers condemned Mattson’s detention and deportation as “politically motivated.” “Colombia has an alarming human rights crisis and a long history of intimidation and violence connected to elections. We see with grave concern the fact that the Colombian State sees international elections accompaniment and human rights observation as a security risk to the state. Both of these mechanisms of international support are critical and internationally endorsed as a part of ensuring fair and transparent elections,” stated the organization.