“Today, we finally won!” Claudia López, Bogotá’s mayor-elect, told cheering voters on Sunday, October 27. She was elected the first female mayor of Colombia’s capital city after beating rival candidate Carlos Fernando Galán by a narrow margin of 2.7 percent.
The centrist mayor-elect’s victory is particularly symbolic as she will become not only Colombia’s first female mayor, but also the first openly gay mayor of a capital city in Latin America, pledging in her winning speech to combat “sexism, racism, classicism and homophobia.”
“Today was a day for girls, today was a day for young people, today was a day for women,” she said.
López, who ran for her new position representing the centrist Partido Verde and leftist Polo Alternativo Democratico, served as a senator for the Partido Verde from 2014 to 2018. In the 2018 general election, she ran alongside presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo as his vice president, before the pair was knocked out in the first round of voting.
The 49-year-old politician and political scientist has been actively involved in politics for five years, and previously worked as a journalist writing opinion columns for Colombian media outlets including La Silla Vacia, Semana and El Tiempo. Part of her research during this time period included investigations into the links between Colombian politicians, illegal drugs trafficking and right-wing paramilitary groups. Alongside her career in journalism, López obtained a doctoral degree in political studies from Northwestern University in Chicago.
Her proposal to “unite” the city of Bogotá revolves around the core goals of transforming “citizen culture,” participatory budgeting, and sustainable development in the capital city.
When it comes to public transport, López plans to see through plans for a long-awaited overground metro, remove Transmilenio buses from the Avenida Séptima (one of the city’s busiest roads), and expand Bogotá’s network of cycle routes.
As the city’s new mayor, she also plans to offer 20,000 more free spaces in higher education, increase the number of spaces for pupils in “single session” school days (as opposed to the previous model of morning and afternoon sessions) by 250,000, and ensure a safe environment in both schools and universities. She has also pledged to impose a zero-tolerance policy on corruption, a stance she took on as a senator.
López’s centrist political ideology is composed of a mixture of leftist characteristics and neo-liberal ideals that align with those of the outgoing, center-right mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa, who has governed the capital city since 2016.
Although López’s left-centrist governance will be an ideological change for the capital city, one thing she does not lack is support in Congress from the Partido Verde, Colombia Humana as well as other liberal parties. This backing will be key when it comes to ensuring that she is able to pass laws that align with her values.
Having worked in newsrooms in both Bogotá and Rio de Janeiro, Sophie is a British journalist now based in Medellín and writing for Latin America Reports. She is interested in post-conflict Colombia, historical memory and transitional justice in Latin America. Her work has also been published by Al Jazeera English, World Politics Review, El Tiempo and O Globo.