BOGOTA – The mayor-elect of Bogota, Claudia Lopez, said on Monday in her first appearance before the press that people in government must understand the needs of society and the reasons for its unrest in order to provide solutions and overcome inequalities.
“Our great concern is to understand the needs behind the social unrest and then deal with them,” Lopez said when asked about her position regarding the protests of different social sectors over the past few weeks in Bogota and other Colombian cities.
Lopez, of the Green Alliance party, was speaking to her first press conference following her historic victory in Sunday’s elections that made her the first woman to be elected to power in the Colombian capital, since up to now Bogota has only had women appointed as interim mayors.
“As mayor I will dedicate myself to doing something about that social unrest, and will propose to Mr. President of the Republic that we focus on it,” Lopez said.
“All of Latin America is showing us today that it is not with force, not with ESMAD (riot police), not with beatings that we will overcome the enormous inequalities, iniquities and injustices existing in our cities and in our countries,” Lopez said.
For several months, social problems in Colombia have sparked constant protests by teachers, university students and labor unionists demanding more social investment and less repression, though their activism has been without either the magnitude or the vandalism recently seen in other South American countries like Ecuador and Chile.
Lopez said her duty as a public servant “is to understand the pain and unrest being felt by Bogota citizens,” whose problems are similar to those of the rest of the country, which in turn reflect the existence of “three Colombias.”
The mayor-elect said there is a Colombia and a Bogota “vastly behind in development due to serious problems of violence, inequality, corruption, lack of institutionalism and a lack of opportunities.”
Lopez said that another Bogota is that of “an ambitious middle class... that is also suffering” because of low wages, crime, “the exorbitant taxes,” and the poor quality of public services.
Finally, there is the Bogota of a social class that has been given a better chance in life and wants to contribute by creating jobs and investing” in Colombia’s capital.
“So I believe that my great opportunity as a citizen and as mayor of Bogota lies in uniting those three Bogotas,” Lopez said.
Lopez, who was elected with a record 1.1 million votes, or 35.21 percent of the ballots cast on Monday, said that after taking office on Jan. 1, she will focus on fighting corruption and impunity, and improving health care and education.