BOGOTA – Bogota’s new mayor, Claudia Lopez, defended the right to social protest on Wednesday upon taking office, alluding to the demonstrations in the final months of 2019 against the policies of Colombian President Ivan Duque.
“Today, we’re not only echoing it, but rather we’re part of the citizens majorities who have taken to the streets with demands and aspirations that are not at all basic and fully legitimate, of young people, women, civic movements, ethnic groups who are demanding sexual diversity and equality,” Lopez, with the Green Alliance, said after being sworn in.
More than 1,000 mayors and about 30 governors took office on Wednesday in Colombia for four-year terms that will conclude on Dec. 31, 2023.
The new mayor, the first woman elected by popular vote to preside over Bogota’s political affairs and a member of the LGBTI community, emphasized that “today that citizenry comes to the government (of the Colombian capital),” those “thousands of people who spontaneously took to the streets to express themselves with the rhythm of their pot-banging protests, quite apart from political parties and leaders.”
“This city is speaking to us. Every street, every square and every park is speaking, singing, moving to demand the city and the country the citizenry dreams of and deserves for the 21st century,” said Lopez, 49, who went on to emphasize that her government is part of “the environmental and animal-supporting movements” that are demanding changes.
Last November, tens of thousands of Colombians responded to a call from labor unions to publicly demonstrate to demand changes in Duque’s economic and social policies, demonstrations that morphed into a popular movement that for three weeks kept the protests alive in Bogota and other cities.
“We’re not going to let them rob us of hope, we’re not going to let them steal more lives of this new generation that today goes out on the street shouting to ask them not to leave (us) stuck in the same debates and with the same characters of the past,” said Lopez, who broke with the tradition of Bogota mayors taking the oath of office on the downtown Plaza de Bolivar, opting to do so at a picnic ceremony in Simon Bolivar Park, where she arrived on a bicycle.
She also said that “on Oct. 27 Bogota elected change, not only a change of government, of priorities, of style, of leadership, but a change in its history.”
She emphasized that Bogota elected “the daughter of a teacher” who got ahead with the support of her family and who “on the basis or merit, tenacity and collective action managed to make her way in academia and in public service.”
Lopez said that on Oct. 27, Bogota elected “the first woman, a different woman, to be elected to the country’s second most important elected office.”
In mid-December, Lopez married her partner, Sen. Angelica Lozano, and hopes are that her administration will mean an opening in terms of freedoms and civil rights.
She added that the five goals of her administration will be for people to be able to live without fear; to create opportunities, jobs and education that is relevant, free and of high quality; to free up more time for people to spend with their families; to revive the city so that people can breathe, mobilize themselves and live with quality of life; and to make the Bogota Region the best home for Colombians.