For the first time, Colombian voters have elected a mayor who campaigned as openly gay — proving the Latin American nation is ready to embrace candidates who are honest about themselves.
Although the South American nation has long welcomed LGBT candidates, Julián Antonio Bedoya, the mayor-elect of Toro, in the western coastal state of Valle de Cauca, is the first mayor to win election after campaigning as an out gay man. Bedoya was elected with 3,746 votes, representing 52 percent of voters in the municipality. Bedoya's candidacy was supported by the right-wing Democratic Center party, most notably associated with Colombia's former president, Álvaro Uribe.
Much time has passed since 1997, when Pedro Fayad became the first openly gay person to run for public office in Colombia, in the municipality of Barranquilla. Colombia already boasts several out national lawmakers, including lesbian senators Angelica Lozano and Claudia Lopez.
This year's election included 72 LGBT candidates nationwide, including Ramón Rojas, a trans politician who was elected for his third consecutive term for the Council of Chaparral in Tolima.
A doctor by trade, Bedoya promised that as mayor, he would focus on health and the environment. Specifically, Bedoya plans to take care of the bodies of water that serve the municipality by seeking reforestation and conservation of wetlands in the area. Bedoya's campaign also focused on bringing health care to the district's growing elderly population.
"The challenge is immense for Julián — he should be a very good mayor and represent the LGBTI community," says Angelo Araujo, LGBT leader in the state."This must be done with the best possible administration. There's no point in having an openly gay candidate who has problems of corruption, and leaves things unfinished in their municipality. "
For his part, Wilson Castaneda of Caribbean Affirmative, the institution in charge of the Observatory of Political Participation of LGBTI People in Colombia, highlights that Bedoya's election sends a "clear message to the political parties. He was going for right-wing party, and [his election] demonstrates that this is not a fight of the left, but rather of human rights and decent living."