March 8, 2017 at 3:00 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
EXCLUSIVE: Out Colombia congresswoman to seek higher office

Angélica Lozano is the first openly LGBT person elected to the Colombian Congress. (Photo courtesy of Angélica Lozano)

BOGOTA, Colombia — The first openly LGBT person elected to the Colombian Congress on Tuesday confirmed that she plans to run for a seat in the country’s Senate.

“I am optimistic,” Congresswoman Angélica Lozano told the Washington Blade during an exclusive interview at the Colombian Congress in the country’s capital of Bogotá. “Optimism is a condition that factors into my decision . . . but you must fight.”

“Everything is about fighting for the future,” she added.

Lozano, who is a lawyer and former member of the Bogotá City Council, won a seat in the Colombian House of Representatives in 2014. She received more than 30,000 votes as a candidate for the Green Party.

Lozano, who identifies as bisexual, was the mayor of Bogotá’s Chapinero district, which has a large LGBT population, from 2005-2008. Her partner, Sen. Claudia López, who is also a member of the Green Party, announced in December that she is running to succeed President Juan Manuel Santos.

The first round of Colombia’s presidential elections is scheduled to take place on May 27, 2018. A run-off will take place a few weeks later if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.

Congressional elections are set to take place on March 11, 2018.

Lozano noted to the Blade that Colombian citizens who live abroad are able to vote in the country’s congressional and presidential elections.

“The Washington Blade’s readers can vote for me,” she joked.

Signing of first peace agreement was ‘hopeful moment’

Next year’s elections will take place less than two years after Colombian voters narrowly rejected a peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The original agreement specifically acknowledged the LGBT victims of the conflict that began in 1962 and claimed more than 200,000 lives. It also noted the “fundamental rights” of LGBT Colombians and other vulnerable groups and called for their inclusion in the creation of a “democratic culture and participation” in the country.

Colombia Diversa Executive Director Marcela Sánchez, Caribe Afirmativo Director Wilson Castañeda and former Colombia Diversa Executive Director Mauricio Albarracín participated in peace talks between the government and the FARC that took place in Havana. Colombia Diversa and Caribe Afirmativo were also among the more than 100 LGBT advocacy groups that campaigned in support of the agreement ahead of the Oct. 2 referendum.

Lozano — who once advised Íngrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate who was kidnapped by FARC rebels during her 2002 campaign — was in the Cuban capital on Aug. 24 when the government and the FARC announced a permanent ceasefire. She joined then-Secretary of State John Kerry, then-U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and more than 2,500 other dignitaries who attended the ceremony in the city of Cartagena during which Santos and FARC Commander Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño formally signed the peace agreement.

The ceremony took place six days before Colombian voters rejected the agreement.

Religious and conservative groups reportedly told Santos that they would support the peace agreement if his government abandoned efforts to extend adoption rights to gays and lesbians. Former President Álvaro Uribe, former Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez and others who opposed the peace talks with the FARC sharply criticized then-Education Minister Gina Parody last August over a proposed handbook that contained guidance on how schools can respond to LGBT-specific issues.

Uribe in a statement he released after voters rejected the original agreement noted the “need to stimulate family values without putting them at risk.” Parody resigned two days later.

Lozano described the Cartagena ceremony during which Santos and Longoño formally signed the first peace agreement as “a hopeful moment.” She nevertheless told the Blade that she felt “uneasy” about the potential outcome of the referendum that took place days later.

“I felt a lot of support and a lot of opposition at the same time,” said Lozano.

The revised agreement that Santos and Longoño signed in Bogotá on Nov. 24 also includes LGBT-specific references. The Colombian Congress ratified it six days later.

FARC rebels have moved into resettlement areas the Colombian government created under the agreement. They also began to disarm last week under U.N. supervision.

Lawmakers on Dec. 28 passed a controversial law that provides amnesty to FARC rebels who carried out minor crimes during the conflict. Lozano, who spoke to the Blade during a hearing on how opposition parties can participate in the agreement’s implementation, said compensation of victims’ families is among the other contentious issues that remain.

She nevertheless stressed the agreement is important for LGBT Colombians.

“Many people from the FARC, like those who were members of paramilitary groups, like the government, the army, perpetrated multiple crimes against people because of their orientation or gender identity,” she told the Blade.

“LGBT people, for being LGBT, for their orientation and identity were victims of the conflict,” she added. “For this reason it is important that this is recognized and that they are included in the entire process of justice, of truth and collective reparation.”

Trump’s election was ‘painful’

Both Lozano and López attended the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute’s International LGBT Leaders Conference that took place in D.C. a month after President Trump’s election.

Lozano described Trump’s election as “painful for civilization, for all of humanity.” She also told the Blade that LGBT people and other religious and racial minority groups have already seen “painful effects” of the administration.

“It’s dramatic as we say,” said Lozano.

A State Department official told the Blade that Colombia received $300 million in aid from the U.S. in fiscal year 2016. These funds supported anti-narcotic and law enforcement efforts, rural economic development, training the Colombian military and demining operations.

Lozano told the Blade she is concerned that Trump will cut aid to Colombia.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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