October 7, 2017 at 12:00 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Colombia president’s gay nephew talks LGBT rights, peace deal

Pedro Santos is the gay nephew of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. (Photo courtesy of Pedro Santos)

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Pedro Santos, the nephew of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, was 14 when he came out as gay to his parents nearly a decade ago.

Pedro Santos’ father, Francisco Santos, who is Juan Manuel Santos’ brother, was Colombia’s vice president at the time. Pedro Santos told the Washington Blade on Sept. 28 during an interview at a coffee shop in the Chapinero neighborhood of the Colombian capital of Bogotá that he planned to tell his parents over dinner at a restaurant, but he had to abruptly cancel the reservation because his brother was admitted to the hospital with appendicitis.

Pedro Santos instead brought his parents to a McDonald’s near the hospital.

“Now imagine my dad is in office,” Pedro Santos, who is now 22, told the Blade. “He has 100 bodyguards. My mom has 100 bodyguards. I have 100 bodyguards. They evacuate the McDonald’s. The McDonald’s is secured for my mom, my dad and me and we’re in this small table for three people in this regular McDonald’s with 100 people listening to me coming out to my parents.”

Pedro Santos described the scene to the Blade as “crazy.”

“I’m just sobbing and sobbing for one hour until my father tells me, ‘You’re gay, right?’ and I tell him, ‘Yes I’m gay,’” he recalled, noting his parents’ reaction was “beautiful.”

‘I can talk from a place of privilege’

Pedro Santos sat down with the Blade against the backdrop of the expansion of rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Colombia and the implementation of an LGBT-inclusive peace agreement between the country’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that his uncle helped to broker.

Gays and lesbians have been able to legally marry in Colombia since the country’s Constitutional Court in 2016 ruled banning marriage between same-sex couples was unconstitutional. The Colombian Congress in May rejected a proposed referendum on whether to rescind adoption rights to same-sex couples.

Juan Manuel Santos’ government in 2015 issued a decree to notaries and registrars that said transgender people could legally change their name and gender on identification cards and other government documents without surgery.

Angélica Lozano — a bisexual woman who is the first openly LGBT person elected to the country’s congress — in March told the Blade during an exclusive interview that she plans to run for a seat in the Colombian Senate. Her partner, Sen. Claudia López, is running for president as a candidate for the centrist Green Alliance (Alianza Verde in Spanish.)

A rainbow crosswalk at an intersection in the Chapinero neighborhood of Bogotá, Colombia. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace in Colombia, in spite of these advances. Former President Álvaro Uribe — under whose administration Francisco Santos served as the country’s vice president — and former Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez are among the most vocal opponents of LGBT rights in the country.

Pedro Santos — a photographer who lives part-time in Brooklyn, N.Y., and spent the bulk of his childhood in Spain — last spoke with his uncle five years ago at his sister’s graduation. Pedro Santos told the Blade that his uncle is “somewhat” responsible for advancing LGBT rights in Colombia, but acknowledged violence and discrimination remains a serious problem.

“I can talk from a place of privilege,” said Pedro Santos. “I’m a gay male and there are a lot of trans women and trans men that don’t come with the same luck as we do.”

Father’s party ‘misconstrued the truth’ before peace referendum

Juan Manuel Santos was Colombia’s defense minister during Uribe’s government. Voters in 2010 elected Juan Manuel Santos to succeed Uribe, who was unable to run for a third term under the country’s constitution.

Juan Manuel Santos had already begun to move away from Uribe’s right-wing policies by the time he took office. These differences became stark after Juan Manuel Santos and FARC Commander Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño in 2016 announced a peace deal to end the decades-long war that killed more than 200,000 people.

Colombia Diversa and Caribe Afirmativo — two Colombian LGBT advocacy groups — took part in the peace talks that began in Havana in 2012.

Uribe in 2013 founded the right-wing Center Democratic Party (Partido Centro Democrático in Spanish) of which Francisco Santos is a member.

Uribe and Ordóñez ahead of last October’s referendum on the agreement urged Colombians to oppose it because it “put the stability of the family at risk.”

They sharply criticized Juan Manuel Santos and then-Education Minister Gina Parody in the months leading up to the vote over a proposed handbook that contained guidance on how schools can respond to LGBT-specific issues. Uribe and Ordóñez used the controversy to galvanize opposition to the agreement, which Juan Manuel Santos and Londoño signed in the city of Cartagena six days before the referendum.

Pedro Santos recalled the streets “were filled with homophobes, with people who were chanting that we were not humans, that we should not deserve a vote or we should not deserve to get married.”

“It was for the first time that I really got scared that I actually live in a country where there’s no space for me,” he told the Blade. “I had never felt that way before. It was very scary.”

Pedro Santos’ cousin, who is Juan Manuel Santos’ son, outed him on Twitter in August 2016 when he asked his father during the protests, “I’m just wondering what Pancho Santos may feel about having a gay son.”

“He literally outed me,” Pedro Santos told the Blade. “No one knew I existed.”

Pedro Santos said he understood his cousin’s motives “because I understand what my father’s party was doing is very wrong.”

“But I don’t think you should mix family and politics,” he added. “It just agitated everything.”

Voters narrowly rejected the agreement during the referendum that sharply divided the country.

“My father’s party misconstrued the truth,” Pedro Santos told the Blade. “They started using the Christian vote and the very conservative vote to go against those education (standards) so a lot of people came out to protest those things.”

Pedro Santos supports peace agreement implementation

The Colombian congress last November ratified the peace agreement.

FARC guerrillas have moved into resettlement areas the Colombian government established, but they have criticized them because of a lack of water and other basic infrastructure. The guerrillas have officially disarmed under U.N. supervision and formed a political party.

Pedro Santos noted his father and his party are “very against” the agreement. He told the Blade he was also opposed to it before congress ratified it.

“These people have massacred us for 50 years,” said Pedro Santos. “They have literally played football with our heads, that’s how crazy they were. It’s things that people can’t imagine, right, so they came here and they say we want peace.”

Pedro Santos mocked the FARC’s ability to form a political party under the agreement. He also told the Blade the decision to award Juan Manuel Santos the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize “should have raised a few eyebrows over here.”

Saul Castellar, left, speaks with Ludwin Cabas, manager of a “House of Peace” (“Casa de Paz” in Spanish) in Soledad, Colombia, on March 13, 2017. Caribe Afirmativo, an LGBT advocacy group that works throughout northern Colombia, has opened four “Houses of Peace” throughout the region in order to support the implementation of the peace agreement. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)​

In spite of his reservations, Pedro Santos told the Blade he is willing to support the agreement’s implementation.

“I can just cry about it and try to deny it happened or help people and try to make it work,” he said.

Pedro Santos told the Blade his father respects his position.

“He’s very fine with everything I do because he understands I’m very neutral to everything,” he said. “He respects my position.”

’Everybody hates’ Trump in Colombia

Pedro Santos was not in the U.S. when President Trump was elected.

Lozano in March told the Blade she was concerned the Trump administration would cut aid to Colombia. Pedro Santos said this concern has decreased amid growing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea and Trump’s rhetoric towards immigrants and other disadvantaged groups.

“The precedent that he’s setting is I’m white so I have the power to mock you and I have the power, like I own you basically,” Pedro Santos told the Blade, referring to Trump’s response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 that left Heather Heyer dead. “All of this is just letting white people know it’s okay to be racist, which is not and this is setting a horrible precedent for the U.S.”

Pedro Santos also discussed the Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has allowed roughly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and obtain work permits.

He told the Blade he has undocumented friends who have been living in the U.S. “for their whole lives.” Pedro Santos added some of his friends’ relatives have been deported.

“It hits very close to me because I’m a brown kid,” he said. “I am someone who is looked down upon. People don’t know how to differentiate it over there (in the U.S.) and even if I come from a family that has more money I am still a brown kid.”

Pedro Santos ended the interview with a blunt assessment of how Colombians view Trump.

“Everybody hates him,” he told the Blade. “Even the people who are the closest to the far-right think he’s atrocious.”

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

  • Rich spoiled corrupt snothead.

  • And those guys who pushed Lavers around in high school were right after all.

  • “Everybody hates Trump in Colombia. ” From a country that gave us the three worst serial killers in history (Garavito; Lopez; Camargo )and is built on the drug trade, I’d say that’s a good compliment for the President. And the less Colombians in the U.S. the better.

    • Many people including myself hate Trump in America! That sentiment is growing in America!

      That’s a pretty racist attitude concerning all Colombians! Your Fake POTUS has made pretty racist comments in regards to Latinos and his response toward Puerto Rico has been callous!

      Timothy McVeigh was a murderer and American! We have a long list of them!

      We don’t have Americans involved in drug trafficking? Not all Colombians need to rely on crime to make a successful living!

      • It might be racist about Colombians, but it’s still true. All of those killers had over 100 victims, and one was gay.

        • They said the same about African Americans!

          Americans killed how many native Americans in the conquest of their lands?

          • Maybe it IS true about African-Americans. Anybody whose murder rate is four times as high as it was before the Civil Rights period yet still dare to criticize gays. .. .As for Native Americans, they killed how many millions of each other in inter-tribal wars before Europeans arrived on the scene ? And over territory ! And then owned slaves. So Brando didn’t impress me by sending Littlefeather to reject his Oscar.

          • Maybe what Adolf Hitler said in mein kampf about jews being a threat to gentiles is true too? Was goebbles propaganda against Jews valid?

            Europeans have been killing each other long before non-whites killed them in Europe and in North America! Europeans have a very long history of violence and conquest all over the globe. The fact others races kill each other doesn’t exonerate them from their own murders or give them the moral high ground!

            America has a long ant-Semitic history too! John Ford, Thomas Edison and Charles limburg to name a few all spoke against Jews! You Are in no position to preach against others or to assert stereotypes are true for all people or most people!

          • Maybe some of what they said about Jews was correct. I’ve known some pretty contemptible ones.

          • Yeah, just have to look in your mirror! Basically you hate everyone including yourself except for your revolting fake potus!

          • (John Ford was a film director).

          • I stand corrected. Henry Ford! The point is he hated Jews and respected African-Americans more!

        • I can picture you in Germany while they implemented their final solution and matched you to the gas chamber while they told you what they said about Jews might be racist but true!

      • You hating Trump is a compliment to him too. You’re not exactly a Nobel prize winner in Physics or Chemistry.

      • Actually, I had to double check on the gay one. Yes , “Luis Alfredo Garavito Cubillos, also known as La Bestia (‘The Beast’) …. In 1999, he admitted to the rape, torture and murder of 147 young boys”

        • Yeah, so what? Every country has them.

          • For a country to score numbers 1 2 and 3 on the serial killer list shows there’s something inherently wrong with them. Maybe it was that psychopathic conquistidor blood. Whatever the case, glad to hear they hate my President. Another indication the right one is in the White House. Now if we can get this rich lazy queeny goon Santos out of Brooklyn (why do all these horrid foreigners move here now ? we used to have admirable working-class rough people moving here to work hard, instead of these prima donas) and back to Spain (where he probably did his high-kicking dance of joy when that Muslim ran people down in Barcelona).

          • Psycopathic Conquistador blood? It was psycopathic European blood that murdered native Americans! North American Europeans gave native Americans blankets with small pox to which they had no immunity. They raided villages killing women and children in cold blood!

            Trump is the worst president in modern history for lgbt rights! Jeff session’s positions ascerting glbt are not protected by current laws from discrimination are tacitly approved by your horrid fake potus! What isn’t there to hate?

            As for santos, you don’t know him personally and he at least fights for his community unliked people like you! He’s welcomed in America as far as i’m Concerned! You are no one to decide who should be or is not!

            Brooklyn working class? Since what decade? It’s highly expensive to live in NYC or near it so you have to be rich to afford it! Unless you have some kind of rent vontrollef apartment.

          • Conquistadors weren’t Europeans ??? LMAO. And there are a zillion working-class and blue collar guys (and women) living in NYC. Who do you think builds the buildings, drives the trucks, and carries people out of burning houses ? You really are…..kinda dumb.

          • Spaniards are considered Europeans as Spain is in Europe. Did you fail geography!? Conquistadors were from Spain! Did you fail history, too?

            Yeah, working class can’t afford to live in San Francisco so why can they afford NYC? Working class is being priced out of all major cities thanks to gentrification! The average us invome is about $50k per year. That doesn’t cut it anymore!

          • (Hmm. San Francisco must be pretty disgusting now with nobody to haul away the garbage).

          • The garbage is now in the White House and needs to be hauled away as it’s stinks!

            Sanitation workers get paid six figures in places like Manhatten so that helps make it affordable to them!

            Where do you live exactly? Are you making six figures? Not that I would expect you to be honest.

    • Thank you, EastCoastJ. No one wants to hear the truth.

  • And if he wants to be mocked for his “color”, let him deal with the Japanese, Koreans, or Indians in NYC (who are much darker than him, and…granted…the highest achievers in the U.S. right now). All three of those would generally look at him like he’s trash. But of course the coddled goon likes to pretend he’s only a victim of Caucasian hatred. Tired. And THIS is why gays are losing all around the world from Egypt to Indonesia. No dealing with reality.

    • All Trump’s children are coddled goons! Who are you trying to kid? Trump Jr. has a substance abuse problem! Trump’s controlling abusive nature likely contributed to it! Jr. is clueless, too saying the biggest problem a gay man has ever had is choosing what color tie to wear!

      Actually, Koreans and Japanese are not dark. It’s quite a racist stereotype that all Asians are high achievers while other races are not. There are many successful well educated Latinos in America!

      • Indians are darker than this goon. And it probably IS racist to think all Asians are high achievers, but it’s still true. As far as knowing the variety of so-called Spanish/mestizo/Latino/etc groups…don’t even go there. I’ve been with everybody from the trashiest Ricans from the Bronx to Argentinian equestrians.

  • Pedro Santos is very cute!

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  • “It hits very close to me because I’m a brown kid..” the doofus claims. Then go home! What are you doing in the U.S. if you claim you’re being looked down on here?? Idiot. And he’s not brown anyway. Indian doctors and scientists in NYC are brown. Santos shows the idiocy that comes from a life of living in cushiness.

  • Lies, lies and nothing but lies. Everything in this article is a lie. To begin with, Pedro Santos is a disgrace to his family and most Colombians and the Blade is guilty for not having verified his statements. Francisco Santos isn’t Juan Manuel Santos brother but of course it would sound better if uninformed readers were to believe this. Also the majority of Colombians through a plebiscite rejected santos so called peace agreement with convicted narcoterrorists and criminals against humanity whose leaders, Juan Manuel Santos promised total impunity for their heinous crimes against Colombians for over four decades and who are also fugitive of the department of justice of the United States for murder and kidnapping of American government contractors overseeing the eradication of coca plantations on the eastern plains and not because they support gay right movements. Furthermore, former president Uribe’s political party, Centro Democrático, is not a right wing party as The Blade and/or Santos afirmes. It is a Center Right Party. Neither Mr Uribe, Centro Democrático and the majority of Colombians, including myself, oppose homosexual rights although most Colombians oppose gay marriage, gay adopting children and the new gender laws. Most Colombians have been in fact quite tolerant and accepting of homosexuals, again including myself. There are a minority that are against them but it is the same in the United States.. Google is also irresponsible for allowing such article to be posted on their site.. Nicolas de la Espriella

    • This post, to garner sympathy for Lgbt Colombians, does not give bloodthirsty butch Latinx the right to seek prey on our femmes and innocent others.

    • Centro Democrático is in decline in Colombia and for you to even fathom that they may be center in anyway is an indicator of your biased and ignorant conceptions on Colombian politics. Why do you consider Pedro Santos to be a disgrace to his family? is it because he is gay? and that’s just what your prejudiced views tells u? He’s dad is openly accepting of Pedro’s homosexuality and has repetitively stated it. Also, most Colombian’s don’t oppose Gay Marriage, several attempts by antiLGBT groups to take down the constitutional 2016 decision have failed. You need to read more about your own country. The Peace agreemeent is a reality in the country and the court has made it State policy for the next 12 years, if you or other hateful Uribistas don’t like it, then too bad. The reformed agreement was passed through democratic means, the congress, who represents all Colombians.

      Go hate on someone else.

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