Claudia Lopez has quickly become an early favorite to win Colombia’s presidency in 2018, leading in Colombia Focus’ early polling of candidates and placing second in two other recent polls. Ms. Lopez has embraced the issue of corruption, which has consistently polled as the most important issue to Colombians in this campaign. She has been collecting signatures for a “Consulta Popular Anticorruption“, a binding referendum that will force the government to adopt 7 anti-corruption measures. That referendum, in a short period of time, has collected nearly 4.5 million signatures, an impressive number that reflects the concerns of Colombians in the current political environment.
When Ms. Lopez announced her candidacy, Colombian news magazine Publimetro was the first media outlet to interview her. We have provided the translated version of that interview below for our English-language readers. If you would like to read the original interview in Spanish, please click here to see the original article on the Publimetro web site.
Q: How is your candidacy going since its announcement?
CL: We’re doing good. As a not-so-planned takeoff, it went pretty good and it had great impact. As of today, I am leading all of the presidential polls. As one of 20 candidates, relatively unknown without a background in politics, everything has been very successful.
Q: Is your alliance with Robledo and Fajardo still standing?
CL: Yes, it is progressing. Let’s say that I thought that because I was Fajardo’s friend, it would be easier. Everyone said that the “hardest nut to crack” would be Robledo, but it has been the opposite. Robledo has been more receptive, but the proposal is still standing, without any obligations. Sergio is still hesitating.
Q: Why is the idea of allying with Robledo and Fajardo appealing to you?
CL: I think that if someone is building a citizen coalition against corruption, that person should look for people who are consistent with those ideas, and not people who only speak against corruption. What I like about Robledo is his track record of fighting against corruption. I can say the same about Sergio, who has 15 years of experience in politics and whose hands are clean as a citizen, as a professor and as a leader.
Q: Wouldn’t it mean going that way if you define yourself in the center of the political spectrum?
CL: I don’t like using the word “moderate” or “center” as a way to take stances. For example, it seems ridiculous to me that Mr. Uribe proclaims himself as a moderate when he is obviously right wing. I use the word “center” because I come from a center-left background and I am not the least bit worried about saying it.
Q: Does this have something to do with your alliance?
CL: Sure. I proposed this alliance, which is more center than left wing, because I think that this is what the country will be looking for after a prolonged period of war. They want neither left wing extremism nor right wing extremism. I want to outline a political project which will be able to transcend the years, like Frente Amplio in Uruguay, or Concertación in Chile.
Q: Don’t you think it is too soon to think of a political project as ambitious this one?
CL: This is nothing new to me. I’ve worked in Public Administration for 20 years. I know how to manage staff and budgets. I know how something can be built with scarce resources. Both in the public and private sectors, I’ve been an important and influential figure who can achieve results. As such, I am no novice.
Q: What would it be like to govern a country with an opposition Congress? Won’t it become an everyone-against-Claudia situation?
CL: The last thing I am interested in is having the majority in the Congress. If they want, they can obstruct me in Congress, but as I did when they refuted my transparency law proposal, I said: “All right then, if you refute it, I will go out and gather up signatures, then it will be sanctioned with the help of the citizens”. What I care is having the majority of people in the country.
Q: How will you prevent this from becoming part II of “Ola Verde” from Antanas Mockus?
CL: There are some important differences, though I am conscious of that. I was a voter of “Ola Verde” and I was a victim of the pain derived from that failure. One must learn.
First, this won’t have to become messianic, that is, “Let’s love Claudia as we loved Mockus”. No! This has to be something collective. Second, this cannot be emotional: “Let’s post a lot of things on Twitter” and at the time of the voting, there are no votes. That’s why I think we must build a strong, powerful coalition, which could get us votes. Third, it has to be a project which transcends time, beyond people.
Q: Which are the foundations of your platform?
CL: The fight against corruption, and to fight for equality and modernization.
Q: And peace?
CL: Let’s leave peace alone. Peace has already happened. The country’s problem is now corruption. Most people in Colombia think corruption is a bigger problem than war. Now it is obvious to everyone. When I said it in December, it didn’t seem that this was an issue. Everyone said that what we had to follow whether we had a peace agreement or not, but corruption is the calamity that we must face.
Q: What do you think about the attacks which stigmatize you as insane?
CL: I am not worried about those. I am convinced that in order to be a candidate, you must be resistant. You have to know that you will be subjected to critics, mocking, exaggerations, lies and false accusations, as well as affection, appreciation, recognition, and exaltation.
Q: Do you think that the fact that you are a woman and that you belong to the LGBT community could affect you in your presidential campaign, such as Mockus with his religious beliefs?
CL: Mockus was knocked out of the field with that. What can they do to debilitate me? People already know I am a woman, and that I am a lesbian and that I am still fighting. There’s a sector in the country which is still old-fashioned, but it is only a sector. The rest of the country wants to work for ideas, for a transitional government, for new proposals.