Aida Avella is not just the woman who will be running for Colombia’s Presidency under the banner of a leftist political party called the Unión Patriótica (Patriotic Union party). Her candidacy – and in fact her very presence in the country – represents a big test for Colombian politics as an election nears.
Ms. Avella fled Colombia in 1995, when assassins fired a rocket at her car, trying to kill her. It was the third failed attempt on her life. She went into exile in Geneva, Switzerland, where she lived for the next 17 years. Ms. Avella returned just last year.
Ms. Avella told Colombia Reports in an interview that her political work never stopped during her time in exile:
“All of it is political work […] it’s work that comes out of the soul. No one was paying us. We do work to live in the morning…but in the evening, we do work that is very special, very special because we were doing it for the political participation [of] marginalized [Colombians].”
… for years, Avella hosted people in her home or with friends.
“When the political asylum seekers are not here… indigenous people are here, when the indigenous people are not here, the workers are here, when the workers are not here, the women are here, when the women are not here the Afro-descendent Colombians are here, where the Afro-descendants are not here, the artists are here […] There are always lots of people here from Colombia […] it’s extraordinary,” she said.
Why is Ms. Avella’s presence in Colombia a test for Colombian politics?
Ms. Avella’s party was the birth-child of the first attempt of peace talks between Colombia’s government and the marxist rebel group, the FARC.
In an effort to bring communist party members, FARC sympathizers and other rebel groups into a political arena they claimed they had been marginalized from, the Patriotic Union party won 9 seats in the House, 6 seats in the Senate a minority vote for their Presidential candidate: 4.6%.
But the rocket that nearly killed her was just part of a wave of violence brought against members of the leftist Patriotic Union party from 1987 through the early 2000s. The Patriotic Union party was tolerated in theory, but not in practice.
The question of whether or not leftist rebels should be and can be brought back into politics is a question Colombians are asking themselves as the fourth attempt at peace talks between the government and the FARC rebels drags on in Havana, Cuba.
Tolerating the Patriotic Union party and letting it come back into politics peacefully will likely set some tone toward the peace talks.
The history of violence against her political movement is something Ms. Avella will probably be unable to forget as the campaigning takes off for elections set for May of this year.
But she seems more focused on future plans:
“There are so many things we could do,” she told Colombia Reports. One thing, though, is high on the list: “We’re going to fight corruption.”
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