One of two dedicated Afro-Colombian seats in the Colombian House of Representatives was won by a non-Afro-Colombian.When Maria del Socorro Bustamante (Liberal Party) announced her House run last year, many Afro-Colombian groups criticized her candidacy as “opportunistic.”
However, there is no legislative requirement for the holders of the special parliamentary seats to be from those communities and De Socorro was the candidate for the Fundación Ébano De Colombia (Funeco) Party, which has stated it is a pro-Afro-Colombian party.
On Sunday, del Socorro won 34,067 votes, twice as many as any other single candidate for the two Afro-Colombian seats in the 166-seat House of Representatives.
Afro-Colombians are under-represented
Edwin Salcedo, a 2014 Senate candidate for the Green Alliance (Alianza Verde – AV) and longtime Afro-Colombian rights advocate told Colombia Reports in an interview last week that despite making up a projected 25% of the population, Afro-descended Colombians were not well represented.
“In Colombia, there is a great lack of [Afro] political representation, in the different instances of power and decision-making at the national, regional and local levels,” said Salcedo.
He also criticized del Socorro.
“She is not an Afro person, and neither has she worked for black communities,” he said.
Studies show, and social organizations confirm, that the Afro-Colombian community continues to suffer disproportionately from issues such as poverty, violence, and poor social services
Changes: expanding to a quota system
The victory by de Socorro points to the challenge for activists in devising a system that effectively promotes Afro participation.
“In the best of all possible worlds, [the system] would be somewhat similar to a quota law that exists for women in many countries,” said Christopher Sabatini, Senior Director of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA) Washington-based think-tank, referencing policies that require each party to adjust the makeup of their tickets according to relative quotas.
“For Afro-Colombians, they would be on the ticket, that way they would become more integrated into national party channels rather than having a set aside [space] that risks them being marginalized, or continuing to be marginalized.”
- Representante a la Cámara de comunidades negras no es afrodescendiente (El Espectador)
- House of Representatives Results (Registraduria)