Colombia’s Education Minister, Gina Parody, is a former senator, presidential adviser and Bogota mayor hopeful.
Uribe-backed political beginnings
Bogota-born Parody got her first taste of electoral politics in 1997 when she worked on the presidential campaign trail with Liberal candidate Alfonso Valdivieso. After working for two years as an adviser to journalist turned crusading Congresswoman Maria Isabel Rueda, Parody joined Alvaro Uribe’s presidential campaign. Following Uribe’s election victory, he convinced her to run for Congress and in 2002 she was elected to the House of Representatives for Cambio Radical.
Parody soon garnered a reputation as a fervent supporter of Uribe, although she occasionally broke ranks to criticize the government, most prominently over the demobilization of paramilitaries in the Justice and Peace process.
In 2006, she stood for Senator representing the U Party. After winning, she remained an equivocal supporter of Uribe, backing the government but criticizing certain policies. She was also one of the first senators to denounce the links between politicians and paramilitaries as the parapolitics scandal, which took down a large number of her U Party colleagues, gripped the country.
Break with the Uribistas
Parody finally broke with the Uribistas of the U Party in 2009, when she gave up her seat in the Senate in protest against the increasing concentration of power around the president. She opposed Uribe’s bid to change the constitution to run for a third term as president and said she felt the U Party had mutated and she could no longer relate to it.
A Bogota native, Parody launched her campaign to be the capital’s mayor in the 2011 elections with a platform that mixed a call for cleaner politics with hardline security policies. However, she was languishing in the polls amongst the also-rans before 2010 Presidential runner-up Antanas Mockus abandoned his own campaign to team up with Parody. With Parody heading what has been cast as a double ticket, she shot up the polls and became a serious challenger to the top two.
Controversy in Bogota mayoral race
Despite her talk of a new politics free of corruption and nepotism, Parody’s campaign was not entirely free of controversy. According to La Silla Vacia, Parody secretly paid for an El Tiempo opinion poll with doctored results. She has also courted controversy over her security discussions with former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani, who is believed normally to charge at least $100,000 for a conference, although Parody claims his appearance was a gift.
Rumors that she paid off Mockus’ $100,000-plus campaign debts have been fiercely denied by Parody and Mockus, who claims he did not even run up such large bills. Political commentators attributed the claims to a smear campaign against Parody.
Return to Bogota politics
Almost a year after losing the Bogota mayoral elections, President Juan Manuel Santos appointed the former senator as his adviser on issues relating to the capital. The appointment put Parody back in the Bogota spotlight at a time Petro was found struggling keeping the city government running.