23 January 2024, el Espectador
I should have written this column on 1 January… sorry for the delay, but today’s Pazaporte is about Claudia López, former mayor of Bogotá.
I met Claudia shortly before the elections, one informal evening, at the flat of a mutual friend. Before accepting the invitation, I told our hostess that I was not likely to vote for Claudia. And she said something like “it doesn’t matter, I want you to get to know the human being she is”. And so I went, thinking more about the person than the ballot box.
I found in Claudia a brilliant and libertarian woman, with a firm character and pointed words, courageous and authoritative, determined to be the mayor of Bogotá, and prepared in science and conscience to hold the office. I felt that, if she were to be at the helm of Colombia’s most complex city, hers would not be an improvised administration: years of study, earned through academic excellence, had forged her a solid knowledge of how a city is run.
I was delighted that she was the daughter of a teacher, because teacher mums (I know why I say this) teach their children not to swallow whole, not to “excel” their thoughts and feelings and never lose the capacity to be surprised, to marvel or ache at the world. Mother teachers know what words are for, and they love them and teach them as good allies of thought and understanding. A mother teacher is one of the best treasures that one, as a child, can have.
I liked the fact that Engativá and Ciudad Bolívar were not a campaign “performance” for Claudia, but a habitat felt and learnt since childhood and adolescence.
I liked her relationship with another immense woman, Angélica Lozano, because they both seemed authentic, intellectually and emotionally attuned, without either of them being either light or shadow of the other.
From the beginning, it had been evident that Claudia was willing to go all out, to explain her priorities and government plan and to submit to any intelligent, impertinent or idiotic question asked by the media. But that night I also felt that Claudia had conviction and spirit stronger than any paradigm, and therefore had nothing to fear.
That night I decided to vote for Claudia.
Claudia López was elected mayor of Bogotá, and her firmness, her ability to defy fate and authority, saved us thousands of deaths during the pandemic. I don’t even want to imagine what would have happened to us with a weak mayor who cared more about approval ratings than saving the lives of thousands of citizens. Claudia made the right decisions amid an uncertain country and a world that was unprepared to deal with a biological disaster of such magnitude. The adversity was not too great for her.
While the president at the time was broadcasting a television programme every night that was as irrelevant as it was narcissistic, the mayor visited hospitals and neighbourhoods, designed contingency plans, and made decisions based on scientific, not demagogic, arguments.
There were also – it must be said – things that were mishandled: insecurity was rampant, and the behaviour of the police in the face of the social outburst was horrible. I don’t know if Claudia gave the wrong orders, or if she gave the right ones and the robocops didn’t obey her. Eyes and lives were lost; the performance of the then ESMAD was terrifying, and Claudia López has apologised for the police abuse.
So, despite this irreversible pain, the balance of the administration is positive. So today I say thank you, Claudia, for being rebellious and hardworking 25 hours a day, and for taking the running of Bogotá seriously.