The death of Senator Piedad Cordoba, last Saturday in Colombia, is provoking all kinds of reactions. The controversial and historic leftist politician has managed, with her death, to unite the left around her, to the point that the Colombian president, Gustavo Petro, has called for the creation of a unified political party, from the government coalition, the Historic Pact, to face the elections of 2026. On the other hand, among her ideological opponents, there has been diversity in the demonstrations, from those who have expressed their respect, despite their differences, to those who have generated controversy and rejection for their negative comments about the deceased senator.
Cordoba was a historic member of the Colombian left, who participated in several processes that led to the release of hostages held by the extinct FARC guerrillas. This alleged proximity to the illegal armed group and accusations of corruption put her in the permanent spotlight of criticism from many of her opponents. For many of those who have criticized her administration and even celebrated her death, Piedad Cordoba was a member of the FARC, where, allegedly, she was known as alias Teodora and linked to several corruption cases.
Piedad Cordoba’s funeral chapel will be installed this Monday at the Congress of the Republic, in Bogota, where the senator developed her parliamentary work for decades. Afterwards, the coffin will return to her native Medellin, where it will be buried on Tuesday, January 23. Yesterday, Sunday, the senator received a tribute in Quibdo, the capital of the department of Choco, where her father was born.
The Colombian left unite
Piedad Cordoba was controversial even among some of her political co-religionists, but in death has managed to unite the entire Colombian left around her figure. So much so that yesterday, the Colombian president launched his bid to create a single party that integrates the various political hues that today make up the Historic Pact, a coalition that supports the government and is formed by thirteen parties.
Gustavo Petro was one of the first to speak out, shortly after the sudden death of the senator was known. The president referred to the years of slander that Cordoba had to face, highlighting that the politician “fought all her mature life for a more democratic society”, overcoming racism, machismo and political intolerance that characterized the time of her youth, but also continued during the congresswoman’s public activity.
Ivan Cepeda, also a pro-government senator and participant in the talks with the guerrilla, regretted Cordoba’s disappearance, highlighting her commitment and participation as a mediator in several cases for the release of kidnapped people.
Another leftist politician who showed her support for Piedad Cordoba was Senator Maria Jose Pizarro, who highlighted that the deceased was an “irreverent, liberating and libertarian woman, never bowed down by the violence and irrational hatred that poisons Colombian society”. At the same time, he described her as a “tireless fighter for peace”. Senator Pizarro publicly offered her help to President Petro to achieve that unity around a single party, which hours before had been requested by the president.
Her role in the release of hostages highlighted
Ministers and various politicians of the same political orientation also expressed their sorrow for the death and highlighted Senator Cordoba’s commitment to peace. Even former President Ernesto Samper (1994-1998), for the Liberal Party, to which the deceased belonged at the time of his presidency, lamented the death of the person he described as “a fighter for many causes and many hours”. Samper said that “she will be fondly remembered by the hostages who she freed, the beneficiaries of La Paz, the victims of many perpetrators, millions of Afros and many people in need”.
Similarly, the last leader of the FARC guerrilla, Rodrigo Londoño, highlighted that the politician “was a true democrat, a liberal of deep convictions, a tireless defender of human rights and an essential part of the political solution to the long armed conflict”.
Londoño called Piedad Cordoba a “Black rebel and tireless fighter for peace in Colombia”.
Former politician Clara Rojas, kidnapped by FARC in 2002 and freed thanks to the efforts of Piedad Cordoba, highlighted the role of the deceased as a mediator for the release of hostages. “Condolences to the family and friends of Senator Piedad Cordoba. I always thanked her for having gone to the jungle to pick me up on the day of my release after 6 years of kidnapping by the FARC. Also for her tireless efforts for the freedom of so many,” Rojas wrote in her social networks.
Less kind words
There were also those who questioned the deceased and even regretted that she had died without being brought to justice. The other politician kidnapped with Clara Rojas in 2002, former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, asked “What good did it do her to have done so much damage?”, shortly after the senator’s death. Betancourt, who has been very critical of the country’s current leftist government, added that “some of us are left with the mystery of her death and the task of forgiving”.
One of the harshest in his comments was a regular author of outbursts, the senator of the Green Alliance, Jota Pe Hernandez. “I cannot be hypocritical, a bandit who never paid for her crimes is leaving, divine justice came first before earthly justice. Piedad Cordoba was a criminal who I told many times that one day she will end up in jail”, wrote the politician.
Controversies are a constant for Hernandez, who became known as a youtuber during the campaign two years ago; although he has always been equidistant between the two dominant political positions in the country today, Petrismo and Uribismo, he has regularly made populist and unpleasant comments against the government.
Controversy within the family
Perhaps the example that most illustrates the polarization caused by the figure of Piedad Cordoba in Colombia is the social media spat between José Felix Lafaurie, president of the Cattlemen’s Federation and his wife, the senator of the conservative Democratic Center, María Fernanda Cabal, another of the usual opponents with more than forceful positions against the government.
“To the persevering fighter Piedad Cordoba a respectful farewell on the day of her departure. She never gave truce, always in the front line to defend her ideas, which are very different from mine, she deserves respect. Peace in her grave”, wrote Lafaurie, despite his obvious political differences with the deceased.
The response of his wife, Senator Cabal, was immediate. “In absolute disagreement with Jose Felix on the late Piedad Cordoba: She left a debt of pain for her relationship with the FARC and the kidnapped; she used her friendship with Chavez to profit herself and inherited privileges with Maduro and his partner Alex Saab. She left us owing the truth, in impunity”, Cabal pointed out in her X account, replying to her husband’s comment.
Profile of Piedad Cordoba
Piedad Cordoba (1955-2024) embodies the history of her country and the fratricidal conflicts that have characterized Colombia long before her own birth. The polarization that her figure generates is explained to a great extent by the political evolution of Colombia in the last decades.
Beginning in the political and social scene as a prominent member of the Liberal Party and leader of the Poder Ciudadano movement, aligned with the left-wing current of that group, Cordoba took her first steps as a community leader in the neighborhoods of her native Medellin. From there, she rose to parliamentary politics, serving as deputy municipal comptroller of Medellin between 1984 and 1986. Her dedication and leadership led her to be elected representative to the Chamber of Deputies for Antioquia in 1991 and later senator of the Republic in 1998.
In the Senate, Piedad Cordoba stood out for her strong defense of human rights and her commitment to peace. She played a crucial role in the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, contributing significantly to the release of several hostages kidnapped by the guerrillas. Despite her achievements, in 2010, she was removed from her position as a senator by Attorney General Ordoñez following accusations of links to the FARC. However, in 2011, she was acquitted of those accusations.
In 2018, she returned to the political arena as senator for the Colombia Humana party, led by Gustavo Petro. Internationally recognized, she was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize in 2008 for her contribution to peace. Her last public role was again as senator in 2022, within the lists of the Historic Pact, the coalition that finally brought the first leftist president to power in the country.