Vocal LGBTI rights opponent named Colombia’s ambassador to OAS

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Colombian President Iván Duque’s decision to name a vocal LGBTI rights opponent as his country’s ambassador to the Organization of American States has sparked outrage among activists.

Former Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez has, among other things, challenged efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples and criticized then-Education Minister Gina Parody, who is a lesbian, in 2016 over a proposed handbook that would have contained recommendations on how teachers and school administrators should respond to LGBTI-specific issues. Duque’s government on Aug. 24 confirmed it named Ordóñez as Colombia’s next OAS ambassador.

Colombia Diversa and Caribe Afirmativo, two Colombian LGBTI advocacy groups, signed an open letter to Duque that criticizes Ordóñez’s appointment.

The letter notes Ordóñez was “unable to separate his personal beliefs and opinions from the exercise of his public position” when he was inspector general. It also says Ordóñez “used the power of the state to persecute minorities and those who differed from his ideology.”

Caribe Afirmativo, which is based in the city of Barranquilla in northern Colombia, launched a Change.org petition that urges Duque to rescind Ordóñez’s appointment. More than 245,000 people have thus far signed it.

Mauricio Toro, a gay member of the center-left Green Alliance from the Colombian capital of Bogotá who was elected to the country’s Congress in March, described Ordóñez’s appointment is “a slap in the face to the Colombian and American people.”

“Alejandro Ordóñez has violated the rights of minorities, has violated equal rights,” Toro told the Washington Blade last week during a WhatsApp interview. “He opposed an anti-discrimination law in Colombia that defends LGBTI communities, communities of African descent, indigenous people, Raizales, people with disabilities. He also openly discriminates against minorities in his speeches and actions.”

Duque, a member of former President Álvaro Uribe’s right-wing Democratic Center party, took office last month after he defeated former Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro in the second-round of Colombia’s presidential election that took place in June.

Ordóñez was among the candidates who sought to succeed former President Juan Manuel Santos, who signed an LGBTI-inclusive peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in 2016. Ordóñez, who opposes the peace agreement, endorsed Duque in March after members of his party formally chose the current president to run against Petro.

Hunter T. Carter, a lawyer who represents plaintiffs in same-sex marriage cases throughout Latin America, last week noted the OAS and specifically the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in recent years have become increasingly vocal champions of LGBTI rights. Carter, who lives part-time in the city of Medellín with his husband, told the Blade that Ordóñez’s appointment could put this support in jeopardy.

“I am seriously concerned about what this may mean for the protection of human rights through the Inter-American system overseen by the OAS,” said Carter.

The Blade has reached out to the Colombian government for comment.

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