“They saw me as an intruder in the Bogotá City Council”: Marisol Gómez

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After working for more than 25 years at the newspaper El Tiempo, Marisol Gómez was elected councilwoman of Bogotá for the period 2020-2023. Based on that experience, the Antioquian journalist wrote Una periodista en las entrañas de la política (Planeta, 2024), a book in which she exposes the functioning of state agencies. One of the conclusions that the reader reaches after reading this book is that a transformation of the ways of doing politics in Colombia is required.

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What did you see during four years of immersion in the political world?

“Yes, I didn’t make the decision the way one does for a journalistic special. I came to the Council in 2019 at the invitation of the current mayor of Bogotá, Carlos Fernando Galán. That year only two of us were elected to the Council on Carlos Fernando’s list. We are talking about the 20-23 period.

I got there because of an invitation to get involved in politics. It was a turning point in my journalistic life, my departure from the El Tiempo publishing house after 25 years of working there. I left on June 25, 2019, and two days later, that is, on the 27th, Carlos Fernando Galán called me and said, “Marisol, I’m going to make you a crazy proposal to head my list for the Bogotá council.” The truth is, as I tell it in the book, first, out of surprise, I said, “What am I going to do in politics? Journalists are by nature critical of politics.” Then I said, “How much do you give me to think about?” and he said, “I have to register the list today.” I thought about it for a while, I asked myself questions. In the end I accepted, but the politicians saw me as an infiltrator, as an intruder in the Bogotá Council. And this was because I caused too much discomfort for four years with my observations and my criticisms.”

And you felt that from day one?

“Absolutely, from the first day. And I talk about that in the book. Now, at what point do I lose my innocence? I came to the idea that politics could really be done thinking only of the citizen, but I quickly realized that an independent councilor, an independent politician, is of no use to the government in power, of course, nor to his fellow council members, nor to the party to which he belongs.

Many people ask why a person who wants to do things right, leaves politics. First, one swallow does not make a summer. And, finally, what counts in a public corporation is the majority of votes. Also, the people who in a public corporation stay away from arrangements, from compromises, are a very small number. I must say that the experience of four years simply taught me that there are few elected to public corporations who decide not to adapt to the functioning and the way of operating of politics, and that seems to me to be the great tragedy of Colombians. Even those who come saying “I am going to do things right” know that accommodating is much easier than fighting.”

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That is, you did not accommodate yourself…

“No, I didn’t want to settle down. That’s another big conclusion after these four years: either you adapt to the way politics works, or you have to leave. I decided to leave, because the fact that the world works like this doesn’t mean that one should adapt.”

And you did not want to repeat the experience…

“I was originally on the list for these elections, I took part in the first meeting where the list was presented. But after some reflection I said, ‘This is not what I want.’ Especially because there is no political party today that an independent politician can fit into. In the book I describe the distortions of politics, everything that perverts politicians. The conclusion I come to is that the citizen is definitely torn to pieces after an election.

The book ends with a few proposals. One of them is that re-election to popularly elected corporations should be only once. It turns out that people who get into politics have the sole goal of being re-elected and to achieve this they get into the game. They fall into the dynamic of getting positions to have clients, of looking for contracts with the government to have money for campaigns, friends for campaigns. That is what there is around politics.”

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