LGBT Progress In Colombia? One Step Forward, Two Bigots Back

Businesses in Colombia have been invited to display gay-friendly signs as a traditionalist society, slowly, grows more tolerant.

Gay Pride Day in Bogota last year
Gay Pride Day in Bogota last year
Daniel Garzón Herazo/Pacific Press via ZUMA
Aldo Cívico


BOGOTÁ — Very soon in Colombia, LGBT-friendly cafés, restaurants and shops will begin displaying rainbow-colored signs in their entrance, in an important step toward turning this country more tolerant and modern.

The idea of inviting businesses to declare their support for a more open society came from the YouTuber Juan Pablo Jaramillo, who launched the initiative with his ex-boyfriend Christian Castiblanco across social media. The campaign attracted millions of viewers online and caught the attention of the Interior Ministry, which said it would sign a decree promoting tolerance and inclusion. The initiative is much-needed in a country where homophobia remains pervasive.

I witnessed this personally a few days ago. I was in Medellín in the Oviedo shopping center, when I saw two young women walking hand-in-hand. I thought, how nice that gradually, everyone will be able to show their affection for their partner without having to hide, regardless of sexual orientation. History shows that societies progress as civil rights expand.

But my optimism suddenly deflated when I saw a female security guard and her colleague laughing at the couple. I didn't really feel sorry for the couple who clearly now had the strength and freedom to live their love openly, regardless of the intolerance and ignorance around them. I was sad for the guard and the narrow-mindedness that governs her life and perpetuates her ignorance, prejudice and exclusion of anyone who may seem different to her.

Homophobia is not just a feeling, but a power structure.

Homophobia doesn't just insult and discriminate, it can also kill. Recall 16-year-old Sergio Urrego, who committed suicide in Bogotá in 2014, after facing months of harassment from senior staff members at his school. The principal of his school, the Gimnasio Castillo Campestre, has kept her job even after facing prosecution on charges of hiding incriminating evidence, false denunciation and discrimination. What this bitter incident has shown is that homophobia is not just a feeling, but a power structure that marginalizes and discriminates.

That is why, when I saw the security guard mock a simple, tender gesture of affection between two women, I realized the importance and power of Jaramillo's proposal, simple as it may be. Because making LGBT-friendly places visible with a sign, as is done in many cities worldwide, will help make homosexuality start to seem as natural and absolutely human as it is. At the end of the day, gay people are no children of a lesser god, but created in His image like everyone else.

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A Dove From Hiroshima: Is Fumio Kishida Tough Enough To Lead Japan?

Japan's new prime minister is facing the twin challenges of COVID-19 and regional tensions, and some wonder whether he can even last as long as his predecessor, who was forced out after barely one year.

Japan's new PM Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Sept. 29

Daisuke Kondo


TOKYO — When Fumio Kishida, Japan's new prime minister. introduced himself earlier this month, he announced that the three major projects of his premiership will be the control of the ongoing pandemic; a new type of capitalism; and national security.

Kishida also pledged to deal with China "as its neighbor, biggest trade partner and an important nation which Japan should continue to dialogue with."

Nothing too surprising. Still, it was a rapid turn of events that brought him to the top job, taking over for highly unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who had suddenly announced his resignation from office.

After a fierce race, Kishida defeated Taro Kono to become the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and pave the way for the prime minister's job.

Born into politics

A key reason for Kishida's victory is the improving health situation, following Japan's fifth wave of the COVID pandemic that coincided with this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The best way to describe Kishida is to compare him to a sponge: not the most interesting item in a kitchen, yet it can absorb problems and clean up muck. His slogan ("Leaders exist to make other people shine") reflects well his political philosophy.

He is an excellent actor.

Kishida was born into a political family: His grandfather and father were both parliament members. Between the ages of six to nine, he studied in New York because of his father's work at the time. He attended the most prestigious private secondary school — the Kaisei Academy, of which about half of its graduates go to the University of Tokyo.

However, after failing three times the entrance exam to , Kishida finally settled for Waseda University. Coming from a family where virtually all the men went to UTokyo, this was Kishida's first great failure in life.

An invitation for Obama

After he graduated from college, Kishida worked for five years in a bank before serving as secretary for his father, Fumitake Kishida. In 1992, his father suddenly died at the age of 65. The following year, Kishida inherited his father's legacy to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the Hiroshima constituency. Since then, he has been elected successfully nine straight times, and served as Shinzo Abe's foreign minister for four years, beginning in December 2012. A former subordinate of his from that time commented on Kishida:

"If we are to sum him up in one sentence, he is an excellent actor. Whenever he was meeting his peers from other countries, we would remind him what should be emphasized, or when a firm, unyielding 'No' was necessary, and so on ... At the meetings, he would then put on his best show, just like an actor."

According to some insiders, during this period as foreign minister, his toughest stance was on nuclear weapons. This is due to the fact that his family hails from Hiroshima.

In 2016, following his suggestion, the G7 Ise-Shima Summit was held in Hiroshima, which meant that President Barack Obama visited the city — the first visit by a U.S. president to Hiroshima, where 118,661 lives were annihilated by the U.S. atomic bomb.

Photo of Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida with their backs to the camera, in Hiroshima in 2016

Shinzo Abe, Barack Obama and Fumio Kishida in Hiroshima in 2016

Japanese cynics

In September, 2020 when Shinzo Abe stepped down as prime minister, Kishida put out his candidacy for the first time for LDP's presidency. He didn't even get close. This was his second great failure.

But reading his biography, Kishida Vision, I must say that besides the two aforementioned hiccups, Kishida's life has been smooth sailing over the past 64 years

When one has had a happy and easy life, one tends to think that human nature is fundamentally good. Yet, the world doesn't work like that. And Japanese tend to believe that "human nature is vice," and have always felt a bit uneasy with the dovish Kishida diplomacy when he was foreign minister.

Leftist traditions from Hiroshima

Hiroshima has always been a city with a leftist political tradition. Kishida's character, coupled with the fact that he belongs to the moderate Kochikai faction within the LDP, inevitably means that he won't be a right-wing prime minister.

How long will a Fumio Kishida government last?

Kishida would never have the courage to be engaged in any military action alongside Japan's ally, the United States, nor will he set off to rewrite the country's constitution.

So after barely a year of Yoshihide Suga in office, how long will a Fumio Kishida government last? If Japan can maintain its relatively stable health situation for some time, it could be a while. But if COVID comes roaring back, and the winter brings a sixth wave of the pandemic as virtually all Japanese experts in infectious diseases have predicted, then Kishida may just end up like Suga. No sponge can clean up that mess.

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