Populism and the evangelical church in Latin America: how anti-LGBTI forces tried to stop the Colombian peace agreement

Julia Assmann de Freitas Macedo, Fabrízio Conte Jacobucci


The present paper explores the relationship between right-wing populism and the neo-Pentecostal Evangelical churches in Latin America, focusing on the anti-LGBT discourse emanating from this relationship. It argues that right-wing populists have been antagonizing the “people” against an imaginary LGBTI foe and using religious jargon and support to mobilize the masses against gender identity and sexual orientation achievements in the region. This argument is illustrated by a case study on one of the most emblematic moments of anti-LGBTI rhetoric in the last decade: the 2016 peace agreement referendum in Colombia. After more than fifty years of war between the FARC-EP and the government, a religious-populist movement claimed the Colombian peace agreement was tainted by “gender ideology”, which would threaten Colombian traditions and institutions. The 2016 referendum became a platform for advancing and repudiating LGBTI rights, and the subsequent rejection of the Colombian peace agreement is a case in point of the sharp opposition and "us vs them" narrative of right-populists and the neo-Pentecostal church against the LGBTI agenda.


Latin America, Populism, neo-Pentecostal churches, LGBTI, peace agreement, Colombia.

Texto completo:

PDF (English)


ALTHOFF, Andrea. Right-Wing Populism and Evangelicalism in Guatemala: the Presidency of Jimmy Morales. International Journal of Latin American Religions, vol. 3, 2019, p. 294–324

ANDERSON, Jon Lee. How Colombia’s Voters Rejected Peace. The New Yorker, Oct, 2016. Available at: https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/how-colombias-voters-rejected-peace

BASSET, Yann. Claves del rechazo del plebiscito para la paz en Colombia. Estudios Políticos (Medellín), vol. 52, 2017, p. 241-265.

BATTAGLINO, Jorge; LODOLA, Germán. Negotiations and possible spoilers in the Colombian peace process. Norwigian Peace Building Resource Center, Expert Analysis, 2013.

BAVA, Silvio Caccia; ROMANO, Jorge. Vamos falar de populismo. Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil, ed. 120, Jul 2017. Available at: https://diplomatique.org.br/vamos-falar-de-populismo-2/

BBC NEWS. Colombia Farc conflict: Uribe says peace deal was 'weak' after Santos meeting. BBC News, Oct 2016. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-37558825

BELLAL, Annyssa. The War Report: Armed Conflicts in 2016. Geneva Academy

of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, 2017. Available at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=30858.

BELLOLIO, Cristóbal. La Cuarta Ola de Populismo Latinoamericano. Revista Capital, 2018. Available at: https://www.capital.cl/la-cuarta-ola-de-populismo-latinoamericano/.

BELTRÁN, William Mauricio; CREELY, Sian. Pentecostals, Gender Ideology and the Peace Plebiscite: Colombia 2016. Religions, vol. 9, 2018.

BOAS, Taylor. Serving God and Man: Evangelical Christianity and Electoral Politics in Latin America. Annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, August 29–September 1, 2013.

CADENA SER. Juan Manuel Santos: América Latina está como un sándwich, entre el populismo de izquierdas y de derechas. Cadena Ser, Mar 2019. Available at: https://cadenaser.com/programa/2019/03/27/hoy_por_hoy/1553671611_425302.html.

BBC NEWS. Conservative Alejandro Giammattei wins Guatemalan presidency. BBC News, Aug 2019. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49278325.

CÉSPEDES-BÁEZ, Lina M. Gender Panic and The Failure of a Peace Agreement. AJIL Unbound, vol. 110, 2016, p. 183-187.

BBC NEWS. Chile election: Conservative Piñera elected president. BBC News, Dec 2019. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-42388019.

BBC NEWS. Colombia Farc conflict: Uribe says peace deal was 'weak' after Santos meeting. BBC News, Oct 2016. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-37558825.

CORRALES, Javier; PECHENY, Mario. Introduction: The Comparative Politics of Sexuality in Latin America. In: The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America. CORRALES, Javier; PECHENY, Mario (Org). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010, p. 1-30.

CORRALES, Javier. A Perfect Marriage: Evangelicals and Conservatives in Latin America. The New York Times, jan 2018. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/17/opinion/evangelicals-politics-latin-america.html.

CORRALES, Javier. The Expansion of LGBT Rights in Latin America and the Backlash. In: The Oxford Handbook of Global LGBT and Sexual Diversity Politics, BOSIA, Michael; MCEVOY, M. Sandra; RAHMAN, Momin (Org.), 2019.

EL ESPECTADOR. Para Marco Fidel Ramírez, Colombia será “ateo-marxista y homosexual” tras firma de paz. El Espectador, Sep 2016. Available at: http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/bogota/marco-fidel-ramirez-colombia-sera- -ateo-marxista-y-homos-articulo-656908.

EL ESPECTADOR. El acuerdo con las Farc no promueve la ideología de género": Santos. El Espectador, Oct 2016. Available at: https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/el-acuerdo-farc-no-promueve-ideologia-de-genero-santos-articulo-660110.

ESPITIA, Monica. LGBT in Colombia: A War Within. CUNY Academic Works, 2016. Available at: https://academicworks.cuny.edu/gj_etds/150.

FINAL PEACE AGREEMENT. Final agreement to end the armed conflict and build a stable and lasting peace. 2016 Available at: http://www.altocomisionadoparalapaz.gov.co/Prensa/ Documentos%20compartidos/Colombian-Peace-Agreement-English-Translation.pdf.

GANDESHA, Samir. Understanding Right and Left Populism. In: MORELOCK, Jeremiah (Org). Critical Theory and Authoritarian Populism. London: University of Westminster Press, 2018, p. 49-70.

GIROUX, Henry A. Crescimento do populismo de direita. Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil, ed. 151, Jan 2020. Available at: https://diplomatique.org.br/crescimento-do-populismo-de-direita/.

GOLDSTEIN, Joshua S. War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

GRATIUS, Susanne. La “tercera ola populista” de América Latina. Working paper to the Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior (FRIDE). Oct 2007. Available at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/42469813/La_tercera_ola_populista_de_Amrica_Latin20160209-25129-13dj5fo.pdf

GRATTAN, Steven. The Emerging Challenges and Opportunities for The LGBT+ Population in Post-Accord Colombia. Thesis for: MA Human Rights and Global Ethics. Universidad del Rosario, 2018.

GUADALUPE, José Luis Pérez. Evangelicals and Political Power in Latin America. Lima: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung & Institute of Social Christian Studies of Peru (IESC), 2019.

HERNANDEZ, Alejandro Espí. La dimensión emocional de los movimientos políticos populistas del XXI en América Latina y Europa. Miguel Hernández Communication Journal, vol. 1, n. 10, 2017, p. 101-121.

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions on a Gender-Sensitive Approach to Arbitrary Killings. UN Doc. A/HRC/ 35/23, June 2017, paras 47–48.

INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS. Violence Against LGBTI Persons in the Americas. Washington, DC: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2015, para. 279, 345.

LAMBERT, Renaud. O impasse da direita da América Latina. Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil, ed. 152, Fev 2020. Available at: https://diplomatique.org.br/o-impasse-da-direita-na-america-latina/.

MAINWARING, Scott , MENEGUELLO, Rachel; POWER. Timothy J. Conservative Parties, Democracy, and Economic Reform in Contemporary Brazil. In: MIDDLEBROOK, Kevin J. Conservative Parties, the Right, and Democracy in Latin America. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000, p. 164-222.

MALDONADO, Andrés Ucrós. What Is the Colombian Peace Process Teaching the World?. New England Journal of Public Policy, Vol. 29 (1), 2017.

MARGALIT, Alon. Still a blind spot: The protection of LGBT persons during armed conflict and other situations of violence, International Review of the Red Cross, vol. 100 (907-909), 2018 p. 237-265.

MARIANO, Ricardo; GERARDI, Dirceu André. Eleições presidenciais na América Latina em 2018 e ativismo político de evangélicos conservadores. Revista da Universidade de São Paulo, n. 120, p.61-76, 2019.

MUDDE, Cas. The Populist Zeitgeist. Government and Opposition, 39(4), (2004), p. 541-563.

MUDDE, Cas; KALTWASSER, Cristóbal Rovira. Populism: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

MULLER, Jan Werner. Populism and the people. London Review of Books, May 2019. Available at: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v41/n10/jan-werner-mueller/populism-and-the-people

MYRTTINEN, Henri; DAIGLE Megan. When Merely Existing is a Risk. Sexual and Gender Minorities in Conflict, Displacement and Peacebuilding. London: International Alert, 2017.

PAYNE, Stanley G. A History of Spain and Portugal. The Library of Iberian Resources Online, available at: “https://libro.uca.edu/payne1/spainport1.htm

PENYAK, Lee M.; PETRY, Walt J. Religion in Latin America: a documentary history. New York: Orbis Books, 2006

PEW RESEARCH CENTER. Religion in Latin America: Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region. Pew Research Center, Nov. 2014.

PRADO, Maria Ligia; PELLEGRINO, Gabriela. História da América Latina. São Paulo: Contexto, 2014.

PRETEL, Enrique Andres. Christian Singer Faces Leftist Author in Costa Rica Presidential Runoff. Reuters, Feb 2018. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-costarica- election/christian-singer-faces-leftist-author-in-costa-rica-presidential-runoff- idUSKBN1FP0QE

RONDÓN, Manuel Alejandro Rodríguez. La Ideología de Género como Exceso: Pánico moral y Decisión Ética en la Política Colombiana. Sexualidad, Salud y Sociedad (Rio de Janeiro), n. 27, 2017, pp.128-148.

SABOGAL, Julián. Evangélicos se consolidan cada vez más como una fuerza política en Suramérica. RCN Radio, 2018. Available at: https://www.rcnradio.com/internacional/evangelicos-se-consolidan-cada-vez-mas-como-una-fuerza-politica-en-suramerica

SEMANA. Las ocho peticiones de los pastores del No. Semana, Oct 2016. Available at: http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/las-ocho-peticiones-de-los- -pastores-que-votaron-no-en-el-plebiscito/499219

SEMANA. Cristianos: ¿el poder decisorio en la política? Semana, Oct 2016. Available at: http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/religion-inclina-la-balanza-politica-en-colombia/502530.

SEMÁN, Pablo. ¿Quiénes son? ¿Por qué crecen? ¿En qué creen? Pentecostalismo y política en América Latina. Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais, v.34, nº 99, p.26-45, 2019.

SILVA, Hélerson. Os novos atores “evangélicos” e a conquista do espaço público na América Latina. Reflexão, vol. 43, n. 2, 2018, p. 243-263.

SMILDE, David. Los evangélicos y la polarización. Revista Venezolana de Economía y Ciencias Sociales , vol. 10, n. 2, 2004, p. 163–79.

TATE, Winifred. A Dark Day in Colombia. Nacla, Oct 2016. Available at: https://nacla.org/news/2016/10/04/dark-day-colombia-0

THE GUARDIAN. Honduran president makes contentious bid for second term. The Guardian, Nov, 2017. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/24/honduras-president-hernandez-contentious-bid-second-term-elections

THYLIN, Theresia. Violence, toleration, or inclusion? Exploring variation in the experiences of LGBT combatants in Colombia. Sexualities, vol. 23, 2019, p. 1-20.

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY. Resolution. 71/198, 19 December 2016, para. 6

URUEÑA, Rene. Reclaiming the Keys to the Kingdom (of the World): Evangelicals and Human Rights in Latin America. Netherlands Yearbook of International Law. Populism and International Law, p. 175–208, 2018

VÉLEZ, Juanita. El Sí pierde un aliado por “la familia”. La Silla Vacía. Aug 2016. Available at: http://lasillavacia.com/historia/el-si-pierde-un-aliado-por-la-familia-57572.

VÉLEZ, Juanita. Cristianos y LGBTI: Ambos sienten que ganaron con el Acuerdo. La Silla Vacía, Nov 2016. Available online: http://lasillavacia.com/historia/cristianos-y-Lgbti-ambos-sienten-que-ganaron-con-el-acuerdo-58838.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5102/rdi.v17i2.6685

ISSN 2236-997X (impresso) - ISSN 2237-1036 (on-line)

Desenvolvido por:

Logomarca da Lepidus Tecnologia