Colombia’s President Faces Claims of Affair With Transgender Woman

Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters
Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters

It would be a sensational plotline even for a telenovela: a guerrilla fighter turned man-of-peace becomes president of a devoutly Catholic country–then is engulfed in a rumored affair with the nation’s first transgender TV reporter.

But in Colombia, it is real and has left the country’s political class reeling.

It began when President Gustavo Petro was spotted on an official visit to neighboring Panama, not with his wife of 20 years, but with Linda Yepes, who made history as Colombia’s first transgender female TV reporter, Telemundo reported.

The video appears to show Petro and Yepes holding hands and smiling, clearly familiar with each other. There is also a photo which shows Petro taking pictures of Yepes as she poses for him in a strapless blue dress, according to the Daily Mail.

The scandal sparked debates about the right to transition in the socially conservative country where 70 per cent identify as Catholic.

While refusing to answer accusations he was cheating on his wife of 20 years with Yepes head on, Petro, who took office in 2022 as the first left-wing president in recent memory, accused his right-wing opponents of using the video to whip up hatred against Colombia’s transgender community. Responding to the situation on X, he wrote: “'I am heterosexual, but you will never hear or read a transphobic word from me. Because not only would he [sic] stop being a man, but also human.

“The thousands of transphobic messages that have exploded in the hands of a right-wing, deeply exclusive, ignorant and discriminatory society must be rejected by the president.”

He added: “I have always considered that privacy is the ‘last ratio’ of freedom, the last trench of being free, and I will maintain this principle until I write about myself or die.”

Yepes is the first openly transgender TV presenter in Colombia and has said she struggled as a young person with the decision to transition. “I kept saying to myself If I am trans, I’m either going to be a hairstylist or a prostitute because those are the only paths society has practically handed to us.” Her prominence as a TV presenter has seen her heralded as a role model by younger Colombians.

Petro’s allies were struggling to contain the impact of the video, arguing the president should be allowed a private life and to judge him on his policies.

When asked by Univision about the video, Yepes would say only: 'I was in Panama. I love Panama. I cannot speak about the details yet.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.