EL ESPECTADOR, March 27, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

This week officials from Washington and Bogotá talked about matters concerning cooperation on security, climate actions, drug policies, migration issues, and other questions.

Colombia told the United States that the high-level dialog begun this Monday in Washington would not be like previous dialogs, because of President Petro’s “new vision”, but he reminded us that both countries have “the same goal”.

“Keep this new vision in mind. With President Petro, there’s something in between, which is the power to draw on continental circumstances” to “help solve problems”, stated Colombia’s Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva to his United States counterpart Antony Blinken at the opening of the dialog.

“We are allies, and not just now, but for a long time,” stated Leyva in this two-day appointment where they would be talking about the economy, climate change, mining and energy, democracy, human rights, anti-narcotic security, rural development, and migration, among other things.

This political mechanism that allows treatment of bilateral issues “goes beyond the usual” because “new events are taking place in the world” with “new visions of every one of those issues”, he stated.

“We are truly allies on the basis that we recognize our new role in the world,” he emphasized to Blinken.

Leyva gave as an example the subject of drug trafficking. “We were the coca country, now we are one of the great sponges to be a solution” and “we are saving the planet,” he reasoned.

He is referring to the strategy of President Petro, the first leftist President in Colombia, who had proposed bringing a lasting peace to Colombia, after six decades of violence, and also partly reforming the model of the “war on drugs”—supported by the United States—to put the emphasis on consumption and less on production.

Leyva admitted that the relationship “is modified” and that the speech “is surprising”. But there “will never be a surprise” by Bogotá in the relationship, nor in our long-standing alliance with the United States of America,” he stressed.

Blinken seemed to be in harmony, although he believes that combating the pipeline of drugs “is a key part” of the discussions of security.

“We bring a holistic focus to this challenge; that means looking for ways to reduce the demand even more by investing in prevention, treatment, and recovery from substance abuse for those who are struggling with addiction in our countries, because it is fundamentally a public health problem,” said Blinken during his presentation.

“The drug trafficking multinational”

“And that means talking about ways of reducing supply by strengthening the prohibition by land and sea and also furnishing vulnerable communities alternative ways of earning a living,” he added.

For Leyva, “the drug traffic is no longer just a Colombian topic,” because “there is a drug trafficking multinational that is hammering the whole continent, a problem that I could see would be discussed this year in a Latin American conference. “We’re all in the same boat with this problem,” he emphasized.

Another one of the central subject areas in the High-Level Dialog is migration, a growing problem in Colombia, where more than 2.5 million Venezuelans have come, because of a series of “circumstances” that, according to Leyva, justify having a Latin American conference on migration “as soon as possible.”

“Bangladesh had never come through Colombia, Afghanistan had never come through Colombia, China had never come through Colombia. Now they are coming through Colombia to get to the North, and they are coming back to us,” he insisted about the citizens of those countries that pass through Colombia’s territory.

Blinken praised Colombia for having demonstrated that when the migration crisis is well managed, it can be an opportunity and not a burden for the communities. The struggle against climate change is another focus in the dialog.

“We will continue working to help Colombia reach its ambitious climate objectives, offering continual technical assistance with wind and sun projects, in order to fortify the protection of the Amazon,” promised Blinken.

Among the initiatives to combat the effect of greenhouse gases, Colombia pointed to the coming conference on the electrical interconnection from Patagonia to Alaska, “to take to the North the electrical energy that surges out of the methods of producing clean energy.”

The United States has committed, for its part, to broaden “the paths for the farmers, the producers of textiles and other small and medium companies in rural areas to get their products into global markets and to take advantage of the benefits” of the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries.

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