Ivan Duque Makes UN Debut: Venezuela, Drug Trafficking, Peace Process Loom Large

Colombia's recently inaugurated president called on the international community to support the peace process, and fight drug trafficking, while maintaining a hard line against the Venezuelan dictatorship.

Ivan Duque made his first address to the United Nations General Assembly as president of Colombia (EFE/ Jason Szenes).

Colombia’s recently inaugurated president Ivan Duque, made his debut this week, with a speech at the 73rd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, in New York. With Venezuela in turmoil, border tensions on the rise, key initiatives on drug trafficking and policy, and many questions about his implementation of the peace process, or potential modification thereof, the center-right president sent several key messages.

Venezuela

In view of the migratory crisis that the neighboring country is experiencing, President Duque maintained that this scenario affects not only Colombia but also the entire region, deeming it “the most outrageous migratory and humanitarian crisis in the region’s recent history,” and accusing the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro of being responsible for this fateful event, “a dictatorship that annihilated liberties.”

Similarly, faced with Maduro’s call to debate, the Colombian president said, “I will not enter into personal grievances or disputes with the president of Venezuela. What I have come to do is to present to the world a migratory humanitarian crisis caused by the dictatorship, and the world has heard that call.”

Duque requested cooperation from all members of the international organization, adding that it is a “global challenge.”

“Latin America is experiencing the worst migration crisis in its regional history and one of the most bloody crises in its history. More than 2.3 million Venezuelans have left their country in the last three years, suffering from hunger and cold…In Bogota, we have gone from 30 births of Venezuelans to 280, who arrive at hospital emergency rooms,” said Duque.

This concern was heard by US vice president Mike Pence, who confirmed that that the US will allocate USD $23.5 million for Colombia to address the crisis. A package for the region of at least USD $118.5 million was promised so that mass migration can be addressed through a common front.

These resources are in addition to a fund of close to a billion dollars supervised by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which aims to aid with the migratory policy of the region.

Drug trafficking

Duque has taken a hard line on drug trafficking, as it continues to threaten the current peace process with the FARC. He warned about the pervasive challenge in terms of eradication, noting that the number of cultivated hectares of coca is at historical highs, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

He maintained that this scourge is a “moral duty” that demands a commitment from all countries, and that there must be a frontal fight against transnational organized crime. At the same time, Duque highlighted the recognition by the UN of Colombia’s proposal to confront the drug problem without neglecting a focus on care and prevention from a public health perspective.

“I think we have seen very successful times for Colombia, for multiple reasons. First, I think it was great news to have commenced the Assembly of the United Nations with the declaration signed by 130 countries to affirm that we want to confront the illicit drugs on our streets, in our society,” he said.

He also highlighted the support of President Donald Trump, who has pledged to aid Colombian efforts to fight drug trafficking and organized crime.

Peace process

Duque said that peace is an objective of all Colombians, and for that reason he will continue working on this front, reaffirming his commitment to the demobilization of former guerrillas:

“Peace is an objective of all Colombians. We are going to work for it in our government. We are going to work so that the process of demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration goes forward successfully.”

He did not hesitate to point out that under his government there will be guarantees for those who abide by the rules of the peace process, assuring that they will have every opportunity for protection and progress, ratifying that its purpose is “to support those who have genuinely committed to the path of leaving behind violence.”

On the other hand, he thanked the United Nations mission, and reiterated his appreciation for the prolongation of their mission in the verification of the implementation of the peace agreement.

He also spoke about financing, arguing that the international community must remain interested in the project in order to achieve peace in Colombia so that the process has the “required solidity”, since in his words the process is in a “fragile” stage.

“We hope to count on the financial support of the international community to give the necessary solidity to the process. The United Nations Mission in Colombia itself, like our control bodies, understands that our government has inherited a fragile process on several fronts,” he said.

Duque finished his speech affirming that Colombia will continue working for a better tomorrow:

“The Colombia of legality, entrepreneurship and equity, is what we want to build, and the project is already underway. We will not let anything take away the hope of being a country that thinks big and dreams of a better tomorrow.”

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