Gustavo Petro announced this Wednesday that he is working on a joint statement with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to stop the war in Ukraine. “Peace negotiations are needed. There is an escalation of the conflict. We are not with any international aggression”, said the president of Colombia in the forum Latin America, the United States and Spain in the global economy, a event organized by EL PAÍS and the Spain-United States Chamber of Commerce held in New York. Petro has attended the event the day after his shocking speech at the UN General Assembly, where he certified the failure of the war on drugs and the fight against climate change.
Since coming to power in August, he had not spoken in depth about the invasion. This time he has done so by joining López Obrador’s peace project, which is proposed by a UN committee with a view to declaring a truce of at least five years in the war in Ukraine. The idea, launched in the midst of the Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russian troops, provoked an absolute rejection from kyiv. An adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky said that would give Moscow time to renew reserves and launch a new offensive. “So it’s a Russian plan,” he concluded.
Petro ignored the criticism and has announced that he is in contact with the president of Mexico to promote the initiative. Interviewed by Jan Martínez Ahrens, director of EL PAÍS America, he has said that there are no “good or bad invasions”, with which he has avoided condemning Russia directly. “It is a fight of the planet that has received invasions in Guatemala, Panama, even Colombia has lost part of its territory with external aggressions. Latin America does not tour exactly the same as Europe. Europe sees it differently”, he has defended his position. And he has once again criticized the US for its international policy in the past: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is as bad as that of Iraq and Syria.”
Regarding the resistance that he has encountered in this month and a half of government, Petro has recalled that Colombia has suffered a lot from sectarian violence. Politicians have a responsibility not to generate a climate of violence with their statements. “We cannot give ourselves that luxury, from sectarianism we pass to genocide. It is dangerous. A ruler must be very careful with every word.” The president has surrounded himself with ministers of different sensitivities, some of them from the conservative party. Former President Juan Manuel Santos said in a recent interview with EL PAÍS that the Petro government was well oriented, although it lacked rigor and method, and to refine the narratives. “It is not a homogeneous government, it is a valid criticism because it does not have a single narrative, it has a diversity”, he has said about it, without wanting to fight melee with Santos.
Petro has arrived in New York with a strong message against US anti-drug policy: it has been a failure and must be reconsidered. He has told everyone who has wanted to listen to him, from the president of the UN, to congressmen, colleagues from other countries, businessmen, governors, directors of world organizations. His message in the General Assembly was one of the most forceful that a Latin American leader has pronounced in the last decade. Tonight he will have the opportunity to raise it at a dinner at the Natural History Museum with Joe Biden himself, whom he wants to convince to transfer all the money destined for weapons and the persecution of drug cartels to the care of the Amazon jungle. The president will encounter resistance, since this is a deeply rooted policy in Washington, which has the backing of agencies as powerful and influential as the DEA.
However, he has assured that he finds a greater sensitivity of the US Government in this regard. “There is a more open mindset,” she added. His intention is to change the direction of the discussion on drugs, towards “a different axis, that of the climate crisis.” He recalled that together with the United States, the first military unit dedicated exclusively to putting out fires in the Amazon jungle has been created, which has several black hawk that previously would have been used in the internal war that Colombia has been waging for more than 50 years. “I want to continue pulling that thread because it is a more positive dialogue than the misnamed war on drugs.”
In addition, he wanted to emphasize that with his statement before the UN he did not want to look for external enemies, nor to avoid the responsibility that the country’s rulers have in its security crisis. “The problems do not only come from outside. They are the product of an indolent economic elite. The prospects for being in New York cannot lead us astray”, he said.
The president has been convinced that it is time to achieve total peace, as he calls for disarmament and the submission of all armed actors in the country. Right now, he explained, there are no organizations as large as Pablo Escobar’s in his day, but rather small cells that operate separately. “All those organizations with names that are no longer sufficient, a labyrinth, have sent letters to the Government asking to open talks. Their way is to negotiate legal benefits with the justice system so that they stop their activity”.
Ahrens has wanted to know the reasons that have led Petro to seek the mediation of Nicolás Maduro in the negotiations with the ELN, the last active guerrilla in Colombia. He has responded that he takes the process in the same place where Santos left it, which had the support of Venezuela itself, Cuba and Brazil to disarm the FARC in 2016. “It played a positive role (Venezuela) that is not always recognized “, It’s over.
In a previous intervention in the same forum, the Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica, Manuel Tovar, underlined the values of the country when approaching economic challenges: sustainability, protection of the environment and respect for the rights of workers. These values, he added, have allowed the Central American country to change its model since the 1980s towards a “sophisticated economy”, dependent on tourism, which was so affected by the pandemic and is now in the process of recovery (at 80%, according to its calculations), but also goods such as medical devices.
Tovar spoke of the threats to the political stability of the countries around him (especially Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, their land exit to the North) and of his plans to continue working on relations with Spain and the United States, while reinforces the peaceful commercial front, through its exchanges with countries like Ecuador. He also announced an alliance with Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and Fiji (“all countries, like ours, on the front line of climate change”) to reinforce joint values and send a message to the international community: “it is possible to grow trade outside hand in hand with the environment”.
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