Colombian leader touts peace efforts, says drugs are the enemy

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – During a farewell appearance at the UN Security Council, Colombian President Ivan Duque on Tuesday touted his government’s achievements in building peace, including steps to reintegrate more than 12,800 former rebels in the society, but he warned that drug trafficking remains the “greatest enemy” to achieving peace.

Duque said more than 8,600 of the rebels who were “on the wrong track with arms” are now involved in individual or collective income-generating projects involving production, sales and marketing and building a better life for their people. families.

He also cited new development plans for 14 territories that led to the investment of more than $4 billion in 70 municipalities encompassing more than 11,000 districts and millions of people, including 2 million victims of violence.

Duque took office in August 2018, less than two years after the November 2016 signing of a peace accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC. It ended more than 50 years of war in Colombia that left more than 220,000 dead and displaced nearly 6 million people.

An amnesty law was passed covering most offenses committed by FARC fighters, but Duque said the constitution had been reformed so that drug trafficking and kidnappings linked to political crimes could no longer make the cut. subject to amnesty in the future.

During his four years as president, Duque said, the overall homicide and kidnapping rate has been lowered and economic reparations have been paid to nearly 400,000 victims, which he says “also constitutes a unprecedented step”.

Addressing the council ahead of Colombia’s May 29 presidential election, he said Colombia will defeat violence with justice and respect for the law.

“It is also sad to see how the bloody hands of drug traffickers continue to tear apart parts of Colombia,” Duque said. “Drug trafficking is the biggest enemy of peacebuilding in Colombia.”

He said the government has made efforts to eradicate and replace crops, and last year saw the highest number of drug seizures – 670 tons. But he said drug production continues to rise and unless consumer countries share responsibility equally and adopt “more direct and clearer public policies, it will continue to be a painful burden for the world.” Colombian people”.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the UN special envoy for Colombia, acknowledged that progress was being made in the successful long-term reintegration of former FARC combatants, including, more recently, in the provision of land and housing.

“Nevertheless, the sustainability of the process still depends on additional efforts, including to end the violence that still undermines former combatants’ plans to build a new life,” he said.

Violence has also increased in neglected areas, including northern Arauca, where more than 100 people have been killed and thousands displaced this year, Ruiz said. “The violence is taking a heavy toll on indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in the form of killings, displacement and the growing recruitment of minors.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia lashed out at Duque, accusing him of failing to bring peace to Colombia. The strong criticism followed Colombia’s support for two UN General Assembly resolutions demanding an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, the withdrawal of all Russian troops from the country and the protection of civilians. Colombia also backed a resolution last week suspending Russia from the UN’s main human rights body, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

Nebenzia said Russia’s concerns about the implementation of the 2016 peace accord “are increasing every year”. Unfortunately, he said, national reconciliation has not been achieved, the government is unable to provide security for participants in the peace process and community leaders, and it has not assumed authority in rural areas nor successfully implemented land reforms and crop substitution programs. .

Resuming the floor at the end of the meeting, Duque called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “simply senseless” and “genocide”. He urged the international community to condemn and isolate Russia and support the Ukrainian people.

As for Nebenzia’s criticism, Duque said, “I think it’s important that those who hurt a country don’t preach world peace, when acts of fratricide are being committed, which we all reject.”

US Deputy Ambassador Chris Lu echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ latest report, saying Colombia continues to make “demonstrable progress” in efforts to implement the deal of peace, and he said the United States was encouraged that the recent legislative elections had passed with little disruption.

Deputy French Ambassador Nathalie Broadhurst called Colombia an example for the international community “in a world shaken by conflict”.

“The peace agreement is gradually taking root and we hope it will become irreversible,” she said. “Its full implementation is the best guarantee of that.”

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