Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
July 13, 2021
Thank you, Mr. President. SRSG Ruiz Massieu, thank you for your briefing and for your report. We appreciate the vital role of the Verification Mission continues to play in supporting peace in Colombia. We thank you, Ms. Herrera, for contributing your voice and perspective to the council this morning.
Vice Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Ramírez, we also warmly welcome you to this meeting. We thank the Government of Colombia for its continuing commitment to the Final Agreement. As you know, and as President Biden conveyed in his call to President Duque shortly thereafter, we were alarmed to hear of the June 25 attack on President Duque’s helicopter, and were relieved that everyone involved was unharmed.
We also would like to acknowledge the hard work that the Colombian government is undertaking to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States recently donated 2.5 million vaccine doses to Colombia as they recover from this devastating pandemic, and as part of our effort to expand access to vaccinations worldwide. This will allow the Government of Colombia to provide vaccines to some of the most vulnerable and remote communities in the country.
We also welcome the national dialogue promoted by President Duque to address the recent protests throughout Colombia. We reiterate our support for the rights of peaceful protestors, underscore that law enforcement must be held to the highest standards of accountability, and condemn wanton acts of violence, vandalism, and roadblocks that have impeded the delivery of food and medicine.
Over the past few months, the transitional justice system in Colombia has taken enormous strides, particularly with the acknowledgement in April by former FARC commanders of a policy within the group of kidnapping, and their acknowledgment of responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes. This is a vital step for truth, justice, and reconciliation, as well as for the satisfaction of victims’ rights. It is also an important demonstration of the commitment of former FARC members to the Final Agreement. We also recognize the transitional justice system’s progress on identifying and holding accountable members of state security forces who ordered or participated in human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings.
Despite this progress, we are closely monitoring the increase in violence in former FARC-controlled areas, particularly against former FARC combatants and social leaders, which has been an ongoing problem since the signing of the Final Agreement. We acknowledge the Presidential Counsellor for Stabilization and Consolidation’s announcement of the adoption of a Strategic Plan for Security and Protection for former combatants, but we are deeply concerned by reports that 71 human rights leaders and social leaders have been killed in Colombia since the beginning of this year. Guaranteeing measures for the security of leaders of social and political movements, human rights defenders, communities affected by conflict, and former combatants remains a critical component of the Final Agreement.
We are also concerned by growth in coca cultivation and production in Colombia, as reported in a recent study by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. We continue to believe the best way to sustainably address this problem is to combine law enforcement efforts with a robust rural development program and programs that are designed to stimulate legal economic activity. We acknowledge that Colombia’s efforts last year were hampered considerably by the spread of COVID-19 and are hopeful that the government’s work to assist rural farmers will intensify in 2021.
Mr. President, despite these ongoing challenges, we believe Colombia continues to be on the road toward a great success story, and a model to countries seeking a way out of entrenched conflict. The work that both the Colombian government and the Verification Mission have done over the last four years is admirable, and Colombians from all walks of life have benefited greatly from it.
I thank you.