In Colombia, the head of the American diplomacy hails his “best ally” in the region

While in Colombia, as part of his South American tour, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with conservative Colombian President Ivan Duque. He praised Colombia, a “model” for its management of migrants fleeing neighboring Venezuela, whose “oppressive, corrupt and drug-trafficking dictatorship” he criticized.

On the second day of his South American tour, Wednesday October 20, the chief diplomat of the United States, Antony Blinken, praised Colombia, its “best ally” in the region and a “model” for its management of migrants fleeing neighboring Venezuela.

“We do not have a better ally on all the subjects that our democracies face in the region,” said Antony Blinken, during a joint press conference with the conservative Colombian president, Ivan Duque.

“Colombia has shown enormous generosity by welcoming nearly two million Venezuelan migrants displaced by the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela”, praised the head of American diplomacy, who came as a political messenger in the region of the new administration. by Democratic President Joe Biden.

Ivan Duque, who again blasted Venezuela’s “oppressive, corrupt and drug-trafficking dictatorship” on Wednesday, launched a bold plan this year to regularize the status of nearly a million undocumented Venezuelans.

“Coordinated approach”

“I applaud you, I congratulate you on your vision and your leadership,” the Secretary of State told him, stressing that what Colombia has done “is a model for the region and also a model for the world”.

Latin America is currently experiencing “unprecedented” population movements towards the United States, alarmed Antony Blinken, who called on allied governments to “adopt a coordinated approach” to deal with this “migratory pressure” .

We also need to “tackle more effectively the root cause of migration and irregular migration. That is, what causes people to leave everything to make such a dangerous journey across the continent,” he said. he pleaded.

In the afternoon, he met several ministers from the countries of the region and the Caribbean on this theme, proposing to “strengthen border surveillance by requiring visas and by meticulously controlling” the entry of migrants moving without documents. .

He also called for “improving asylum procedures” and “creating more protection and settlement options” for migrants, who are particularly vulnerable to the risks of human trafficking.

For his first visit to South America, Antony Blinken visited Ecuador on Tuesday, before ending his tour in Colombia, the United States’ closest ally in its crusade against drug trafficking and against the chavist government of the president. Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro.

On Wednesday, the Venezuelan president estimated that Venezuela and Colombia, which no longer have diplomatic relations since 2019, should “normalize” their relations.

“We must solve our problems, regularize, normalize commercial, productive, economic relations. We must normalize consular, diplomatic relations,” he said on national television, welcoming an initiative of the Colombian Senate which proposes to create a binational parliamentary commission on relations between the two neighbors sharing 2,200 km of land borders.

Nicolas Maduro, however, accused Colombian President Ivan Duque at the same time of not providing consular assistance to Venezuelans living in Colombia, where nearly 2 of the 30 million Venezuelans who have since 2013 fled the economic and political crisis in their country are refugees. country.

Wishing a “page that turns”, Nicolas Maduro urged Colombian businessmen to “resume” their investments in the country mired in the worst crisis in its recent history, with hyperinflation and seven consecutive years of recession.

Caracas had severed diplomatic relations in 2019 with Bogota after the recognition by Colombia, as well as about fifty other countries including the United States, of Juan Guaido as interim president.

But the border between the two countries had already been almost completely closed since 2015 due to recurring tensions between the two neighbors. Recently, both Caracas and Bogota announced the reopening of their land borders with no effect on the ground.

Peace, narcos and human rights

“The central theme of this trip is how to work together to make our democracies work for the benefit of our citizens,” Antony Blinken reaffirmed on Wednesday, echoing the White House’s message in the face of the growing influence of populism and authoritarianism, in the region as elsewhere on the planet.

During his visit to Quito, he expressed the willingness of the Biden administration to not only focus on security issues, but to support citizens on a daily basis.

“Our record in terms of improving security in the region’s democracies is mixed,” admitted Antony Blinken at the University of San Francisco in Quito.

According to the Secretary of State, the United States must be more attentive to the economic and social concerns of the citizens, such as the improvement of the rights of work, health or education.

In Bogota, Antony Blinken nonetheless renewed the United States’ commitment to Colombia on security issues, in particular to “attack the roots of drug trafficking”, the fuel that fueled the Colombian conflict. until the signing of a historic peace agreement with the Marxist Farc in 2016. Violence linked to drug trafficking still persists today with the many armed groups involved.

After nearly five decades of fighting drug trafficking, Colombia remains the world’s largest producer of cocaine and the United States the main consumer, despite US efforts to “reduce demand”.

Antony Blinken also highlighted the “human rights violations” linked to the Colombian conflict and, more recently, to social demonstrations harshly repressed by the police. He stressed that those responsible should be held to account, insisting on the need to “end impunity”.

The United States supported the peace agreement with the FARC, which allowed the disarmament of 13,000 guerrillas. But the government of President Duque, responsible for its implementation, continues to question the impunity it would offer to those guilty of the most serious crimes.

The Secretary of State acknowledged the progress made in the implementation of the agreement, although he noted that “more needs to be done to increase and strengthen the presence of the state in rural areas”, where the violence continued after the dismantling of the guerrillas.

With AFP

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