On September 7, the Inter-American Dialogue hosted a conversation between Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Colombia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Dialogue President, Michael Shifter. The conversation began with introductory remarks on some of the challenges that the new Colombian government, led by president Iván Duque, will have to face.
Minister Holmes Trujillo began by responding to a series of questions from the audience. First, the minister mentioned the Venezuela crisis and that Colombia is acting nationally and regionally by creating a technical group that is evaluating the crisis at the institutional and financial levels. The country is also planning on establishing a humanitarian fund and appointing a special envoy to coordinate multilateral action in the region. Regarding tensions with Panama, Trujillo stated that a special ministerial group would attend a meeting in the coming week to discuss how to settle the commercial dispute between the nations. On the topic of Nicaragua, the minister mentioned that Colombia is ready to take part in achieving a peaceful political solution with the support of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.
“Plan Colombia is one of the most remarkable bipartisan success stories. We cannot let this disintegrate and Colombia will continue to work closely with the US.” @CarlosHolmesTru #ColombiaForeignPolicy pic.twitter.com/KQZqS5t0ps
— The Inter-American Dialogue (@The_Dialogue) September 7, 2018
Turning to domestic affairs, the minister commented on Afro-Colombian representation in President Duque’s administration. He noted that he will work on the legal development of the 1991 constitutional provision that granted inclusion rights to Afro-Colombians. The administration will work on five aspects to improve inclusion: legality, entrepreneurship, equality, sustainability and innovation. In reference to the drug crisis, Minister Trujillo suggested that “Plan Colombia [was] one of the most remarkable success stories [in American policy],” and that the Duque administration would work very closely with Washington on anti-drug efforts, mainly eradication illicit coca plant crop fields while respecting the voluntary agreements on eradication made so far.
On the peace agreement with the the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the minister mentioned that the new administration would implement the agreement with the following changes:
- Drug trafficking will not be considered as a crime connected to political crimes;
- Members of the FARC found in possession of goods or resources that were not declared at the appropriate moment will have face severe penalties;
- Colombia will return to a policy of mandatory eradication of illegal crops while respecting the voluntary eradication agreements made so far;
- FARC members who have recently joined Congress but are found guilty of crimes written in the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute must leave their posts. In such a case, the FARC political party will determine their replacements.
With respect to affairs outside of the region, Minister Trujillo was asked about the recent recognition of Palestine. The minister noted that, given the long-standing tradition of Colombian diplomacy, it would not reverse the previous administration’s decision but that it would not accelerate relations either. Therefore, diplomatic affairs would continue to be based in El Cairo and Tel Aviv. Minister Holmes also mentioned that Colombia’s accession into the OECD was a “good step” but that there were concerns about some requirements that could strongly affect Colombia’s internal affairs.
Finally, the minister touched on a continued and strengthened relationship with the US. Following UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s visit to Colombia, the Duque administration proposed a stronger and more diversified foreign policy. However, Trujillo specified that the new administration would not negotiate a new trade agreement with the US. It would instead use these four years to take advantage of the ones already in place.