Petro Names Murillo as First Afro-Colombian Ambassador to the United States

˙ Latin America Advisor

WASHINGTON, DC—Luis Gilberto Murillo was tapped by President-elect Gustavo Petro as the incoming ambassador of Colombia to the United States on July 12, 2022. Once confirmed, Murillo would become the first Afro-Colombian official to step into the role as the country’s primary envoy to Washington, the Associated Press reported.

Murillo was former presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo’s running mate during the most recent election cycle in the Andean country. He has U.S. citizenship, which he will have to renounce following his official swearing in after Petro’s inauguration on August 7, 2022.

Murillo, 55, was born in the largely Afro-Colombian province of Chocó, on Colombia’s Pacific coast, one of the country’s poorest regions. He studied engineering in the Soviet Union at the State Geological Prospecting University in Moscow. In 2000, Murillo was kidnapped in Colombia by a right-wing paramilitary group. After being released hours later, he and his family fled to Washington. There, Murillo worked at several international development organizations, including the World Bank.

In 2016, Murillo was named Colombia’s minister of environment and sustainable development during the administration of former President Juan Manuel Santos, for whom he also served as the manager of the Pacific Plan Program. Murillo served twice as the governor of his home province of Chocó, and he worked as the director of the province’s regional environmental authority, Codechocó.

Looking ahead, some of the issues the new ambassador will face include a review of Colombia’s Free Trade Agreement with the United States and revisions to counter-narcotics collaboration, Al Día reported.

Murillo’s environmental experience from his time at the ministry will also likely come into play as the Biden administration seeks to work with global partners on climate change initiatives being spearheaded by former Secretary of State John Kerry. Murillo was part of a research team at MIT until the beginning of this year that seeks solutions to environmental crises from an Afro-perspective, according to Al Día.


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