Muchas gracias, Señor Presidente. Thank you, Special Representative Arnault, for your important, detailed briefing today. We warmly welcome Foreign Minister Trujillo and our other distinguished Colombian guests.
The historic peace accord that ended a half century of fighting in Colombia brings us together today. The United States welcomed the unanimous renewal of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia last month. We join the Security Council in our enthusiastic support for peace in Colombia.
But the success of the peace process is, in turn, dependent upon other areas of progress. That said, we believe this is truly a time of re-birth for Colombia.
President Duque said it well when he introduced himself to the General Assembly a couple weeks ago. He identified himself as a member of a new generation of Colombians committed to uniting his country around common goals. The continuing success of peace in Colombia is caught up in the achievement of these goals.
One of the goals the President mentioned is economic and social growth based on democratic institutions. And indeed, the Colombian government is extending governance, justice, and economic opportunity throughout the country. It is providing security, infrastructure, and public services to the rural regions that were most affected by the war. This work is critical to the peace process.
Expanding equal justice in Colombia means ensuring accountability for serious crimes committed during the years of armed conflict. It also means doing more to investigate and prosecute the killing of human rights defenders. We are encouraged by President Duque’s early efforts to protect social leaders and others who are vulnerable in Colombia today. The literal silencing of these important voices undermines the peace process.
Another goal that will help determine the success of peace in Colombia is doubling down on the fight against drug trafficking and the criminality and corruption that flows from it. The news here is good, but progress is incomplete. When President Trump put out the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem during High-Level Week, Colombia was one of the first countries to answer that call. Our Colombian friends stand shoulder to shoulder with us in fighting the epidemic of addiction that afflicts us all. And we understand what a difficult fight it is.
The United States is working to reduce the demand for illicit drugs. Colombia is working hard to reduce the supply, but they must do more. Cocaine production surged last year. This trend must be reversed if we are going to achieve our joint goal of cutting coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia in half by the end of 2023.
Finally, the future of the peace process in Colombia depends on that country’s ability to continue to deal with the massive influx of desperate Venezuelans. In his speech to the General Assembly, President Duque called this crisis a question of the self-determination of the Venezuelan people. We couldn’t agree more. The Maduro regime has robbed the Venezuelan people of control over their lives and their future. The people of Colombia and their government have responded with great generosity to the approximately one million Venezuelans who seek food, medicine, and shelter in their country.
The United States has helped to deal with nearly $55 million in humanitarian aid. But real relief for both the Venezuelan and the Colombian people won’t come until after the Maduro regime. And that day cannot come soon enough. The United States stands with President Duque and all Colombians as they seek to build a more peaceful future. Colombia has emerged as a strong democratic partner for the United States. A partner in building a freer and more democratic Western Hemisphere. We are excited to witness the birth of a new Colombia. And we are committed to help it achieve a peaceful and prosperous future.