Colombia wants peace and will not be intimidated by ex-FARC criminals sheltered in Venezuela

Front pages in Colombia on Aug. 30 led with the news that former FARC leaders were taking up arms again against the government. (Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP/Getty Images)
Front pages in Colombia on Aug. 30 led with the news that former FARC leaders were taking up arms again against the government. (Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP/Getty Images)

Colombia stands united in the face of a small number of criminals who want to sidetrack the historic transformation that is underway. A few days ago, this group of narco-terrorists posted a video announcing the creation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, using the same name of the illegal armed group that signed the peace agreement in 2016 with the government.

The leaders of this small group of criminal dissidents are former FARC members who knowingly trafficked drugs before the start of my administration and continue to do so to this day. This is their latest attempt at thwarting Colombia’s progress on peace. They will not succeed.

It is important to emphasize that Colombia is not facing the rebirth of a new guerrilla movement, as these criminals claim. This is a gang that has been emboldened, sheltered and supported in Venezuela by the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro.

Among these criminals is a drug dealer who goes by the name Jesús Santrich. The United States has indicted Santrich on drug-related charges, and he is on the run from the Colombian authorities. Given these facts, it is most likely that the goal of these criminals is to continue their drug-trafficking activities for greater profits.

We will work to expedite red alerts from Interpol so that no country can host these criminals. If they do, they will be violating Resolution 1373 of the U.N. Security Council, which clearly states that no nation should allow their presence in their territory.

Colombia’s peace agreement marked the beginning of a 15-year long implementation process. We are convinced that any initiative toward the stabilization of the regions savaged by decades of violence and criminality must be supported on an unbreakable bond between justice and security. We have put all our efforts and initiatives under one strategy called “Peace with Rule of Law”.

Our goals are twofold: one, to the former combatants who have followed the path of a lawful life, all the support and our commitment to their safety; and two, to the people living in those regions stricken by decades of violence, we have deployed locally based development strategies against poverty, an effort we have carried out since the first day of my administration. In less than a year, we approved 14 of 16 of these regional strategies.

“Peace with Rule of Law” is our road map to achieve these goals and to fulfill our commitments. We will continue working with our partners to ensure justice and legality for all, without impunity.

Just over one year ago, on inauguration day, I invited my fellow Colombians to move past the fake divisions of “friends and foes” of peace and to join my administration in the construction of sustainable, lasting peace. We are not making politics with peace. We are making peace policy.

But make no mistake: with coca there will be no sustainable peace. Drug trafficking is a major threat not only against our democracy but also against any peace effort.

Let me be clear, the group of narco-traffickers in that video represents just a tiny portion of FARC that never demobilized and never gave up their weapons, money and drug trafficking routes.

Our administration inherited an alarming situation with regards to coca crops. In 2018, the hectares of these illicit crops reached more than 200,000, up from 50,000 a few years earlier. In just one year, we stopped this growing and dangerous trend. We eradicated more than 98,246 hectares, and the total extension has started to reduce for the first time in six years.

Our government will continue to work tirelessly to make the progress Colombians deserve — from enacting agricultural reform, promoting rural development, and seeking justice for victims of terrorism.

Colombia is especially grateful for the continued support of the United States — our closest ally — in helping to strengthen our institutions, increase regional security and deal with the challenges resulting from the turmoil in Venezuela. It's another demonstration of the U.S.-Colombia joint commitment to promoting peace, democracy and justice throughout our hemisphere.

I am sure that as we confront these new challenges, the United States will continue its support.

All Colombians want peace but we need a peace without impunity, without repetition, and one that is built on genuine truth, justice and reparations.

Our administration is committed to guaranteeing the principle of rule of law in all our territory. We will keep fighting any threat and against all the manifestations of crime. My country needs sustainable peace. However, there will be no sustainable peace without the rule of law.

Iván Duque is the president of Colombia.

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