Colombian President Gustavo Petro met with Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Monday, in New York. The Colombian president has been in the US since Saturday to participate in the annual UN General Assembly on September 19. During his visit to the Big Apple, Petro took the opportunity to meet with the Colombian community residing in the U.S. and to hold meetings with other world leaders, including the President of Sweden.
Furthermore, on Monday morning, Gustavo Petro met with leaders at the United Nations to discuss key actions to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals and Targets. In the afternoon, at an event at the Colombian consulate in New York, the president awarded Bernard Aronson the Cross of Boyacá, with the rank of Grand Cross, the highest distinction awarded by Colombia. Aronson served as Deputy Secretary for Inter-American Affairs and was a U.S. Special Envoy to the peace process in Colombia.
Meeting of President Petro with Antonio Guterres
The meeting with Antonio Guterres, attended by the Colombian Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva, served “to discuss the new global strategy on drugs, the environment and the climate crisis, and the Total Peace policy,” as stated by the Presidency on social media.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Peace stated regarding the meeting that “international support for peace in Colombia is being consolidated on the world’s most important stages, thanks to our president.”
President Petro stated that the emergence of fentanyl in the illicit drug market offers “the opportunity for a series of substances that were previously considered illicit, such as cannabis – which is sold in stores in New York, right here next to the UN, just not made in Colombia, to the detriment of our country – and coca leaves, which can also be used for other purposes, to definitively move away from prohibition, as authorized by a series of resolutions from a specific UN commission. We ask that this happen definitively.”
For Gustavo Petro, this is an opportunity for Colombia because this drug, according to his theory, can displace the demand for cocaine. Fentanyl does not require land or cultivation, so it wouldn’t need to be produced in Colombia, as is currently the case with coca leaves. Removing “that violent gasoline from the base of society” would be an opportunity for the country to reconsider its drug policy.
New Drug Policy
Following President Petro’s resounding and widely applauded speech at the United Nations last year, it is expected that in this year’s speech, the president will detail his government’s new drug policy.
It is worth noting that beyond the speeches and underlying ideas, what has been presented by the Colombian government so far in the fight against drugs does not mention “decriminalization”. Some analysts interpret that as a red line which Colombia has not been able to cross in various international forums where the country has explained its approach to reshaping the effectiveness of the fight against illegal drugs.
Meeting with Colombians in the U.S.
During President Petro’s stay in New York, he also had time to meet with the significant Colombian community residing in the United States. There, he received expressions of enthusiasm and gratitude from his fellow countrymen.
During the meeting, held on Sunday, September 17, the president discussed the increase in migratory flows and the issue of migrants passing through the Darién Gap. Gustavo Petro used the opportunity to call for the lifting of the economic blockade on Venezuela, as a measure that would help alleviate the outflow of people from the neighboring country.
Regarding Colombians residing in the U.S., Petro emphasized that the most important thing is for these citizens to gain human rights, and for that, he pointed out that “the diplomatic corps must serve Colombians, the rights of Colombians abroad are the priority of diplomatic work, and that is the first requirement to address this migration issue.”
Gustavo Petro also spoke about the need to manage migration because the United States needs a workforce, and there are thousands of people in Latin America willing to work. “Managing migration is fundamental and should be an agreement with the United States, established quotas for migrants to come here legally, aligning the two needs: the desire to work here and the availability of jobs,” the Colombian president stated.
Finally, in his address to the United Nations, the president affirmed that “migration will not cease if there is no prosperity there, that is the fundamental issue. If there is poverty there, if the waters start to dwindle due to the climate crisis and deserts expand, if there is no possibility of eating there, and if entire societies are additionally blocked, millions and millions of people will come here.”