20 de julio de 2019
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Santos administration left no money for peace projects, Colombian VP says

By Jaime Ortega and Daniel Suarez

Bogota, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez said in an interview with EFE that former President Juan Manuel Santos's administration spent more money on public relations to promote the peace accord he signed in 2016 with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group than it did on carrying out the peace projects that were agreed upon.

During an interview in Bogota, Ramirez also said that the administration of President Ivan Duque is not obstructing the peace accord and that his predecessor lowered his guard in the fight against drug trafficking.

Q: Let's start with the peace accord. Officials of the previous administration criticize Duque because they think he's not doing enough to implement it. What do you think?

A: Look, what's most important is to say that this administration is absolutely responsible in the way it works for the country. This is an administration that will never be so irresponsible as to put sticks in the wheels of the agreement...What happened is that the previous government spent much more on public relations to promote the accord than it invested in the resources needed to implement the accord in national territory.

Q: The former High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo recently said that the peace accord is still alive thanks to Congress and the courts. Is that so?

A: What I would say is that the accord had its defects, that it left things out and that at any rate, thanks to Colombian institutionalism, we're all working to correct these problems...Achieving true peace in Colombia needed and continues to need a serious political decision taken to end drug trafficking, something the previous government never did. On the pretext of being occupied with peace negotiations, the administration let down its guard in the fight against drug trafficking, though aware there can be no peace as long as there is drug trafficking in Colombia.

Q: What is being done to improve that situation, for example in Catatumbo and in Nariño?

A: The first thing being done is to work with farm hands in coca-growing areas to guarantee them productive employment that provides them with an income, a legitimate livelihood, a licit livelihood, and that costs the government a pile of money - and yet we're doing it. Why? So we can keep eradicating coca crops around the country.

Secondly, we're increasing the government's eradication efforts. You know that among the decisions taken by the previous government was the suspension of crop fumigation, and that fumigation, it has been shown, was the most effective way to fight drug trafficking in Colombia. But since fumigation was suspended, we must now eradicate coca by hand.

Q: Will the government insist on the aerial spraying of glyphosate?

A: This is a government that is totally convinced that the war on drugs must be pursued without hesitation.

If we don't end drug trafficking, then drug trafficking will end much of our democracy and the institutionalism of this country.

Q: Many Colombians seem fed up with the massive immigration of Venezuelans, and at the same time, the government lacks the resources to help them. How do you see this situation?

A: Well it's really very delicate. I see this as Colombia's biggest challenge at the moment, both in foreign policy and internal matters, because right now there are 1.5 million Venezuelans in Colombia who are putting a lot of pressure on the country.

We recall that many of the Venezuelans coming to this country are sons and daughters of Colombians who went there in the past. There are people who ask "why don't they close the border?" but it's not that simple. If they're children of Colombians, they are also Colombians and by right can return to the country from which their parents emigrated 20 or 30 years ago.

First, we must make sure we get a response from the international community...with funds for humanitarian aid that we hope will be more generous...because up to now that aid has not been very generous.

And second, the international community must also get involved in solving the problem of Venezuela; we can't keep letting the time go by, knowing that all the time that passes works in favor of the illegitimate and criminal dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro.

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