Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 14, 2020
Thank you Ruiz and Mr. Santiago for your briefings, and Foreign Minister Blum, I also want to welcome you to the Council today – we’re very glad to have everyone join us.
The United States stands with Colombia as we all confront the challenges posed by COVID-19. This being personal commitment for me as well, as when I visited Colombia back in November, I would be remiss not to compliment and acknowledge Colombia’s behavior and their full treatment of respect and acknowledge the dignity that they gave everyone, including refugees and displaced persons in the country. They treated them as family. And Colombians should know that they are a part of our family. USAID is providing $8.5 million to help Colombia respond to the pandemic, and this assistance will help monitor the spread of the virus, provide water and sanitation supplies, manage cases, and more.
The rise in COVID-19 cases is worsening an already fragile humanitarian situation, and it is stretching available health and social services for vulnerable populations. This includes more than 1.8 million Venezuelan refugees and other displaced persons living in Colombia. We welcome President Duque’s call for solidarity and support for Venezuelans in Colombia at this extraordinarily difficult time. Amid these challenges, we welcome the steps taken by the Government of Colombia to ensure continued implementation of Peace Accord programs, and its cooperation with regional and local governments, including officials who recently assumed their posts.
However, we must reiterate the urgent need to protect Colombia’s human rights defenders, social leaders, ex-combatants, rural communities, and other vulnerable populations that have been most affected by ongoing violence. Criminal groups have targeted several high-profile social leaders in recent weeks, coinciding with the onset of COVID-19. Ending this violence is essential, and those responsible must be held accountable. We note Colombia’s continued progress in counter-narcotics efforts, and reiterate our commitment to continued partnership with the Duque Administration to combat the destructive illegal drug trade. The Trump Administration stands fully engaged with the Government of Colombia to reduce coca cultivation and cocaine production, extend state presence, and promote integrated rural development.
We know the significant challenges remain. Implementing rural reforms, reintegrating ex-combatants across the country, and ensuring that victims of conflict continue to be heard, including through Colombia’s transitional justice mechanisms, will not be easy steps. But they must be taken. Allow me just a moment at this time of the crisis to reflect back upon the beginning of my statement, in the progress, in complimenting the progress that the Colombians have made and to let them know that once again, that the Trump Administration will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the government and people of Colombia as they advance towards peace and prosperity.