Thank you, Mr. President, and welcome Foreign Minister Trujillo .
Since the signing of the historic 2016 peace agreement, Colombia has taken several important steps and has become an inspiration for peace not just in the region, but around the world. The UN Verification Mission in Colombia has been vital to this success, and we welcome the Colombian government’s continued support for the United Nations.
Colombia’s implementation of the accord is now at a critical juncture and much of the most difficult work still lies ahead.
Mr. President, effective government agencies that provide security and government services in remote areas are critical to sustained peace. We support the government’s efforts to expand its presence in conflict-affected areas to keep illegal armed groups and criminal organizations from replacing the FARC and creating new sources of violence.
We also urge the government to strengthen institutions and programs to prevent the recruitment of children into armed groups.
Mr. President, we too, remain deeply concerned about the continuing attacks against social leaders and human rights defenders. We encourage the government to redouble its efforts to protect these vulnerable members of society, and continue to protect, support, and empower recently displaced Colombians.
Ensuring meaningful justice for victims and accountability for the crimes committed during so many years of armed conflict is also vital to reconciliation.
We welcome efforts to strengthen accountability for war crimes and violations and abuses of human rights. Colombia must ensure that those responsible are held accountable, including when appropriate through prosecution and the imposition of sentences proportionate to crimes committed. Accountability should be for all, whether the crimes were committed by the FARC, paramilitaries, or state agents, including the military in Colombia.
The United States views the accord’s transitional justice system, including the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, as critical to meaningfully address war crimes and human rights abuses and violations in Colombia.
We welcome the Colombian government’s efforts to ensure that the law implementing the SJP complies with the 2016 peace accord, the Colombian constitution, Colombia’s democratic institutions, and Colombia’s obligations under international law. We reaffirm the importance of Colombia promptly passing the SJP statutory law to ensure it has a solid legal framework to operate effectively and independently.
Mr. President, the partnership between Colombia and the United States has never been stronger.
The United States continues to work with the Colombian government to dismantle criminal organizations and curtail narco-trafficking, including by cutting coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia to half by the end of 2023.
Colombia has also demonstrated its strength as a regional leader by supporting the legitimate interim government in Venezuela, led by Juan Guaidó, and hosting more than 1.5 million Venezuelans fleeing the man-made crisis in their country. More than 700,000 of these Venezuelans have been granted temporary residency permits, facilitating their access to social services and allowing them the right to work. We are grateful for these efforts.
Mr. President, the people of Colombia know better than most that peace is precious but fragile. The United States stands firmly with the people of Colombia as they build a strong and prosperous future.
I think you for your attention.