Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on UN Verification Mission in Colombia

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the UN
New York City
July 19, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President and welcome again to the council today.

I also thank the Special Representative for his briefing today and add my voice of welcome to Foreign Minister Trujillo, High Commissioner Archila, and your whole delegation.

Mr. President, the historic 2016 peace agreement offered a new era of hope to Colombians longing for an end to decades of violence and insecurity. The innovative approaches taken by the Colombian government and FARC to establish a peace accord framework has demonstrated their joint commitment to usher in a new era of shared peace and prosperity.

The United States strongly supports this ongoing joint effort to secure lasting peace that the Colombian people deserve. The Special Representative and the staff of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia are key contributors to this process.

Despite ongoing challenges, progress has been made on implementing the peace agreement. This includes a commitment to reintegration by the Colombian government and the FARC. It includes supporting rural populations to substitute illicit crops, and laying the groundwork for transitional justice. It also includes coordination on security and social welfare for ex-guerrillas, and ensuring the protection of civil society leaders.

Recent joint visits by the government and FARC representatives to four of the 24 Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration sites demonstrated both parties’ concerns over the future status of these sites, and to maintaining security and strengthening social and economic conditions for these communities in transition.

These positive steps are historic, but Colombia and its international partners must remain vigilant in addressing ongoing barriers to lasting peace. For example, narcotraffickers and illegal armed groups are seeking to derail the peace process to profit from the resulting instability and chaos.

In Colombia and elsewhere, the illicit production and trafficking of cocaine is linked to organized crime, illegal financial flows, and corruption. It poses a threat to public health and safety in Colombia, throughout Latin American, and around the world.

President Duque and his administration have demonstrated their resolve to expand counternarcotics efforts. Thanks to President Duque’s aggressive eradication efforts, Colombian coca cultivation and cocaine production decreased for the first time since 2012. Colombia destroyed over 60 percent more coca in the first four months of 2019 than during the same period in 2018. In the first four months of 2019 alone, the Colombian government seized nearly 145 metric tons of cocaine.

The United States remains committed to working with the Duque administration to pursue a whole-of-government approach to counternarcotics, rural development, and rural security, with a shared goal of reducing coca cultivation and cocaine production in half by the end of 2023. These efforts directly support peace implementation.

We are encouraged by the Colombian government’s efforts to extend its presence into rural, conflict-affected areas, which will bring much needed justice, economic support, and security to vulnerable populations.

The United States is deeply concerned by credible reports of ongoing violence against human rights defenders, members of the press, and social leaders, which members of this Council heard about firsthand during our visit to Colombia last week. We renew our call on the government to redouble its efforts to protect social leaders and members of vulnerable populations across Colombia, and we reiterate our support for Colombia’s efforts to ensure that these leaders can safely accomplish their vital work in support of a just and lasting peace.

Mr. President, a transitional justice system that promotes peace and meets victims’ demands for the pursuit of truth and justice is essential for Colombia’s peace process. We view the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, or JEP, as vital to addressing war crimes and human rights abuses.

It is imperative that this system, so critical to a just and durable peace, operates as intended, to redress serious conflict-related crimes, that it is not inappropriately used by common criminals seeking to elude the regular criminal justice system, and that its operations take into account, as appropriate, Colombia’s international legal obligations.

A well-functioning JEP will help ensure accountability for crimes committed by the FARC and state actors, and provide justice for victims including by providing access to reparations.

As Colombia continues to implement its peace plan, it is also demonstrating regional leadership by recognizing interim President Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, and by supporting more than 1.5 million Venezuelans fleeing the man-made crisis in Venezuela. Colombia is supporting this vulnerable population by granting temporary residency and work permits, and by facilitating access to social services.

The Venezuelan people and regional leaders know that the illegitimate Maduro regime is singularly responsible for the chaos that has enveloped the country. Maduro continues to undermine democratic institutions, oppress democratic actors, carry out the systematic and violent repression of human rights, and engage in rampant and widespread corruption.

While visiting a migrant center in the border town of Cucuta on April 14, Secretary of State Pompeo and President Duque heard personal stories of hardship from Venezuelans who had fled their homeland due to severe shortages of food, medicine, and basic consumer goods. To date, more than four million Venezuelans have fled their homeland due to Maduro’s senseless cronyism and wanton violence.

Mr. President, the peace in Colombia provides a stark contrast to the situation in Venezuela. After more than 50 years of violence, the Colombian people have entered an auspicious new chapter in which future generations will no longer have to experience the hardships of armed conflict. The United States stands firmly with Colombia to further strengthen its peace gains.

Thank you, Mr. President.