Colombia Committed to Peace with FARC, War on Coca; Ambassador to Work with Trump Team (E)
A surge in coca production has cast a shadow over the peace process, but Colombia remains committed to implementing a deal with leftist FARC guerrillas to end a half-century of civil war, Colombian Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzon said in an interview Monday.
Mr. Pinzon, a former defense minister, spoke just days after Colombian police announced the third-largest cocaine bust in the country’s history, seizing 6 metric tons of cocaine in Barranquilla that were said to be bound for Spain. Critics of the peace accord, including conservative former Colombian President Juan Uribe, have cited surging illegal coca production as a main flaw of the landmark peace deal signed in November by President Juan Carlos Santos, Mr. Uribe’s successor, with FARC leaders.
Colombia has stepped up its public criticism of Caracas in recent days, joining the U.S. and a dozen other countries in the region in a letter last month calling on the Maduro government to release political prisoners and hold elections this year.
Acknowledging that Venezuela’s internal crisis is a “delicate subject” for his government, Mr. Pinzon did note the sharp reversal of fortunes in the two countries over the past quarter-century.
“There was a time when it was thought Colombia was on its knees, on the way to becoming a failed state, while Venezuela was one of the richest countries in the world,” he said. “Now we are seen for [meeting] challenges and a model democratic, market economy, while Venezuela has gone in a directly contrary direction.”
Despite the regional challenges, Mr. Pinzon said his government’s priorities remain on the internal situation: implementing the peace agreement, demobilizing and disarming FARC forces, curbing coca production and dealing with war crimes and atrocities committed by both sides in the half-century of guerrilla struggle.
“The implementation is going forward, but we have to keep a close watch on what is going on,” the ambassador said. “The peace agreement was designed to do many things, and we have to see what it will accomplish. If it does not, we have the tools in place to deal with that.” Washington Times