Iván Duque: “Peace is not possible by giving perks to the violent, because it only generates new forms of violence” | International
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Iván Duque (Bogotá, 46 years old) has not lost a single second since Gustavo Petro succeeded him as head of the presidency of Colombia on August 7. He is visiting Madrid to participate in an event organized by the foundation of the Nobel Prize for Literature Mario Vargas Llosa, the International Foundation for Freedom. Now, outside of national politics, the former president cultivates his “academic” profile as a member of leadership programs at various universities and study centers (“I am fellow at Oxford University and Florida International University and distinguished fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington,” he says) and wants to focus on promoting environmental protection, although he criticizes Petro’s goal of curbing oil exploration to promote renewable energies. Recently appointed director of the Concordia initiative for the Amazon, he assures that his “obsession is to mobilize the greatest amount of resources from the private sector towards the promotion” of the lung of the planet without forgetting “the defense of democratic values in Latin America” .
P. How do you see the Colombia that Gustavo Petro inherits compared to the Colombia that you inherited from Juan Manuel Santos?
R. We received an economy that was growing at 1.7% in 2017. Last year it grew at 10.7%, the highest growth in its history, and this year we left a growth path above 7%. But to that, we must add that we achieved the greatest expansion of the social protection network in Colombia or free public university education. Today we see that there is a situation of global inflation and that the financial markets are looking with concern at the populist policies that are taking place in many emerging countries. And my concern is that, until August 6, we were seeing placement rates for treasury bonds that were quite low and today they have practically tripled, perhaps because messages have been given that have generated uncertainty.
P. What messages are you referring to?
R. I believe that when a country announces that oil exploration is going to be suspended, it is sending a very dangerous message regarding the sustainability of public finances. I think that insinuating taxes on capital investments is also something that can create uncertainty. Or announce an expansion of public spending for the rural sector financed with treasury bonds.
P. However, the Democratic Center, the party with which he won the elections, was greatly weakened in the last presidential elections. Do you feel any responsibility?
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R. Politics has cycles. The Democratic Center Party, in 2014, disputed the presidency in the second round and later in 2015 had a dismal result in the local elections. Later, when I assumed the party’s candidacy, I led it to presidential victory for the first time. The parties have to generate new leadership.
P. If the Colombian Constitution had allowed it [una reforma parlamentaria eliminó en 2015 la reelección]Would he have stood for election again?
R. Of course I would have. As the newspaper showed Timeon August 6, a day before I finished the presidency, the figures from that last poll gave me 44% [de apoyos en unas presidenciales]. My predecessor stood for reelection in 2014 with 25% and was reelected. Well, with more reason I could have done it too. Surely we would have presented ourselves and we would have won again.
P. Why didn’t you go to the presentation of the report of the Truth Commission [un documento presentado en Bogotá el 28 de junio que contiene más de 30.000 entrevistas con las distintas voces del conflicto armado de Colombia, desde militares y guerrilleros a las víctimas, y que constituye uno de los actos más importantes desde la firma del tratado de paz con la extinta guerrilla de las FARC]?
R. I had a committed international agenda for some time and that was reported.
P. Would you have attended if the date had been changed?
R. Of course. In fact, we tried many ways to find that date. Later I met at the Casa de Nariño [residencia y sede de trabajo del presidente de Colombia] with the president of the commission and we held a joint press conference. I guaranteed the Truth Commission its operation. But obviously I think that in the content of the report there are many aspects that have nothing to do with the search for the truth and that have political tendencies. I appreciate the effort that was made there, but the whole truth is not there, nor is it the whole truth that is reflected in those pages.
P. What do you think of the concept of seeking “total peace” in Colombia that Gustavo Petro defends?
R. I believe that one thing is total peace and another thing is total impunity. I have always believed that peace must be achieved as a consequence of the rule of law. Peace is not possible by giving canonies or privileges to the violent, because the only thing they are going to generate are new forms of violence. Criminal groups have to pay for their crimes and cannot be allowed to keep their fortunes.
P. Do you think that in Colombia the violent are being given perks?
R. In the clan of the Gulf, with its remnants, drug traffickers continue; in the FARC dissidents, there are drug traffickers. I was the first president to extradite members of the ELN for drug trafficking [Ejército de Liberación Nacional], because they are narco-terrorist groups. My Government made a constitutional reform so that neither drug trafficking nor kidnapping were crimes related to political crime and, therefore, they cannot be amnestied.
P. You left Iván Mordisco, the last great leader of the FARC dissidence, for dead. However, a few days ago he reappeared and said that the FARC dissidents are willing to dialogue within the framework of the total peace policy. What do you think?
R. During our Government, many symbols of evil fell and in the case of the operations carried out against Iván Mordisco, Intelligence informed us that he had died in a bombing. And now he goes out to give interviews trying to pose as a great pacifist. He hopefully falls into some action of the military or police forces. That scum doesn’t do society any good by being alive.
P. The UN documented at least 28 deaths during the national strike [las protestas sociales que estallaron en Colombia en 2021]. Do you think your government has done enough to clarify the death of these people?
R. We were working with all the control organisms. Full support was given to the Prosecutor’s Office and full support to the Attorney General’s Office to fulfill its duty. Our Government has always confronted any individual behavior that dishonors the uniform of the public force.
P. How many police officers were prosecuted?
R. We did all the internal investigations. But we also demanded that investigations be made of groups that practiced urban terrorism, that took the lives of members of the Public Force.
P. What do you think of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Colombia and Venezuela?
R. The first thing to remember is that my Government always maintained consular relations, and whoever expelled the consular staff [colombiano] from Venezuela was Nicolás Maduro at the beginning of 2015. We had a fraternal relationship with the Venezuelan people, with a migrant reception program that has distributed a physical document to more than 1.6 million Venezuelans in our country. We had no relationship with Maduro and I was not interested in having one, because when one establishes diplomatic relations with a criminal who is lacerating his people, one ends up being a validator of those atrocities.
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