PRESIDENT DUQUE: (In progress) (Via interpreter) I would also like to greet Ambassador Goldberg, Mr. Brian Nichols, Mr. Juan Gonzales, and all the members of your delegation. Thank you. Thank you very much for supporting our country, Mr. Secretary, for being with us here. And I would like to extend a very warm welcome to Colombia by giving you the floor for you to address the country, and to thank you for the very important meeting we just had where we addressed many topics. Welcome to Colombia.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Inaudible) a todos. Mr. President, it is wonderful to be with you, a valued friend of the United States, and also to be back in Colombia. We have no better ally on the full range of issues that our democracies face in this hemisphere – indeed, beyond this hemisphere, as I’ll mention in a moment.
We have a partnership that is one of our deepest and one of our longest standing in this hemisphere. It touches on virtually every aspect of our lives – our economies, our security, our efforts to build a more democratic and equitable hemisphere. And it’s grounded in very vibrant ties between our people.
The range of events during my visit, I think, reflects just how comprehensive our relationship is and how closely we’re collaborating on the most pressing challenges we face. And as the president and I were discussing at some length, in a sense the central theme of this trip is how we can work together to make democracies work for our citizens. That is the test that we are committed to meet. It’s a central goal for President Biden, for our foreign policy, and our close friendship with Colombia. So let me highlight just a few of the challenges that we talked about today, and that we are tackling together.
First, of course, we’re working together to beat back COVID-19. The United States is proud to have donated more than $80 million in funding to Colombia to support a response, and six million safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine doses. This week we’re going to hit a milestone. We will have delivered 200 million safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine doses to more than a hundred countries around the world. And, of course, we’re going to do a lot more. Working together with COVAX, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and partner countries, we are committed to sharing and donating over a billion vaccine doses where they’re needed most, free of cost, and without any strings attached.
In addition, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is supporting Colombia’s National Public Health Institute in establishing the first public health emergency operations center in South America. Our institutions are collaborating to train field epidemiologists, bolster emergency preparedness and response, build laboratory capacity, and improve the way we use data to inform public health interventions. All of these are critical building blocks for health security and will put us in an even stronger position going forward.
This is in Colombia’s interests, it’s in the region’s interests, it’s in the United States’ interest, it’s in the world’s interest because, as we know, as long as the virus is spreading anywhere, it’s a risk to people everywhere.
Second, we are working hand-in-hand to address regional migration challenges. As you know, we will be convening – and I’m grateful to Colombia, to the president, to the vice president for convening a regional migration meeting later today. Colombia has shown remarkable generosity in hosting approximately 2 million Venezuelan migrants displaced by the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis.
And Mr. President, I must say I applaud you for your leadership and vision on this issue. The decree that you signed in March, which grants 10-year temporary protected status, or TPS, for Venezuelans in Colombia – and it fosters their social and economic integration – is quite simply a model for the region, and in many ways a model for the world. Thank you.
With assistance from the United States, more than 1.3 million Venezuelans in Colombia have started the TPS registration process.
We both recognize that the unprecedented migration challenge that we’re facing in our hemisphere requires regional cooperation and coordination and shared responsibility. That’s what our meeting this afternoon is about, that’s what the work we’re doing together is about, and I think we’ll have some concrete steps to announce to meet this challenge later today.
Third, Colombia is a key partner in addressing the most pressing global challenge we face, and that, of course, is the climate crisis. In a country where 75 percent of emissions come from deforestation and agriculture, we’re working directly with local farmers to find ways that are sustainable, both for the environment and for local livelihoods. To give just one example, USAID’s Paramos program, forest program, is working with 19 Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities to protect 500,000 hectares of Colombia’s forests. That’s a collaboration that’s already generated 6.2 million tons of carbon offsets.
These efforts will help Colombia meet the ambitious targets that it has set of net-zero deforestation by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. And we hope that Colombia’s leadership will inspire others to reach even higher when we all meet at the COP26 meeting in a few weeks. Simply put, the shared planet, the shared future, depend on it.
Fourth, the United States remains fully committed to working with Colombia, on implementation of the peace accords. We’re working with our Colombian allies to extend the presence of the state into rural communities, not only to provide greater security, but to expand economic opportunity and to improve social services like education and health care, which are critical to people’s needs and to advance the accords.
This aligns in many ways with the approach the United States is bringing to the question of civilian security. Even as we strengthen law enforcement tools and cooperation with Colombia, we will focus as well on addressing the root causes of narcotrafficking and other security challenges such as inequity, corruption, impunity. It means investing in substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery for those struggling with addiction, both to reduce the ravages that illicit drugs produce but also to reduce the demand in the United States that fuels so much criminal activity. It means investing in economic and educational opportunities for young people who might be drawn into illicit activity because they have no other choices. It means training local prosecutors and judges so they have the capacity to try and win cases, and having laws that make it harder, not easier, for corruption to undermine accountability efforts and the trust of our citizens.
We welcome President Duque’s commitment to establish 16 seats in the house of representatives for conflict victims, which will give an important voice to its 9 million registered victims, particularly the Afro-Colombian indigenous communities, which are chronically underrepresented.
On human rights, we agree that accountability is critically important – accountability for the most grave human rights violations and abuses committed during the country’s conflict, accountability for any abuses committed in response to protests earlier this year, and, of course, accountability for those responsible for attacks on human rights defenders, journalists, and other civil society leaders. Ending impunity as we know it is also one of the best ways to prevent more abuses going forward, and we’re committed to continuing to work with Colombia to strengthen the robust mechanisms to protect human rights defenders and journalists, including the early alert system, so that they can deliver on the protection that they promise.
We also spoke about the many fields where we can promote more inclusive economic opportunity that benefits working families in both of our countries, building on the recent visit to Colombia of our Development Finance Corporation and President Biden’s national – deputy national security adviser for international economics.
The bottom line is this: We see a massive opportunity for deeper collaboration and broad-based growth, from cloud computing to health technology to agriculture. And the Build Back Better World partnership will offer a chance to seize on these and other areas of complementary strength in the months and years ahead. We look forward to digging into many of those issues with our Colombian partners tomorrow at the High-Level Dialogue.
I could go on because we covered so much, probably even more than I was able to get in, but I think that’s simply a reflection of the depth and breadth of this relationship, this partnership, one that we are grateful for.
Thank you. Mr. President.
PRESIDENT DUQUE: (Via interpreter) (In progress) Thank you very much, Secretary Blinken, for your kind words. And once again, I would like to reiterate our gratitude for your visit and the team that has come with you. Let me underline that this meeting has been very important for many, many reasons, but the first being, Mr. Secretary, because next year we will celebrate 200 years of bilateral relationship, 200 years of building together. And in the last 20 years, we have seen that it has translated into a bipartisan, bicameral relationship with the United States. And I was telling you earlier that Colombia was the first ex – or former Spanish colony to be recognized as a republic by the United States in 1822. And I also told you that in the last 30 years we have had to face, together, many challenges. And Colombia has made progress in many, many fronts thanks to the support that we have received from the United States.
These 200 years of celebration are, for me, the main axis of a relationship that must continue to move forward. And that is why you mentioned first what we discussed on how to deal with COVID-19, and let me repeat our deep-felt gratitude for the vaccines donated by the United States. We appreciate them, we are grateful, and they have saved many lives. And that is the result of this alliance, of this partnership.
We also value what you said about granting our team at the National Health Institute that has some of the best field epidemiologists in the Americas – and additional certification as well as the construction of an emergency response center that has to do not just with the current juncture, but also to deal with future pandemic threats that are very likely.
I would also like to say, in this regard, that one of the most important areas of collaboration has been the exchange of experiences, and above all, vis-à-vis a massive vaccination that in turn promotes a safe economic reactivation. And that is why I would like to underline the B3W strategy launched by the United States, Build Back Better World, that we discussed not long ago here in Bogotá with a team led by David (inaudible) from the White House.
So the idea is for our economy to grow above 7 percent this year, and we are hoping for more. But doing it also means attracting investment, investments that will bring about well-being and opportunity. And the concept that you have developed of friend-shoring, of bringing investments in other places of the world to settle in the friendly nations with whom you have a commercial and structural alliance in the area of investment is, for Colombia, a wonderful opportunity. And that is why we want to be first in the strategy.
I also want to underline what we discussed in respect of migration and avail myself of this opportunity to thank you for the economic and technical support provided by the U.S. through your cooperation agency called USAID – where these cards that I showed you on the TPS that we are handing out – have also been funded with U.S. support. And we hope to distribute the first million of these cards before the end of 2021, and in the first half of next year, we will have distributed this ID card to 1.8 million migrants.
But I also want to thank the United States for contributing resources and have disbursed these monies faster than other donor countries to deal with specific situations of the migrant population in our country. I believe that the conference that we will have this afternoon at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will also help us find a way out among them – those related to a multilateral effort to crack down the trafficking of migrants, inducing many people to move to border areas with deceit and charging them money – and what you have said – our work will be joint work.
The third element I want to underline has to do with the – with combating the climate crisis. Both of our countries will go to Glasgow with our agendas. We have already made our goals public. We want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51 percent by the year 2030, be carbon-neutral by the year 2050, and also to attain the goal of making sure that 30 percent of our territory will be declared as protected areas.
And we have also seen the interest of the U.S. Government in funding part of these efforts and see how, through natural conservation, contracts as well as contracts whereby we can promote silvopasture and forestry efforts – will represent an income for different communities, and also encourage things as important as energy transition, circular economy, and the initiative launched two years ago in the 1 Trillion Trees-worth initiative. And we committed to plant 100 million trees, and we will close this year with 120 million trees planted.
I also wish to underline that thanks to this meeting, as you well pointed out, Colombia has the peace of mind of representing 0.6 percent of all global CO2 emissions or greenhouse gas emissions, but ours is one of the countries most affected by the effects of climate change. Therefore, our call is if a country like Colombia that represents 0.6 percent of global emissions makes these decisions that are very clear decisions that will be supported by the climate action law currently under consideration by the congress of Colombia, this is an invitation to other countries of the world to follow suit.
And I want to thank you, Secretary Blinken, for supporting the construction of peace with legality. We have received a lot of support from USAID, and this year we will have issued 50,000 land titles handed over in three years and two months, and this is the biggest land titling effort in previous presidential administrations. And in this strategy, we have the multipurpose cadaster, where you have also contributed significant resources, and our idea is to update 50 percent of the national cadaster and have a multipurpose dimension of 170 (inaudible) municipalities historically affected by violence.
We have also made great headway in humanitarian demining, and in the last three months and two years, as I told you earlier, we have demined over 45 percent of all the demining work executed in Colombia. And the progress in the area of the victims law and decree issued so that the 16 seats of congress be for victims and not for the victimizers also validates our commitment. And I also thank you from the bottom of my heart for the message on which you insist, which is building peace – cannot be done with impunity. And that is why we must have the ability to sanction the cruelest and most unacceptable crimes. That is also part of the consolidation of the true reparation and redressing of victims.
And you mentioned Colombia’s commitment to human rights not only with a public policy – but as we have expressed repeatedly in the past, we have zero tolerance with any wrongdoing by any members of our security and public forces as regards human rights. Any wrongdoing, we will have zero tolerance – but as we discussed earlier – zero tolerance with vandalism, zero tolerance with the attacks against our public forces, and zero tolerance with any attack on our institutions. Clearly, we have a road where we can continue making headway – the High-Level Dialogue – and tomorrow, we will have that process once again, a process that is very constructive where we look at all the public policies as well as bilateral interest.
But what is truly important is something that I want to mention here and now, Secretary Blinken, and it is that today, with you, we have reaffirmed a relationship that dates back 200 years, and we are – our countries are friends, allies, and brothers in the defense of many values, and will continue being so when we defend democracy throughout the region. Denouncing the atrocities of the Nicolás Maduro regime, denouncing the corruption networks – and therefore the importance – of the extradition of Alex Saab as well as “El Pollo” Carvajal, so that they cooperate with U.S. authorities to unmask and unveil everything that lies behind the regime that has brought so much pain and suffering on the people of Venezuela.
So once again, Secretary Blinken, our gratitude, and I am convinced that Colombia and the U.S. are making headway so that this relationship will once again reach a new level in coming years –and also thinking about 200 more years of brotherhood among our nations. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you to the two, the President of Colombia Iván Duque Márquez and the U.S. Secretary of State Mr. Antony Blinken.
We’ll entertain four questions from the media present here today. So Ned Price is the spokesman of the U.S. Secretary of State who will acknowledge the first question, the – in Washington —
QUESTION: Thank you. My first question is for you, Secretary Blinken, in regards to migration. Are you asking the Colombian Government to allow Haitians and other migrants, who are now in Colombia but plan to travel to the United States, to remain in Colombia? And if so, what assistance, financial or otherwise, are you providing to help Colombia bear this burden? And is it fair to ask other countries to assume this burden when they face their own development and social challenges?
And a question for you, President Duque: What cooperation or support is the Colombian Government requesting of the United States to help deal with the surge in U.S.-bound migrants? And more broadly, do you believe the United States is assuming enough moral responsibility and shouldering enough of the burden for this surge in northward migration, especially given the United States’ role in helping to create some of the conditions that have caused the surge, namely drug consumption in the United States and past support for problematic leaders in the region? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, Missy, very much. I’m happy to start, Mr. President. So a few things are important here – and we’ll have more to say about this after we have the meeting that Colombia is hosting this afternoon – but let me just address a few things. First, we have an unprecedented, immediate challenge, unprecedented because we have people on the move from all different parts of our hemisphere. We’ve had the longstanding questions of migration with Mexico; then the Northern Triangle – Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador; Venezuela, where Colombia has been such an extraordinarily generous host; and now Haitian populations, both from Haiti, but even more from Chile and Brazil where they had been established; and, of course, other people on the move – Ecuador, where I just came from, much of this exacerbated by the economic crisis produced in no small measure by COVID-19.
So given that, two things are necessary. One, we have to have a coordinated regional approach with shared responsibility. No single one of our countries can address this, this challenge acting alone, and that’s the principle behind what we’re doing this afternoon and what we’ll be doing going forward.
Second, we have to make sure that even as we are addressing the immediate challenge, we’re actually working as well in the medium term and in the long term on the steps that need to be taken to actually provide a solution and an answer, not simply a near-term fix to the problem at hand. By that, I mean this, and it will go also to your question: We have to be able to more effectively address the root causes of migration, of irregular migration. What is it that is causing people to give up everything they know, leave their homes, leave their families, leave their communities, leave their culture to make an incredibly hazardous journey across our shared continent?
Well, economic opportunity is one of the most significant drivers or, rather, the lack thereof. We have to work on that. Violence, corruption, bad governance, all of these things. And we’re committed to doing that. President Biden is committed to making the investments in resources. And in our focus at the same time, I think we have to do a better job helping countries that are carrying a big part of the burden by being such generous hosts to people from other countries in the hemisphere, help them with that. The United States does a lot already, but I think there should be shared responsibility even beyond our hemisphere, as we see in other parts of the world when there’s a serious migration or refugee challenge.
And then, in the immediate, there are a number of things that we’ll be talking about this afternoon, to include things like voluntary returns with assistance, to see that people return to – if they don’t have a valid protection claim, asylum claim – that they return to the countries that they came from, not necessarily the countries that they are originally from; that we increase law enforcement cooperation against smugglers and traffickers, something we talked about extensively this afternoon; but also that we improve protection screening, referrals, along the way; that we strengthen asylum processing, something that we’re working on in the United States, dedicating more resources to that; and, maybe more in the medium term, expanding legal pathways to migration, existing ones and new ones as well.
So it’s a long way of saying that we’ve got an immediate challenge that we’re working on where, yes, countries have to step up, and all of us take responsibility for different parts of this, but an equal commitment to making sure we’re putting in place the measures, the resources, the focus, to deal with this in a way that really answers the problem.
PRESIDENT DUQUE: Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary, and going to the question that you raised, which I consider is a very important one, I think the most complicated migration crisis in the world that is taking place is taking place in this region, and definitely it’s the Venezuelan migration crisis. We have seen more than 5 million people leaving the country with frozen bones, without access to food or medicine, that have moved to different countries looking for opportunities. We have received in Colombia almost 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants, and we have created a policy framework to address this very complicated circumstance.
I have to express my gratitude to the United States because, since day one, has helped us not only have the right dimension, but also build policies that can address such a challenging situation. And I also have to express the gratitude that the TPS cards, for example, are being produced with the support of the United States, and also the attendance that it has been provided to many children in bordering zones has been supported by USAID.
But I think there’s something that has to be called to the international community. A study that was made by Brookings Institution basically said that when you compare the situation in Venezuela with the Syrian crisis, the money that has been assigned by the international community per migrant has been $3,000 in the case of the Syrian migration crisis – in the case of Sudan, it’s something close to $1600, and in the case of this particular crisis, has been less than $300. Now, who have been the country that have supported, with resources, this situation? I think the U.S. has taken a leadership role. But we need to call the other countries so that they materialize the disbursements on the pledges that they have made in the donation or the donors roundtable. So that’s one part of the question.
The second part of your question is: Have we asked the United States for more support? Yes, and we have been receiving it. And I think as we are able to generate opportunities, this is going to be better managed. And you mentioned about the situation in the rest of the hemisphere and looking to the U.S. southern border. Can that be solved in one single day? No, it can’t. But can we all contribute to policies that can generate opportunities? I believe yes.
And that’s why I praise the initiative called the B3W, Build Back Better World, because it’s going to allow many U.S. corporations that have been working in different parts of the globe to come back to the Americas, come back to the United States, but also come back to the region and be able to establish their factories, generating employment and building opportunities for the people. I think this initiative is very important.
And in the meanwhile, I think we have to address other circumstances that you have also mentioned in your question. In the case of the Haitian crisis, there’s just a pandemic, an earthquake, and an institutional weakening, but also there is not an economic apparatus that is able now to provide opportunities. And I think hemispherically, we need to identify solutions and call all the multilateral agencies like the Inter-American Development Bank – just to mention one – so we can do something there that can dissuade people to move massively to other countries without having a clear perspective on what’s going to happen with their future.
I think those kind of discussions are the ones that we’re going to have today in Bogotá, and we have to think on the short term and the long term. But I want to emphasize that the B3W, in my humble opinion, is a good alternative to generate jobs, investments, and opportunities that can make people stay with good perspectives of hope in their countries and be able to transform their lives for the better. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (In Spanish.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: As you know, we have a long history together of supporting the peace accords, and the United States strongly values them – and not only supporting their achievement, but now supporting their implementation. And I think it’s fair to say there have been very important steps taken – and quite remarkable progress – since the accords were achieved: the demobilization of so many fighters, the political participation of people who are outside the system, indictments of those responsible for serious abuses, the establishment of a truth commission that is going to issue, I think, its report in a few months, a process for finding missing persons from the conflict.
So these are real, these are important, these are significant. The challenge – and the President and I had an opportunity to discuss this as well – is also to move forward even more, and here, too, progress has been made. But we think even more can be done to increase and strengthen the presence of the state in rural areas; to build even greater economic opportunity in rural areas; to move forward, as the president described, on questions of land tenure; and, more broadly, to continue to pursue the integration, the full integration, of indigenous and Afro-Colombian citizens.
So I think there is, on the one hand, a good progress report that we can see on implementation, but hard work remains. Some of this, of course, has been made even more challenging by COVID-19. We recognize that. But the United States very much supports this process. We were going to – we will continue to support it, and we will work closely with the Government of Colombia as well as with the different stakeholder communities to continue to advance its implementation.
MR PRICE: Our next question will go to Shaun Tandon of the AFP.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, Mr. President. Could I follow up with the remarks you made about impunity and accountability? Mr. Secretary, in your speech earlier this morning in Quito, you said that the United States with its democratic allies has been tilted a bit too heavily toward the security side, and there is more that can be done.
As I’m sure you know, there are members of your own party, the Democratic Party, who have talked about a suspension of security assistance to Colombia over the protests this – earlier this year, seeing more accountability there. Do you believe that the security assistance to Colombia is consistent with the values that you’ve been championing?
And Mr. President, if I could follow up as well on that, the message that you gave – the Secretary said that he spoke about the idea of accountability over the protests. Do you have a message on that?
And since we’re on the topic of democracy, could I just also add a question also in this hemisphere, Brazil? There have been a lot of concerns recently. This week, President Bolsonaro, there have been accusations against him regarding the pandemic. He’s spoken about perhaps not respecting the election results next year. I know you were there recently, Mr. President. What would be the message from both Colombia and the United States if there were not respect for the election results next year? Thanks very much.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Happy to start. So let me start with this: The state – the state has some fundamental responsibilities that we strongly believe in. It has the responsibility to protect the right to peaceful protest, and that’s something the United States stands strongly behind. The state also has the responsibility to uphold law and order and to protect the well-being and security and health of its citizens. And we’ve seen the challenges that that can pose, including with regard to the protests that you referred to in Colombia, and the response of the state to protect the right to peaceful protest, but also to make sure that law and order was upheld.
There was, I think, a very important review and then report issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which I think does a good job in laying out how that challenge was addressed here in Colombia. I would note a few things. There are, I believe, something like two dozen or more ongoing investigations of law enforcement accused of abuses. I believe that at least two law enforcement officers have been charged, indicted for homicide.
And importantly, at the same time, we’ve seen the administration of President Duque move forward with important reforms: the establishment of a human rights directorate within the Colombian National Police, human rights training and certification for police officers, a disciplinary code, something the president told me about when we were talking about this also at some length this morning. You may have seen that the national police have new uniforms. One aspect of the uniform is, as the president described it to me, a barcode on the uniform so that if someone wants to identify a police officer, they can hold up their phone to the barcode and do that. That’s a very interesting innovation and one that I’m sure others will look at.
So I think it’s important for all of us constantly to make sure that we are upholding the responsibility to protect that right to peaceful protest, even as we deal with the challenge of making sure we’re upholding law and order. I would note something else. There was, I think, a very important decision issued today by the Inter-American Human Rights Court in the case of Jineth Bedoya, that goes back some years.
And I thought that the president’s response to that case – embracing the review, the decision, and making very clear Colombia’s commitment to upholding, to protecting the rights of women, of journalists, of human rights defenders – is vitally important. We’re committed, for our part, to doing whatever we can to help Colombia implement both the reforms that it’s making and the commitments that the president has made to uphold rights.
PRESIDENT DUQUE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. and also going to some of the aspects of the question, the first issue that you mentioned was security. But I think it’s important to say that when we identified what has been happening in Colombia in the last three years, we saw in 2019 that we achieved maybe the third or fourth-lowest homicide rate in almost four decades. Last year we had the lowest in 46 years, and we expect this year to maintain the trend of keeping homicide’s rates at lowest historical levels.
Kidnapping, that was also one of the most horrendous crimes in Colombia, have reached record lows in this administration. And it is because we have been working throughout the country. fighting every form of criminality. But we have also to recognize that narcotrafficking has always been the fuel of the illegal armed groups that kill social leaders, that try to harm communities, and we have to do a lot to face that negative value chain.
Why? Because more coca means less peace. More coca equals more violence. Last year we reach 130,000 hectares that were manually eradicated, reaching record highs in manual eradication. We had the largest amount of interdictions, with more than 500 tons of cocaine that were seized by the Colombian authorities. And just this year we have surpassed also that number. But we have to do this fight collectively and holistically. It’s not just using the programs in order to substitute or the programs to eradicate, but it’s also creating opportunities for sustainable development in rural areas.
So we see this cooperation with the United States, something that we have to improve every day. And as Secretary said, we’ve recovered responsibility. We have to do a lot from the supply side, and we have to do a lot on the demand side. But I value the partnership that we have facing such a very complex situation.
Now, accountability on human rights, we have said this from the day one of this administration: zero tolerance with any conduct of any member of the force that is against the constitution, the law, or against human rights. And that’s why we have supported the attorney general’s office, the prosecutor general’s office – to advance in all the investigations. And we expect to see a severe punishment if there are conducts that are proven to be made by members of the force. But also, we have said that there has to be zero tolerance with every – any conduct of violence, vandalism, and obviously the attacks and killings of members of the force. Human rights are for everyone, and they all have to be protected. And we have made very important progress presenting before congress reforms in order to be more strict when it comes to wrongdoings of members of the force, but also to provide the right incentives to ascent in their careers.
So those policies are also being implemented, and as Mr. Secretary well pointed out, I think what are we seeing inside the Colombian police with the new directorship of human rights, and also for including in all the levels of training human rights training, is something that we also feel proud of.
And to the last point of your question, I visited Brazil yesterday and before yesterday, and I think Brazil is a very strong democracy in the region. And it’s a democracy that also embraces the values of free enterprise, entrepreneurship, freedom of speech, among many others. And I think Brazil has to be also a partnership in the solutions that we have to build for many, many problems that we face in the hemisphere. So I saw yesterday not only the willingness of President Bolsonaro, but the willingness of the president of the senate and of the house of representatives and local governors all wanting to strengthen those values of democracy and the entrepreneurial spirit are cornerstones of their democracy. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (In Spanish.)
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (In progress) President Iván Duque will take place because we would like to know how the bilateral relationship stands, and also Iván Duque talking about this relationship. The senate raises at hand – it says that let’s re-establish relationships with Venezuela. And I would like to hear your opinion on that.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: President Biden asked me to come here to Colombia today on my first trip to the region as Secretary of State precisely because we and he sees in President Duque a very valued friend of the United States, and as I said, we see in Colombia one of our most important allies in dealing with the many challenges our democracies face in this hemisphere and beyond. The President, President Biden, has described Colombia as the keystone to our shared hemisphere. We strongly believe that, and the President wanted me to come here to reaffirm the fundamental importance that we attach to the partnership between the United States and Colombia. That’s the message that I shared on behalf of President Biden with President Duque today.
PRESIDENT DUQUE: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) position of Colombia as regards Venezuela is the – is a position of fraternity, of brotherhood. The most important gesture in migration policy worldwide that we have seen in the continent’s recent history is the one we have shown with the people of Venezuela by taking in over 1.8 million migrants who are fleeing the most brutal of dictatorships, a dictatorship that has led 95 percent of that country to be impoverished. And we have done so precisely because we have a historic relationship with the people of Venezuela.
Second, it’s very important to bear in mind that when our administration started, we had no ambassador to Venezuela in Caracas, and the government that preceded mine had publicly declared that they would not acknowledge the results of the fraudulent elections with which the dictator hoped to perpetuate himself in power. And on top of that, we have acted multilaterally, as was the case in the Lima Group, and as we have done within the framework of the Organization of American States, and as we have done in every multilateral instance. We have – we opened our borders in June, and we have seen how the pressure by citizens in border areas is to re-establish on that side of the border the possibility of coming to our country to acquire goods and services.
In that regard, we have said that we will rigorously facilitate, as we have done, that the people of Venezuela have access, given all the shortages in Venezuela. But there’s one thing where we can make no mistakes, and it is that what Colombia will not do is to acknowledge a dictatorship that is corrupt, that is also based on narcotics trafficking. Colombia has recognized, as has the U.S. Government and over 50 countries, an interim government that represents the democratic resistance that has stood up to the brutality of that regime. And that is why we will not stop defending our democratic charter or the values in which we believe.
To the extent that I am the president of Colombia and in defense of the democratic charter and in defense of the values that we have built together with many, many countries supported on a denouncement against a dictatorship before the International Criminal Court, we will not recognize him. Recognizing him would be to falter and stop defending the values that we have defended. That would be giving in to the misery that an entire people has lived because of all the heinous things that the dictator has done.
And that is why, in my capacity as president of the republic and the person responsible for leading our international relationships, we will continue building through multilateralism, and through democracy we will continue to build. But we will not cease to raise our voice against the dictatorial regime of Nicolás Maduro, and we will continue to defend the democratic resistance because what Venezuela needs are free elections with detailed international supervision that will allow the people of Venezuela to recover its destiny, to recover its future, and to be able to build opportunities once again. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Mr. President of the Republic of Colombia, Mr. Iván Duque Márquez, and the U.S. Secretary of State, and we hereby close this press conference. And we thank you all for joining us, as well as all those who followed us over our social media. We would like to ask everyone to please wait in your seats while the U.S. delegation exits the room. Thank you very much.