MS LOPEZ: It is a great pleasure to welcome once again to Bogotá – to Mr. Blinken, the Secretary of State of the United States of America. It’s a great pleasure to have you here.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
MS LOPEZ: Welcome to this integrata center for – not the venezolanos, not the migrants, for the new bogotanos. That’s what they are, that’s how we feel them, that’s how we treat them. As you can see, this is a great common effort between the United States Government, USAID in particular, with the national Government of Colombia and the local government of Bogotá, serving people. We’re only serving them with the registration, the TPS, the identification, which of course was the first step to welcome them legally, to allow them that they can – and to guarantee that they can be here safely and that they are welcome.
But now we are in the next step. Bogotá has the honor to be the city in the entire America that has received more migrants in recent years. It has been a challenge, yes, but it is a blessing too. And the next step is not only legal inclusion, but labor inclusion and social inclusion. We are so glad that 57,000 kids of new bogotanos are right now starting in the kindergartens, in the schools of Bogotá.
So we want to thank you and thank the United States Government, particularly USAID for their support, for the trust in our common work, for having these kind of integrata Bogotá centers. Nine of them are already planned for this year, and also for your support and the United States Government for the labor and education and inclusion of the new bogotanos.
Welcome once again, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Well, thank you so much, Madam Mayor. This is the third time that we’ve met. I have such admiration for the mayor’s extraordinary leadership on so many issues. We first met talking about climate and the incredible work that Bogotá has done on climate change. We’re here today to talk about migration and the challenges that we face together. And in so many of these areas, COVID as well, the mayor and the city have done extraordinary work.
If you step back for a minute – and we’ve talked about this before – we are living through a period in the world where we have more people on the move, displaced from their homes, than at any time in recorded history, more than 100 million people around the world. And here in our own hemisphere, in the Americas, we feel this strongly every day. Guatemalans, Hondurans, El Salvadorans, Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans – so many people on the move, and it creates a tremendous challenge for all of us. What’s changing now is that countries are coming together to take shared responsibility for meeting this challenge, and also, we hope, turning it into a real opportunity.
It’s hard to think of a place where that’s more the case than here in Colombia, where in I think an example both extraordinary generosity but also farsightedness, Colombia has welcomed now almost 2.5 million Venezuelans and is offering temporary protected status for ten years to people from Venezuela. To date about 1.5 million of the Venezuelans who are here have temporary protected status and that means that they’re able to work, they’re able to send their kids to school, they’re able to be productive, contributing members of the community, of society, and we’re not going to have a lost generation of Venezuelans with their kids not able to go to school and parents not able to go to work and put food on the table. So this is quite remarkable.
Here in this place, what we saw today is what really could be a model for many other places, where all in one place people coming to their temporary protected status cards, get services, get connected to schools, get connected to jobs, get connected to support, social services, all here in this beautiful place, but it’s part of the municipality of Bogotá. And it’s a place that works for Colombians and works for Venezuelans, and it – in fact, it works for the citizens now of Bogotá. So it’s a remarkable model.
The United States has been very honored and proud to help in this process. Throughout the crisis in Venezuela, over many years now, we’ve provided nearly $3 billion in assistance, assistance that’s come here to Colombia as well as to other countries: Ecuador, Peru, and so forth. The President announced an additional $350 million in assistance during the UN General Assembly. And some of – most of this is done through the U.S. Agency for International Development which does remarkable work on the ground in some many countries.
And we’re doing it in very practical ways. For example, here, we’ve been able to provide financing for Colombian banks to be able to offer loans to small businesses started by Venezuelans. This is something that benefits them, but it powerfully benefits the community as well, because small businesses are drivers of growth, drivers of progress in all of our communities. So that’s just one example of the practical ways that we’re working in partnership.
But I have to say, Madam Mayor, this is just incredibly impressive. And I have to say it fills me with more hope that we’re able not only to manage this challenge but to do it in a way that’s beneficial to everyone. So thank you for sharing this today. Thank you.
MS LOPEZ: Thank you. Thank you so much. I want to express once again our gratitude on behalf of Bogotá but also as Colombia. Thank you so much for the support – your support and the support of the U.S. Government, to our President Gustavo Petro in our common purpose of (inaudible).
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.