Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, has offered his congratulations to Gustavo Petro on his victory in the Colombian Presidential election.
The election of Petro along with his running mate, Vice-President elect Francia Márquez, represents an important opportunity to inject fresh momentum into the Colombian peace process, and address human rights issues and those of workers.
The Wicklow TD said:
“I want to welcome the election of a new Colombian President and Vice-President.
“President-elect Petro is the first leftist President of Colombia and his running mate, Vice-President elect Francia Márquez, is an award-winning defender of human and environmental rights, and the first black woman to be elected to fill the post of Vice-President.
“I recently visited Colombia as part of a ‘Justice for Colombia’ observer delegation of parliamentarians and trade union leaders. We met with a wide ranging and representative array of groups, including members of the Colombian government, signatories to the 2016 peace agreement, which ended five decades of a civil war that had resulted in over a quarter of a million deaths and had left seven million people displaced.
“We also met with members of the UN Verification Mission, representatives of the Truth Commission, along with Ambassadors from Ireland, Britain, and Norway, one of the guarantor countries to the peace agreement, and victims of reported cases of state violence committed under the outgoing government.
“What was and remains clear is that the Colombian peace process faced considerable challenges under the Iván Duque presidency. Some 320 former combatants have been murdered since 2016 peace agreement along with countless human rights and environmental defenders, who have faced violent suppression throughout Colombia.
“Implementation of the peace agreement has advanced far slower than hoped, particularly in the area of comprehensive rural reform. Advancing the rural reform programmes has the potential to contribute to easing extreme inequalities.
“But to date, insufficient change has materialised in the specially-designated-zones, selected due to their historic state abandonment and high levels of conflict. There are opportunities for the Perot government to make significant advances in this area.
“It is critical that Ireland faces up to its human rights responsibilities in Colombia, and that the government does not use the war in Ukraine as an excuse to ignore previous human rights abuses at the Cerrejon coal mine to allow the ESB to revert to importing coal from a mine that has been implicated in horrendous instances of human rights abuses.
“There has also been significant state violence. Last year’s violent suppression of popular protests during the national strikes which took place in Colombia led to state implication in murders, sexual assaults, and serious assaults, with many protestors left with permanent injuries.
“There is no doubt that the incoming government faces serious challenges. But I believe that it is a time for optimism. It is a time to look forward with hope, and renewed vigour and commitment to the peace process.”