Duque urges successor to maintain Nato, US relationships

By Mar Marín

Lisbon, Jun 28 (EFE).- Colombia must maintain its strategic relationship with Nato and the United States, Colombian President Ivan Duque told Efe in an interview Tuesday, in which he said he was in favor of Sweden, Finland and Ukraine joining the Alliance.

With his tenure coming to an end in little over a month, Duque discussed the next chapter of Colombian politics under the leadership of the country’s first ever left-wing president, former guerrilla Gustavo Petro, as well as violence and foreign policy.

The country must maintain relations with Washington “based on shared principles and values”, Duque said, adding that they are at their “peak”.

Colombia is the only Latin American nation that is a strategic partner for Nato, a position which he said was enshrined as a “state policy”.

“Although we are not a full member, our responsibility is to accompany the decision making of an organization that proposes the best practices in security and defense”, Duque added in an interview with Efe in Lisbon, where he was attending the United Nations Oceans Conference.

Duque supports Sweden, Finland and Ukraine’s accession into Nato “because no country can curtail, intimidate or threaten” another if it is part of a multilateral security and defense mechanism, and urged his successor to maintain that stance after he leaves office.

“It seems to me that the strategic relationship with Nato must be maintained,” he said.

The political heir of former right-wing president Álvaro Uribe, Duque has held a “cordial” meeting with Gustavo Petro because, while they “may have differences on many issues”, they both “are interested in the welfare of the homeland”.

It is for that reason that he appreciates Petro’s offer to open a dialogue – “I view the process positively”, he said – and dismisses criticism from certain right-wing segments.

“There are extremist sectors everywhere, but extremism is not good at all”, he pointed out. Colombia needs “the capacity to dissent calmly and intelligently”, he said.

Duque views Petro’s victory as part of a “process that had been brewing” and said he hopes that the next government “maintains that spirit of achieving an interpretation of the needs of all Colombians” and sends “clear signals” that “economic freedoms and private initiative will continue to enjoy great dynamism in the country”.

With the handover of power around the corner, Colombia will soon learn the conclusions of the Truth Commission, the result of three years of work featuring testimonies of thousands of people who lived through the armed conflict that afflicted the country.

“We will look at the report, we will read it and we will give our opinion on it”, Duque said, warning that “the truth cannot have biases, nor ideologies – it cannot have prejudices”.

“In Colombia we have had legal and law enforcement forces that defend the Constitution and the law, and we have had terrorism that has tried to muzzle and silence the voice of a democratic people,” he said.

“I hope that a focus on the truth is absolutely clear that in Colombia there were never any revolutionaries, because a revolutionary does not have a license to assassinate,” he said.

“There are no right-wing or left-wing assassinations. Murder is murder,” said Duque, who has closed ranks in defense of his political mentor, Uribe, amid accusations of fraud and bribery.

One of the most serious cases in recent Colombian history – the killing of civilians passed off by the army as combat casualties in the country’s civil conflict, known as so-called “false positives” – occurred under Uribe’s rule.

“Any individual conduct of a member of the Public Force that goes against the constitution and the law must be rejected and exemplary sanctions must be demanded, but not generalization, because it has been used by some sectors that have wanted to stain the truth”, Duque said.

After four years in office, Duque said he is not concerned with popularity indexes provided by polls – “popularity matters little to me” –, and rejects criticism for the violence unleashed during his mandate: some 930 human rights leaders have been murdered since 2018, according to the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (Indepaz).

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