The president’s first speech Gustavo Petro Before the General Assembly of the United Nations, he was full of taunts against the powers. That the war on drugs and the fight against climate change failed and that Latin America is wounded by those flags were just some of the many darts he launched before the plenary session of that multilateral organization, which meets in New York, United States.
Petro outlined before the world the items that he had already outlined in Colombia since his campaign and that he has been confirming with announcements in the month and a half since his administration in the Casa de Nariño. The president was the fifth Head of State of the 193 members to speak before the plenary session, asking him to help “without hypocrisy” the causes of a Latin America that “is bleeding,” according to him, due to the extraction of oil and coal and fumigations to eradicate illicit crops.
Agenda for the jungle, could it be that this time yes?
The atmosphere was the first line of his speech. Petro said that the jungle is burning and that those Latin American forests, in the Amazon that connects the countries of the tropics, are running out. “Nothing more hypocritical than the speech to save the jungle (…) Destroying the jungle, the Amazon, became the slogan followed by States and businessmen”, warned the president.
In addition, the president affirmed that peasants grow coca because “they have nothing else to grow,” an assertion that prompted criticism from his opposition in Colombia. In the words of former President Andrés Pastrana, “Petro declares himself in the UN as the great defender of cocaine.” The criticism was to be expected.
And it is that the president repeated a mantra that is very well known within the country, but that he is barely declaring before the world: that the drug war is a failed causewhich is why it proposes the regularization of substances that the international community has unsuccessfully pursued for more than four decades.
To support this enunciation, he assured that the cocaine it causes “minimal deaths”, while the oil and coal market, he asserts, “can extinguish humanity”. However, addiction is not a simple problem in countries like the United States, where some 100,000 people can die each year from overdoses, as reported by the United Nations, a statistic that between 2021 and 2022 had an increase of 28.5% in the reported cases.
Coca: from enemy to market
In any case, for the president, “behind the addiction to cocaine and drugs, behind the addiction to oil and coal, is the true addiction of this phase of human history: the addiction to irrational power, to profit and money.
His intervention aroused mixed reactions. In the Senate, the former peace negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, celebrated that from Colombia an agenda was set on “the models that must be reconsidered.” However, opponents such as Juan Carlos Echeverry called attention to the fact that “equating cocaine to coal and oil, due to their effects, is to ignore the obvious difference between a hallucinogen and energy sources.”
However, the claim of “government of change” it is not a novelty. In 1996, then President Ernesto Samper had proposed creating a court for drug trafficking cases in the midst of the disagreements that his government had with the United States over the non-extradition of drug traffickers. And for 2017, Juan Manuel Santos said goodbye to the eight interventions of his before that plenary making the same call.
Petro had already expressed to Joe Biden’s emissaries who traveled to Colombia in August his interest in regularizing illicit substances and ending the war on drug trafficking. The president has even slammed the door on the possibility of using glyphosate to combat illicit crops. These issues will enter the first meeting they will hold this Thursday Petro and Joe Biden, In New York.
For that first appointment, the diplomatic teams have been outlining the agenda since this Tuesday and in the repertoire of topics are drug trafficking, regularization and binational cooperation that has been essential for Colombia to receive international economic contributions from the White House.
Forgiving the debt of Latin America
Petro’s speech arose from Latin Americanism and confirms his intention to become a regional leader. In his intervention, he called on the peers of the region to unite to demand that the powers put the interests of the region on the calendar. Among those is that the foreign debt of the states be forgiven so that they can use the resources that they would allocate to pay their outstanding debts with international banks to invest in the protection of the jungle.
The claim: a fund to recover the territories. In Petro’s words, “if they don’t have the capacity to finance the rainforest revitalization fundIf it weighs more to allocate money to weapons than to life, then reduce the external debt to free up our own budget spaces and with them carry out the task of saving humanity and life on the planet”.
In this line, he also requested new resources from the international community. Precisely, the White House special envoy for climate change, John Kerry, asked for 1,000 million dollars a year to create a peace fund for the protection of the jungle.
But its predecessor Ivan Duke had proposed before the Assembly to write off the debt. He did it in September 2021, exactly one year ago, with the premise that organizations – such as the International Monetary Fund – should forgive the pending of the States that fight against climate change.
Even the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, made the same call in the same 2021 Assembly, but the request of the Latin American heads of state has not been heard.
Peace to “save” the human species
Gustavo Petro told the UN that “It’s time for peace”. That peace that he proposes goes through a claim to end the war in Ukraine due to the invasion of Russia – which he says is born from the ambition of the Petroleum- and also to make peace with the planet itself because “we are at war, too, with the planet. Without peace with the planet, there will be no peace among nations.” Even the same pretensions of peace that the Executive claims are born from its confrontation with the war against drug trafficking that it intends to end.
That proposal earned him applause from other progressive sectors of the country, such as the mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López, who considered that “the life and sustainable development of Colombia and Latin America require the end of global hypocrisy regarding the failed war on drugs ”.
The flags of the heads of state before the UN are yet to be chosen. President Joe Biden will speak this Wednesday and his agenda will end up marking the lines of the international community for the next year in which Petro wants to implement the regularization of drugs, while the globe looks at other problems: inflation and the war in Ukraine