Press Release Colombia Latin America and the Caribbean US Foreign Policy World

US Congressional Delegation Led by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Arrives in Bogotá

August 19, 2023

Contact: Dan Beeton, Mail_Outline

Washington, DC — A delegation of US Members of Congress and staff arrives in Bogotá today for a series of high-level meetings with President Gustavo Petro, Vice President Francia Márquez Mina, government ministers, congressional representatives, and civil society organizations to learn about Colombia’s efforts to drive the green transition and deliver “Total Peace” after decades of civil conflict.

The delegation, which includes Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Greg Casar (D-TX), and Maxwell Frost (D-FL), as well as Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) Chief of Staff Misty Rebik, is traveling to Colombia as part of a region-wide delegation sponsored by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“US foreign policy has too often contributed to instability in Latin America. We should be protecting democracy rather than supporting coups, and we should be creating peace and prosperity across the Western Hemisphere rather than replaying the Cold War,” Representative Greg Casar said. “Now is the time to talk about our history, jointly fight the climate crisis, and invest in lasting peace. That is why I’m joining this delegation to Brazil, Colombia, and Chile — to meet, listen, and learn from our counterparts and chart a new way forward.”

The itinerary will kick off with a reception by Vice President Francia Márquez Mina to welcome the delegation to Colombia, to learn about the Vice President’s lifelong struggle for environmental justice, and her vision for the Ministry of Equality and Equity. The itinerary will close with a reception by President Gustavo Petro to learn about his administration’s leading efforts to secure a rapid and just ecological transition in Colombia and around the world. 

In between, delegates will attend a series of high-level meetings to learn about President Petro’s policy of “Total Peace” and the international negotiations to deliver it. These include meetings with the High Commissioner for Peace and key representatives from the team currently negotiating with the National Liberation Army (ELN); Minister of National Defense Iván Velásquez to learn more about the administration’s vision of peace-centered national security; and Minister of Justice and Law Néstor Osuna to learn about the Petro government’s move away from the War on Drugs to ensure justice for communities victimized by violent conflict and organized crime. 

The delegation continues with a series of meetings on the environmental crisis and Colombia’s steps toward a just energy transition. Delegates will meet with Minister of Mines and Energy Andrés Camacho to learn about Colombia’s novel approach to natural resource management to deliver a renewable industrial economy with strong social investments. Delegates will also hear from Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development Susana Muhamad on the administration’s environmental policy priorities, including debt forgiveness for climate action, a possible ban on fracking, and new regulations to protect ecosystems from mining. And delegates will meet with the Black Communities Process (PCN) and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) to learn about how frontline communities across the country are defending their territories from illegal extractive industries and violent encroachment.

Finally, the agenda will continue with a number of critical meetings regarding the Petro administration’s approach to the expansion of social and economic rights. These include such major policies as recognizing public health care and higher education as rights, comprehensive agrarian reform, pensions that value the unpaid domestic work most often done by women, and a labor reform to institute new rights for much of Colombia’s large informal economic sector. Delegates will meet with key Colombian members of Congress at the forefront of the Pacto Histórico’s legislative program, including President of the Chamber of Representatives, Rep. David Racero; Vice President of the Senate, Senator María José Pizarro; Rep. María Fernanda Carrascal; and Sen. Clara López Obregón, among others.

Representative Castro has said: “More than with any other region of the world, the future of the United States is intimately linked with that of our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. As we grapple with transnational challenges – from managing migration to climate resilience – the time has come for a reimagined regional approach that prioritizes multilateralism, effective engagement, and mutual respect.

“For much of the last seven decades, the United States has approached the Western Hemisphere with a Cold War mentality that prioritizes ideological alignment over shared commitments to democracy and freedom. This counterproductive approach has hampered our diplomacy, left many of our neighbors wary of U.S. engagement, and undermined potential progress on development, good governance, human rights, and more. At the same time, our reputation has been damaged by cruel migration policies that hurt vulnerable people and contradict our foundational values. As we move deeper into the 21st century and confront unprecedented challenges, I hope that members of Congress will work with our colleagues in neighboring countries and make policy that is informed by the diverse experiences of our own diaspora communities.

“My family’s American story began when my grandmother, Victoria Castro, came to Texas as a young orphan in the wake of the Mexican Revolution. Her San Antonio relatives raised her in a city defined by Mexican culture, where recent migrants and long-established Hispanic families could chase their American dreams despite the prejudices of the time. Today, the vast and diverse Latino diaspora forms the backbone of communities from San Antonio to Springfield, Massachusetts, and newly arrived immigrants are breathing new life into cities across the industrial Midwest. Congress must learn how to harness America’s immigrant communities as a source of strength.

“My priorities as Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere are to advance inclusive and sustainable development, expand regional economic cooperation to create good-paying jobs at home and abroad, promote a more humane approach to migration, strengthen our bilateral and multilateral relationships, and curb firearms trafficking from the United States into Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. These goals build on the progress I accomplished as chairman of the Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations, and Global Corporate Social Impact, and I’m pleased to be able to continue many of the important conversations that began last Congress.”

CEPR Director of International Policy Alexander Main said:  “Last year Colombians elected, for the first time ever, a leftwing president who is committed to charting a new course for Colombia, one that involves fundamentally different approaches to drug policy and security policy and to the bilateral relationship with the US, including in the areas of trade and security. This represents a critical test for the US government, which has for decades had a deep, strategic relationship with Colombia based on broadly shared goals and which, very often in the past, has sought to undermine, and support the removal of, leftwing governments throughout the region. This historic Congressional delegation seeks to promote a fresh approach to US relations with Colombia and the region, by putting engagement and dialogue first, by learning about the impacts of US policies, and by identifying areas of potential collaboration on the critical societal, environmental and democratic challenges that both our nations face.”


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