“The first thing to say is that peace in Colombia is an achievement that continues to surprise the world. It has never been possible, elsewhere, to end an armed conflict of 50 years or more, and this has contributed to the fact that the international community has a very strong interest in the country and improve its reputation”, were the words of Peter Pettasek, the German ambassador to Colombia, about a possible frustration in the implementation of the peace agreements.
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The problem with any peace process is that it is usually between enemies and ending hatred is not easy. Maybe that’s why in Germany (after World War II) we need more time to get to the point where we can talk openly about what happened.
But in Colombia it happened very quickly, thanks in part to the fact that the implementation of the agreement, a great reform program, has it all.
Now, it is impossible to implement it in four years, there is no doubt about it, but it must be said that during this government the issue of reintegration of those who laid down their arms advanced a lot and that the policy was focused on regional development plans (PDT).) in the most affected areas are preserved.) from the armed conflict.
Although there is still a lot to be done, I see a very solid private judiciary for peace, a truth commission, and a unit to search for disappeared people. In Germany, after many decades of war, the Red Cross is still searching for the missing.
A big problem for the correct implementation of the peace agreement is the impatience of the Colombians. They don’t realize that they have achieved so much in so little time.
This is added to the fact that it is expressed in the field of polarization, which is also not surprising because yesterday’s enemies cannot become good friends by decree.
The peace agreement is an opportunity, but the real work is what needs to be done day in and day out. The most impressive thing for me, during these four years of sojourn in the country, is the confrontations between the various perpetrators and victims.
These meetings have shown me that although it is an extremely painful issue that we will not be able to resolve immediately, seeing the people involved in the armed conflict leave these meetings convinced of the need to speak up, and even to tolerate, leads to a much stronger dynamic than the political debates that can be heard in Bogotá .
What do we say when they warn of the escalation of violence in several regions?
Structurally, the big problem with the peace agreement is that it should benefit from a program of reforms for the territory that includes the presence of the state in the areas most affected, but this is not new.
The state did not lose control of parts of the territory because in fact it never had them. In this sense, the new president must look forward, and think about the future of the country, asking what country Colombians want, what it looks like, what it has and what it lacks.
The state cannot be limited to a military presence. Moreover, for stability and security, you need a strong social backbone.
From the German Embassy, along with the international community, we work with social leaders who are heroes in many places, the vanguard of civil society, in places where there is no order or security.
I think they are key allies and that will also be a challenge for the new government. It must be made clear that the problems did not start with the Duque government and will not go away with whoever comes now. This is a task that must be met with a collective effort and must go beyond the current government.
Change after the election
Can we say that you do not agree with those who criticize President Duque for assuming a delay in the peace process?
I add my voice to those who say that the violence that still exists in the region is a brake on peace. Violence is a manifestation of the absence of the state, and it is not a new phenomenonThis will not end in the short term.
This government has not had an easy task with the COVID-19 pandemic, with limited access to the territory, which armed groups have taken advantage of to strengthen themselves. The problem is not with the government, the problem is the weight of those who do not wish to change this situation.
Do you see the possibility of change after the elections?
It is interesting to see that there are now two presidential candidates defining themselves as champions of change. I find it very surprising that after decades of silence about the need for change, Colombia has really changed a lot, even though it has not been accompanied by a positive narrative, which is very serious, as the changes must be accompanied by activism.
The peace agreement gives some very important inspiration and this opportunity should not be missed.
Polarization is a common phenomenon and a means of stabilization. If I am afraid of change, polarization helps me put myself on one side simply by justifying that the important thing is that I am on the other side.
It can be fun and interesting, but it will never contribute to giving candidates explanations about what and how they will easily do everything they promise.
Every country has its own way of solving problems, but I think it doesn’t hurt, on the part of voters, to increase the demand for content from candidates to invite them to answer the question: What country do they want to build?
“We are not victims, we are survivors of violence.” Thank you women Tweet embed To share details of her fight for victims of sexual violence and exploitation during the conflict.Tweet embed And 🇩🇪 are still by your side to open the door to a better future! pic.twitter.com/6f5gFFWWXd
– Peter Pettasek – German Ambassador to Colombia (@alemEmbajador) June 14, 2022
Are you afraid of the lack of peace talk in the elections?
This is a major concern. That is why we, the international community, are so insistent on the danger of forgetting the opportunities offered by the peace agreement.
As I said, the environment in which this presidential campaign is carried out leaves little room for nuance, as for structural issues, it is very short-term, and very likely to have an impact at the moment.
Colombia has great opportunities in food production. That is why it is necessary to ensure security, infrastructure and logistics that allow the full progress of societies.
Peace, which is neither easy nor self-evident, and is not something that descends from heaven, needs the cooperation of all and its encouragement. We hope that the new government will present it, no matter what other internal problems it will do. They put up a fight, such as inflation, the cost of living and even the crisis due to the war in Ukraine, which will also have consequences for Colombia, given the rise in food prices.
Peace will need the full attention of the new government from day one. For this reason, it should come as no surprise that the new president needs and deserves the support of the international community and accompanying him with the programs we already have to strengthen these processes and contribute to what should finally be true rural development.
What else should you think?
talent. Colombia is a country with a lot of talent, which is not being used due to a lack of access to higher education, employment and business networks.
There is a lot of creativity, I see in the case of scholarships given to people of the most humble classes who work with tremendous energy and achieve things with a commitment that shows what they need are opportunities. Inequality is a situation that does not favor the development of the country.
Colombia has a steady and stable growth, although this talent is not used.
Therefore, I imagine how strong the economic and social growth of the country will be with this inclusion.
I was a very active ambassador on social media. Have you ever felt afraid of crossing the red line imposed on diplomats in this regard?
In the case of Germany, we stand for very important values such as democracy, pluralism, defending human rights, protecting the environment and combating climate change… But if I devoted myself to publishing the manifesto of my government, what would the impact be? no one.
The problems we have to solve with Colombia need much more than just signing the government, and that’s part of my job. I think we have to give an example of how to speak to this point and not hide behind harsh and tangled phrases.
Any concerns about who the president of Colombia could be?
This is an issue I will not touch upon. It’s a decision Colombians will make, but the observation I allow myself to make is that in either case, no one knows with great accuracy how campaign commitments will appear in the policies in place.
Doing Politics with Murders: They Killed Jessita Moreno M. , a 60-year-old social leader, to silence a powerful voice in civil society. A cowardly assault on citizens who respect life, and who protect human rights. Killers are enemies of that 🇨🇴 of all 🇨🇴 https://t.co/s7Hli0F38O
– Peter Pettasek – German Ambassador to Colombia (@alemEmbajador) June 9, 2022
Now that you’re leaving, how do you know Colombia?
It is almost impossible to live in this country because it has many interesting and wonderful places that are a little easy to reach. What surprised me is that it’s not places that Colombians have been to, and I think most of them know Miami better than their own country.
Colombia has so much to discover and this fills me with a sense of nostalgia because the people here, despite everything, are still upbeat, happy and optimistic. In Germany they are always in a bad mood, they have everything, but they do not enjoy it.
One thing to remind Colombians is that sometimes they think very poorly about their country, which is actually a very good thing.
What anxiety are you leaving behind in Colombia?
There is a positive problem in promoting green hydrogen, we need many alternative energy sources to replace Russian gas, and with the very strong decisions made by this government, the green hydrogen roadmap that we have in Colombia must be promoted so that it becomes a major resource.
The most difficult issue is peace, for without doubt it would not prosper without an extra effort, and that would be a very great loss for what I consider essential to the development of the country.
What distinguishes your management?
We had cooperation in the fight against climate change, and we will continue to invest a lot of money in it in programs aimed at providing legal economic opportunities to people living in forest areas; We have a very strong commitment from German companies in the recycling sector, which is a circular economy, which also has great potential for the country.
Production of clean energy, and beyond that we have the presence of several Colombian companies that have already become producers of chemicals.
We have a great commitment with companies in the health sector. You don’t see them every day, but there are more than 350 German companies in the German Colombo Chamber, and speaking with them, it seems to me that they are all still happy because they are a country with a positive investment environment.
Colombia remains the most stable country on the continent, with the most steady growth.
Stephanie Ekavaria and Edward Soto
* International Editor
** Central table editor
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