Meeting the Head of the UN Mission in Bogotá
Meeting the Head of the UN Mission in Bogotá

I had the privilege of visiting Argentina and Colombia last week in my role on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

We arrived in Argentina and were welcomed by the Ambassador there, Mr Mark Kent, who has been doing some very interesting work on healing the rift between Argentina and the UK as a result of the Falklands conflict in the 1980s including bringing together families of the Argentinian soldiers killed during the conflict with their sons’ remains which lie on the Malvinas.  That work has been painstaking and quite costly but has acted as a bridge between the British Embassy and Argentinians.

The second half of the trip was spent in Bogotá and Valledupar.  In Bogotá I was able to meet with Government Ministers and raise concerns from trade union colleagues around the peace process and the stalling of the peace process.  The delegation met the Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (JEP), which has been a very contentious body but which appears to have survived an attack by the Duque government to undermine the work of the JEP which obviously is crucial in terms of the full rollout of the peace process.  The visit to the ex-FARC military camp was very interesting.  I was able to meet Jesus Santrich who is now a member of Congress.  The FARC were provided with ten seats, five in the Senate and five in the Congress as an outcome of the Havana peace talks.  Mr Santrich said, in Valledupar when I met him, that he was only travelling to Bogotá infrequently.  He was imprisoned by the Colombian Government and was successful in his appeal against extradition to the US on charges of drug trafficking.  I encouraged him to take up his seat in Parliament in Colombia and to bring on another generation of parliamentarians so as not to lose the momentum which has built up as a result of the hard-fought peace process.

The trip was a real success.  It is a testimony to the excellent work which is being done by both the civic society and the British Embassy to promote peace and friendship with the Colombian people and to ensure that the momentum of the peace process is not lost because there are certainly many forces which are prevailing against the peace process.

Catherine West
Member of Parliament for Hornsey & Wood Green

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