Saturday, September 18

The Government grants the Grand Cross of Isabel la Católica to the President of Colombia, Iván Duque


The Council of Ministers will approve next Tuesday to grant the President of Colombia, Iván Duque, the Grand Cross of Isabel la Católica, one of the highest decorations awarded by the Spanish State and of whose Order the King, Felipe VI, is Grand Master, according to have confirmed to elDiario.es diplomatic sources. It is the second in rank of importance within the Order. Duque will receive her one year before the elections in which he will try to revalidate a mandate marked by police and military violence during protests against his economic policy and the management of the pandemic, in which an unknown number of people and hundreds more have died. they remain missing.

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Iván Duque will visit Spain next week and will be attended by the highest authorities of the country. Felipe VI will receive you at the Palacio de la Zarzuela, where a lunch will be held in his honor. Also the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, will receive you in Moncloa. In addition, Duque will participate in the Madrid Book Fair, in which Colombia is the guest country, and in political events with the president of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, among others.

The choice of Colombia as the guest country in the 80th edition of the Madrid Book Fair has already put Human Rights organizations on alert, as well as various groups of Colombian artists both residing in Europe and in the Latin American country itself. In fact, the Fair starts with a strong controversy over the veto that the Duque government imposed on certain highly prestigious authors who politically confront him and his policies, such as Piedad Bonnett, Laura Restrepo, William Ospina, Héctor Abad Faciolince or Fernando Vallejo, among others.

In Spain, writers and other artists have denounced the “whitewashing” that Duque’s presence entails in an event of social and cultural significance that the Book Fair has. But to that complaint is now added the decoration that the Government will award him on Tuesday.

Diplomatic sources assure that “it is common practice to receive foreign Heads of State on a State or Official Visit” and that “within the framework of these trips, the imposition of decorations is frequently used.” The same sources assure that “this practice is clear in the case of Colombia, whose presidents have systematically visited Spain.” In fact, a score of heads of State of the Caribbean country have received a distinction from this Order, either the Necklace (the highest award), or the Grand Cross, the second in the ranking. Among the former, the two predecessors of Duque, Juan Manuel Santos (in 2015) and Álvaro Uribe (in 2005). Other Latin American leaders are also part of the order. The last to receive the Necklace was the former president of Peru Martín Vizcarra in 2019.

Duque, a mandate marked by violence

Iván Duque acceded to the Presidency of Colombia in 2018, after defeating the progressive candidate Gustavo Petro in the second round of the elections. Duque was a firm opponent of the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas and that was signed by his predecessor in office despite the fact that in a referendum the majority of Colombians opted for the no. Petro picked up the relief of Santos, while Duque has been the successor on the right of Álvaro Uribe.

Since coming to power, Duque has faced at least two major general strikes in Colombia in protest of his policies. The first, in 2019, when Duque’s popularity barely reached 26%. In the second major strike, which began last spring against a tax reform, the president militarized several cities to contain the demonstrations. Dozens of deaths were reported and hundreds of people have disappeared without news of their whereabouts or fate months later. In May of this year, as reported by the Efe agency, the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Ombudsman of the country had collected the complaints of 548 missing persons. 189 had already been located. Another 359 cases did not.

Duque was forced to withdraw his plan and the minister who presented it resigned, although he was relocated. But the protests continued, with police and military violence, and the mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic, as the main reasons for discontent.

International organizations such as Amnesty International have denounced “the serious human rights crisis in the country.” In an open letter to Duque, its secretary general points out that they have “documented the excessive use of force by the security forces and multiple human rights violations and crimes under international law, including forced disappearance and sexual violence.”

The UN has also shown its fears and even the Organization of American States (OAS) has condemned the cases of “torture and murder committed by the forces of order”. The United Nations, yes, has condemned the attack suffered by the Duke himself, when a helicopter in which he was traveling was shot.

In another report last July, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (belonging to the OAS) considered confirmed “that, on repeated occasions, as well as in various regions of the country, the State’s response [a las protestas] was characterized by excessive and disproportionate use of force, in many cases, including lethal force ”.

In addition, complaints of non-compliance with the peace agreement with the FARC have multiplied, as well as the murder or disappearance of union and social leaders, as Spanish unions such as CCOO and UGT have pointed out. In Spain, the arrival of Duque will be greeted with a demonstration on Sunday that has received public support, for example, from the UGT itself. In addition, different actions will be carried out against this “whitewashing” of the Colombian government, which the artists lament.

As for Duque’s official agenda, the Colombian president will meet with the main leaders of Spain. Felipe VI will receive it on Thursday, September 16 at Zarzuela, and Pedro Sánchez at Moncloa. In addition, the president will participate that same day in an informative event in which he will be presented by the president of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso. The PP maintains strong ties with the Colombian right in general and with the uribism in particular, thanks to the mediation of former president José María Aznar.



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