Parliamentary Secretary Maninder Sidhu in Colombia for the inauguration of Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez
Photo: Parliamentary Secretary Maninder Sidhu in Bogota.
Maninder Sidhu, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is in Bogota, Colombia for the inauguration on Sunday August 7 of Gustavo Petro as President and Francia Márquez as Vice-President.
On August 6, PS Sidhu posted this video and tweeted:
“Proud to represent Canada at the inauguration of President @petrogustavo here in Colombia. Canada and Colombia have a very strong relationship and I am looking forward to continuing to build upon our nearly 70 years of diplomatic relations.”
Earlier in the day, Foreign Policy Canada also tweeted:
“PS Sidhu is in #Colombia to meet key government, civil society, Indigenous, and business leaders & to attend the inauguration of President-elect @petrogustavo and Vice-president elect @FranciaMarquezM.”
The U.S. delegation
The U.S. delegation attending the inauguration will be led by Samantha Power, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), who will be joined by Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Francisco Palmeri, Ambassador in charge of the United States in Colombia; Desiree Cormier, United States Department of State Representative for Racial Equality and Justice, and Juan Gonzalez, Western Hemisphere Director of President Joe Biden’s National Security Council.
Video: Samantha Power arrives in Bogota.
Key cabinet appointments
Among the cabinet appointments Petro has made:
– Francia Márquez (Equality)
– Álvaro Leyva Duráb (Foreign Affairs)
– José Antonio Ocampo (Finance)
– Susana Muhamad (Environment)
– Ivan Velasquez (Defence)
– Alfonso Prada (Interior)
– Cecilia López Montaño (Agriculture)
– Alejandro Gaviria (Education)
– Carolina Corcho (Health)
– Patricia Ariza (Culture)
– Gloria Inés Ramírez (Labour)
– María Isabel Urrutia (Sport)
– Irene Vélez (Mines and Energy).
Reuters has reported: “Petro, who opposes fracking and new oil contracts in favor of moving toward renewable energy, said Velez has extensive experience in the environmental sector and will take on the “difficult task” of leading the transition towards an economy not based on extraction.”
Ministers Velez (Mines and Energy), Muhamad (Environment).
NPR has also noted: “The incoming president has said Colombia will stop granting new licenses for oil exploration and will ban fracking projects… He [also] plans to finance social spending with a $10 billion a year tax reform that would boost taxes on the rich and do away with corporate tax breaks.”
Canada in Colombia
With $8 billion invested, Colombia is the second largest location for Canadian Energy Assets Abroad (CEAA). Twenty-eight Canadian mining companies also hold assets totalling $1.406 billion in Colombia.
Notably, Toronto-based Scotiabank has provided more than $3 billion in financing to the state-owned oil company Ecopetrol, the company that would operate the planned Platero and Kale fracking pilot projects in Puerto Wilches.
Reuters has previously reported: “Some in the industry believe Petro will not be able to slow their operations anytime soon, since the government of current President Ivan Duque has signed 69 exploration and production contracts during bidding rounds.”
Significantly, of those 69 oil and gas exploration contracts that were awarded between 2019 and 2021 by the Duque government, 39 went to Canadian companies (and 26 of those 39 blocks went to Calgary-based Parex Resources Inc.).
NPR has also reported: “[Petro] wants to make changes to Colombia’s relations with the United States by seeking a renegotiation of a free trade agreement.” It is possible that a renegotiation of the Canada-Colombia FTA could be on Petro’s agenda.
Calls to protect human rights defenders
On August 4, Mary Lawlor (the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders), Francisco Cali Tzay (the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples) and members of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights called on the Petro government to step up protection for activists who challenge big business in Colombia.
And on August 5, El Pais reported: “Several human rights organizations presented President-elect Gustavo Petro with an emergency plan to protect the lives of social leaders and peace signatories.” The plan has 29 concrete actions to be implemented within the first 100 days of government.
PBI-Colombia accompanied human rights defender Franklin Castañeda sat next to Petro at the presentation of this emergency plan.
We will be watching over the coming 100 days and beyond how Petro’s campaign promises and the responses from Canada, transnational corporations and other interests materially affect the security situation for environmental defenders in Colombia.