WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, travelled to Colombia last week to assess opportunities to advance the U.S.-Colombia partnership. In his first visit to Latin America in the 116th Congress, Menendez focused on the implementation of the Colombian peace accord, counternarcotics cooperation, human rights and labor rights issues, and the impact of the Venezuelan crisis on Colombia.
In Cartagena, Senator Menendez met with Colombian President Iván Duque, where he emphasized the importance of strengthening U.S.-Colombia ties and commended President Duque for his administration’s indispensable role in responding to the regional humanitarian crisis in neighboring Venezuela. The leaders discussed the importance of advancing implementation of the peace accords, joint counternarcotics efforts, and the alarming increase in violence against social leaders in Colombia.
“For 20 years, our countries have built a close partnership based on shared commitments to democratic values and security,” said Menendez. “Today, whether it’s in NATO, the OECD, or the Lima Group, Colombia has become a key leader and an essential voice on the international stage. As we envision our next decade of cooperation, the United States and Colombia must continue addressing the destabilizing effects of narcotics trafficking and expand efforts to create the conditions for shared prosperity between our nations.”
Menendez meets with Colombian President Iván Duque. (Photo Credit: Presidencia de la República)
While in Bogotá, Menendez held meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Minister of Defense Guillermo Botero, Acting Attorney General Fabio Espitia, and General Oscar Atehortua, Director General of the Colombian National Police, as well as other Colombian legislators and representatives of Colombian civil society. The Senator also met with representatives of the Interim Government of Venezuela to discuss regional efforts to peacefully restore democracy and address the humanitarian crisis caused by the Maduro regime.
“The United States must remain steadfast in our support for implementation of Colombia’s peace accord. This means deepening our collaboration with the Duque Administration as it seeks to expand the rule of law and economic opportunities across Colombia,” continued Menendez. “And, amidst an increase in violent attacks on civil society, it is essential that the Colombian government increase current efforts to ensure the safety for human rights activists and social leaders across the country.”
Senator Menendez closed his trip by visiting Cúcuta on the Colombia-Venezuela border to review the impact of the Venezuelan refugee and migration crisis. During his visit to the border, Menendez visited facilities providing food, medical care, and temporary shelter to Venezuelan migrants.
Menendez speaks with Venezuelan migrant families at Cucuta’s Comedor Divina Providencia
“As women, children, and families flee a humanitarian tragedy in Venezuela, the scenes from Cúcuta must serve as a resounding call to action for the international community. Colombia is doing its best to wrestle with a refugee crisis of an unprecedented magnitude in the Western hemisphere, but the world must urgently expand its assistance,” concluded Menendez.
Ranking Member Menendez also delivered remarks at the U.S. Embassy’s Fourth of July celebration and praised the efforts of U.S. diplomats, service members, and their families to advance U.S. national interests in Colombia and around the world.