On August 6-9, Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, traveled to Bogota to lead the U.S. Presidential Delegation to Colombia for the inauguration of newly elected President Iván Duque. Other members of the delegation included U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker and Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Kirsten D. Madison. Ambassador Haley’s trip reinforced the strength of the U.S.-Colombian partnership and the key role the country plays in the region.
On the margins of the inaugural festivities, Ambassador Haley held a bilateral meeting with Colombian President Duque in which they discussed regional stability, enhancing the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Colombia, and efforts to combat coca cultivation and narcotics trafficking. Ambassador Haley also held important bilateral meetings with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, and Peruvian Foreign Minister Néstor Popolizio.
RT @USUN: It’s a new day in Colombia. The U.S. partnership with Colombia has never been stronger. We thank President @IvanDuque for hosting us and look forward to supporting his vision for creating a safe and prosperous future for all Colombians. pic.twitter.com/hS6AcES0hc— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) August 8, 2018
After the inauguration, Ambassador Haley traveled to the Colombian border city of Cúcuta to see firsthand the impact of the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and the ongoing challenges combating the international drug trade. While visiting the border, Ambassador Haley announced an additional $9 million in humanitarian aid that will go toward helping vulnerable people fleeing Venezuela to Colombia.
In Cúcuta, Ambassador Haley visited the Divine Providence Communal Kitchen, an organization run by the local Catholic Diocese, and spoke with Venezuelan families who had fled their country and others who had become volunteers in the communal kitchen. The kitchen serves hot meals to more than 3,000 Venezuelans a day, some walking hours each day just to be fed. Since opening in June 2017, they have served more than half a million meals.
Accompanied by local and national Colombian officials, Ambassador Haley also visited the Simon Bolivar Bridge, a two-lane bridge many Venezuelans use to leave their country and enter Colombia. Officials briefed the Ambassador on the increasing number of Venezuelans crossing into Colombia, the vast majority of whom return to Venezuela after securing food and medicine.
At the Simon Bolivar Bridge, Ambassador Haley visited tents providing health services, where many migrants receive first aid, basic health attention, and psychosocial support. The services are organized primarily by the Colombian Red Cross and supported by the Pan American Health Organization through a U.S. government-funded project.
RT @USUN: 90% of the cocaine seized in the U.S. originates in fields like these. In Colombia, we saw first hand the difficulty & importance of stopping the coca trade at its source. We will remain focused on ways to partner with the Colombian gov’t on eradication & substitution. pic.twitter.com/X9CEGYkzMF— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) August 10, 2018
Ambassador Haley concluded her trip with a helicopter flyover of illicit coca fields in North Santander Department region. She witnessed firsthand Colombian National Police (CNP) eradication efforts in a coca field where she received a briefing from the CNP Director of Counter-Narcotics, Brigadier General Fabian Cardenas Leonel, and observed the difficulty of manual coca extraction methods. They also discussed the violence committed by drug traffickers with the security forces on the front lines.
About the Author: Benjamin Boston serves at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.