Gustavo Petro shook the drowsiness of the UN Assembly with a strong speech on cocaine

The main compound of the United Nations in New York was packed this Monday for the first time after two years of absences and virtuality due to the pandemic and the General Assembly began with anticipation for the dramas that are plaguing the world shaken by a war, economic, food and energy crisis, the axes where the majority turned of the speeches.

But a newcomer in this forum, the new Colombian president Gustavo Petrobroke out with a harsh claim to the powers against the “hypocrisy” in the war on drugs and suggested that cocaine is less “poisonous” than coal or oil.

The Assembly was formally opened by the secretary general of the organization, Antonio Guterres, and then gave way to the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, since by tradition he is the one who offers the first speech. The United States, as the host country, is the second to speak.

But exceptionally Joe Biden delayed his intervention until Wednesday due to his presence on Monday at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London. The great absentees from this year’s event are the presidents of Russia, Vladimir Putin, the Chinese Xi Xinping and the Mexican Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Gustavo Petro made his debut at the UN.  Photo Bloomberg

Gustavo Petro made his debut at the UN. Photo Bloomberg

It was Petro who shook the audience with a controversial speech. The economist and former guerrilla who assumed the presidency of Colombia on August 7 with a leftist government took the podium with a message that was poetic and harsh at the same time, which contrasted with the more formal ones that are usually heard in that area.

Before the representatives of more than 190 countries that make up the UN (there are presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and ambassadors) Petro spoke of his country as one of the most beautiful and at the same time the most violent in the world. He said that in the Amazon jungle of Colombia “the sacred plant of the Incas”, coca, is cultivated.

“To destroy the coca plant they throw poisons and glyphosate en masse, which run through the waters, arresting their growers and imprisoning them. A million Latin Americans are murdered for destroying or possessing the coca leaf and imprison two million Afros in North America,” he denounced.

He says that they are destroying the jungle, which is the lung of the planet. “The power relations are plagued by the addiction to money, to perpetuate oneself, to oil, to cocaine and to the hardest drugs in order to be able to anesthetize more. Nothing more hypocritical than the speech to save the jungle,” she said.

“What is more poisonous for the human being? Cocaine, or coal or oil? Power has dictated that cocaine, and that must be prosecuted even though it produces fewer overdose deaths. But coal and oil must be protected even if their use could extinguish all of humanity,” Petro said.

In the room, the representatives of the countries looked perplexed. “While they let the forests burn, while hypocrites persecute plants with poisons to hide the disasters of their own society, they ask us for more and more coal, more and more oil to calm the other addiction: that of consumption, that of power, that of money. ”, he bellowed.

Petro’s position on the fight against drugs is well known, which he says “has failed”, but it is the first time that he exposes it as president, in an international arena in front of world leaders.

The president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, at the UN.  Photo Bloomberg

The president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, at the UN. Photo Bloomberg

“I demand of you from here, from my wounded Latin America, to put an end to the irrational war on drugs. Reducing drug consumption does not need wars, weapons, it needs all of us to build a better society”.

Shortly before his strong speech, the Colombian had met this Monday with the American “climate czar”, John Kerry, who later tweeted that had an “excellent” meeting in which they discussed “the urgency of protecting the forests of the Amazon and accelerating climate action in the Americas.”

Boric’s turn

Another of the newcomers to the UN Assembly was the left-wing president Gabriel Boric, who lamented the concentration of wealth in his country and said that “inequality has hindered our path to development and it is a latent threat to democracy... (because of) the social fracture it generates”.

The Chilean leader reviewed the social struggle of 2019, in which he was the protagonist and which led him to the presidency. Boric said that the recent rejection of the Constitution has left him with several lessons and that “Today’s challenge is to live up to them.”

“As a government we have received the result of the recent plebiscite with eyes and hearts wide open. We want to hear what the people are telling us,” she said, adding that the result has taught her to be “more humble.” And that “the recipes are not in a particular sector but in the synthesis of what each one can contribute. How to govern in the 21st century“, he pointed.

And he concluded by saying that modern leadership must include the incentive for participation, the promotion of dialogue. “Incorporating the points of view of those who think differently and understanding that those who have different opinions are not enemies.”

An exclusive topic from most of the speeches of the day was the war in Ukraine and the energy and food crises that it triggered, as well as the economic consequences of the pandemic. The central speech this Wednesday will be that of President Biden.

He is expected to use his message to reiterate his support for Ukraine and try to further isolate Russia, although he will also make reference to the fight against climate change and the energy crisis. These issues also have repercussions at the internal level and, 50 days before the legislative elections in November, it is to be hoped that he will bring them to light.


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