After meeting with Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, Petro met with part of the Colombian community in Queens.
Amid the joy of those who feel proud of their country and miss it, President Gustavo Petro met for the first time with a part of the Colombian community living in the United States. The visit took place within the framework of the international agenda that the Head of State advances in New York, on the occasion of the 77th celebration of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). Although the president’s agenda was delayed, the nationals fervently awaited Petro’s speech, one that focused on the message of inclusion, diversity in important positions of state representation, migration, anti-drug policy and peace.
President Petro was scheduled to leave Bogota around 8:00 in the morning to carry out the activities of the first of five days of work in New York. However, the delays were subject to an extra review of the presidential plane due to a presumed inconsistency that was detected in the aircraft. For this reason, the presidential plane took off around 10:00 in the morning. Around 4:20 in the afternoon, local time, the president went to the first key appointment: the meeting with Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN.
The presidential caravan led not only Petro, but also the ministers Susana Muhamad (Environment) and Alejandro Gaviria (Education), who traveled with the head of state from Colombia because the General Assembly focuses on both issues. Leonor Zalabata, Colombian ambassador to the United Nations, received the president and also joined the official delegation.
While Petro was in Manhattan, in the United Nations facilities, on the other side of the East River, in Queens, a group of Colombian men and women shouted his name. About 200 people, with some banners and tricolor flags, “parked” for hours and hours in front of the Queens Borough Hall, the building that houses the office of Donovan Richards, the president of the district of Queens. Some of the attendees were residents of this county connected to New York, but others traveled from other parts of the country, such as Boston.
The public kept alive the emotion of listening to Petro, in person, for the first time, despite the delay. Colombian folk music, such as vallenato and salsa, set the mood for the wait as night fell. golden hour of these last days of summer in New York. A large part of the spectators were followers and/or militants of Colombia Humana, New York node, so the ideological veins stood out in this highly politically charged civil meeting.
A group of people who were closer to the stage where Petro would speak later, shouted loudly and against some media related to the political right. For example, they booed the presenter who entertained the afternoon of artistic presentations because she was a presenter for Telemundo. Likewise, one of the attendees repeatedly shouted that the guest press from RCN Televisión and Caracol Televisión should leave.
For those 200 Colombian men and women, the night took shape around 8:00 at night, when President Gustavo Petro and the team that accompanied him entered. First spoke Donovan Richards, president of the District of Queens and the first black to hold that position. Migration and racism were two central points in his welcome speech to Petro.
““As we see what is happening on the border with Texas, with thousands of migrants, our brothers and sisters are being sent to our city and our district. I can’t think of a more important time to celebrate our diversity today. Today in Queens we reaffirm that we will always be a district open to all who want to call this place home. And as the proud son of an immigrant who became a US citizen two years ago, I will always be an ally in building bridges not walls for immigrants,” Richards said.
For all these reasons, he assured that he was proud to welcome the Colombian president. He expressed his sense of brotherhood with Colombia by congratulating the public and the Government for “electing the first black woman to hold the position of vice president of Colombia.” Similarly, Donovan Richards highlighted the need to protect the Amazon forests, to strengthen the alliance for fossil fuels, and to collect the indicated taxes from the upper class, as three points that he shares with the Petro administration.
President Petro’s message
Although Queens is not the New York county in which there are more Colombians, Petro’s speech was appropriately embedded in the context of ethnic diversity that characterizes him. For this reason, his message began with a story related to the life of those who migrate, which is not easy at all.
“Many years ago, as a young congressman, a young man with the surname Otálora, who had his sister here, in hiding, working in black as they called it back then, accompanied me in what is called the UTL (Legislative Work Unit). And I had the need to come to these regions and I wanted to know how to live if one was illegal in Queens, and I came to live with the sister of my employee Otálora. She lived with her husband. In some corner, very close to here, I don’t remember anymore, I entered a small room. It would have, perhaps, 9 to 10 square meters, and there were three families, three couples, three workers, men completely destroyed in the factories. One Ecuadorian, another Paraguayan and the other Colombian”, he recounted, stating that he understands the difficult conditions of adapting to a new country.
“He has to fight, fight and fight in strange lands, where not even the laws protect him, where he continues to be a kind of pariah, where he is persecuted on a daily basis, looking around corners, getting on the bus to avoid being detected, hiding and hiding from the other Colombian, from another Colombian. Thus he wanders a people in the streets of Europe, in the streets of the United States, a people well worth redeeming, a people well worth emancipating, ”added the president in his story.
Due to this reality, President Petro stressed that consulates and embassies should not be given as prizes or inheritances during his term. “It can no longer be the precincts, the places, the palaces, the well-adorned spaces where those who have always governed Colombia, excluding the majority of their nation, believe they have the right to possess.” For this reason, he pointed out, the consulates and embassies of Colombia in the world “have to be work spaces, led by working people”, and for this reason, he decided to appoint Leonor Zalabata, a renowned indigenous leader, as permanent representative before the UN. . He related the appointment of Zalabata with the wisdom that she hopes Colombian society will have in this four-year term.
However, the presidential speech felt like the message that is broadcast during a campaign: “This President, this ambassador, this ambassador, who will be consuls and representatives of the democratic government of Colombia, will be ready from day one, every second to serve them, because a public servant is nothing more than the male and female servant of a people”.
Then, he was emphatic that public servants are “the servants of the people” and with it, of the possible relationship between peace in Colombia and life in the world. “You are the ones in charge, we have come here, we have come here to talk about peace in Colombia. We have come here to talk about life in the world.
“Perhaps they are intertwined. The peace in Colombia means a change of conception in the misnamed war on drugs that has left a million Latin Americans dead, assassinated, and has left two million North Americans, most of them Afro, in prison. Perhaps the peace of Colombia is articulated to the life of the world, because the life of the world needs, precisely, the Amazon forest, because looking at the Amazon forest can no longer be glyphosate, poison, because looking at the jungle Amazonia has to be to discover a fundamental pillar of the climate and of life and, therefore, a different way of caring for it, of having it, of revitalizing it”.
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