Secretary Antony J. Blinken Conversation with Colombian Youth

21 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Bogotá, Colombia

Grand Hyatt Hotel

MR GALLO:  Good morning, everyone.  Buenos dias casi tardes.  We are live from Bogotá, Colombia.  We are here with Mr. Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State of the United States of America.  My name is Luis Gallo.  I’m a Colombian American journalist.  It’s an honor to be here with all of y’all.  Hello, Mr. Secretary.  Welcome to Colombia today.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

MR GALLO:  It’s even sunny for you in Bogotá.  It doesn’t happen very often.  Might rain, might change in the morning, we’ll see. 

So you’re the United States’ top foreign policy advisor and in many cases the voice of the United States of America to the world.  You’re actually on your first official trip to South America as the Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That’s right.

MR GALLO:  Where you met Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso in Quito, and Iván Duque, President Iván Duque here in Bogotá.  And today we’re going to be talking about different topics, like migration and democracy, work with disadvantaged populations, and climate change.  To engage with the conversation, we have 20 amazing young leaders from all over Colombia we invited to have this discussion with you.  So we picked a few questions from them.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great. 

MR GALLO:  And I met them yesterday; they’re just brilliant.  And also we have some questions that we’re going to be taking from our virtual audience.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I see we have some friends behind us, yes.

MR GALLO:  Exactly.  Because as a reminder, we are broadcasting live this session on all the U.S. embassy’s channels and also El Espectador newspaper here in Colombia, and we also have hundreds of young leaders watching from Colombo Americano spaces all over Colombia.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great.

MR GALLO:  So we wanted to give you a warm welcome from Colombia.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

MR GALLO:  And again, I know you’ve been to Colombia before, but it’s – I know this – sorry, I know you’ve been – this is your first trip to Colombia as the Secretary –

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  But I have been here before.  I have, yes.  And I was really, really looking forward to coming back, and even in the short time that we’ve been here, it’s – I was right to want to come back. 

MR GALLO:  Excellent.  Well, welcome again, and do some remarks as well.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Well, hello to everyone.  Buenos dias a todos.  Thank you for being here today, and thanks to our friends who are joining us online.  And Luis, thank you very much for doing this, for being with us.

I really wanted an opportunity to come together with a younger generation of leaders, of activists, to talk about some of the issues that are shaping your lives but also shaping our futures and the futures of both of our countries, the United States and Colombia.  We both have a need and a stake to build a strong and durable democracy, and to make sure that we continue to defend it.  We both want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to create the conditions for peace and justice across our populations.  And these are challenges, issues that Colombians and Americans in different ways are grappling with. 

And mostly I wanted to come to try to, in the brief time we have together, learn a little bit from you and listen to you.  I looked at the list of people who are with us today, and the diversity is really extraordinary in so many ways.  So we have, I know, among you a lawyer and organizer helping at-risk youth; we have an indigenous leader, preserving ancestral traditions; we have an LGBTQI rights activist, providing support for refugees and migrants; we have a talented musician – I’m a musician; the word “talented” does usually not apply to me – but we have a talented musician; an anti-racism advocate; and so many other inspiring leaders among you here today.

And each of you are already playing an important part in the future of your country.  And that is an incredibly exciting thing.  And I really want to get a chance to listen a little bit to your experiences and your ideas. 

Let me just say quickly, before we get into it, I believe strongly that our countries – and especially our young people – can learn from each other.  There’s so much that you’re doing, that you’re experiencing, that you’re seeing, that is relevant and will resonate with Americans. 

And similarly, we face some very big common challenges.  COVID-19 – we have to face that together.  Climate – we have to face that together.  I just came from the Botanical Gardens here in Bogotá, which are beautiful, but a reminder of the incredible heritage of this country that has to be a living heritage. 

We have to deal with the inequities in our societies.  One of the things that we’ve seen is growth is very important, but it has to be equitable and better shared.  And of course, we have challenges of systemic racism, we have challenges of injustice that, again, I think we can learn from each other as we engage them

My conviction, my strong conviction, is that democracy at its best is the best way to solve these problems together. Governments, citizens, groups can make our democracies actually deliver results and make progress.  That’s what this is all about.

So thank you again for being here, and mostly I hope to hear from you and answer whatever questions I can.  Thank you.

MR GALLO:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Okay.  So let’s jump into it.  And for that, our first topic today will focus on migration.  And first we have a question from Coralia Vásquez, who is a women’s rights activist from Venezuela.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter)  Hello.  Good morning, Mr. Secretary, and everybody else who is here.  I’m Coralia Vásquez, and I’m from the island of Margarita, Venezuela.  And my compatriots from Venezuela want to thank you profoundly and give you a hug full of solidarity with a great deal of respect towards the U.S. embassy and everything that you’re doing for us, the migrants.  I’m here in name of all my compatriots who had – were forced to leave our country because the issue of the humanitarian crisis that we’re going through.

My question would be:  What hypothetical alternative do you have for us to change or look at migration from a different point of view?  And what are the benefits that my compatriots who are undocumented in the United States – how can they get any benefits?  Thank you. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  I have to start with the generosity of Colombia and the Colombian people.  The action that President Duque has taken as well to grant temporary protected status to so many Venezuelan guests here in Colombia is remarkable, and I think Colombia set a very powerful example for many of us around the world.  So thank you to Colombia for that.

As you know better than anyone, the story of migration and irregular migration is an incredibly complicated one.  And in this moment in our own hemisphere, we’re seeing unprecedented migration.  We have many Venezuelans because of the very difficult and in many ways tragic situation in Venezuela who have left, and many are here, but many are in other parts of our hemisphere.  We have friends and neighbors from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, who also – have also been on the move.  We have Haitian brothers and sisters who – some having been resident in Chile or Brazil for many years are on the move, or from Haiti itself. 

And as you know, there are a complex series of things that – and maybe I’d be curious to hear about if you’re – if you are willing to share your case.  But what is it that causes someone to one day say I’m going to give up everything I know; I’m going to give up my country, my community, maybe my family, my friends, maybe my language, my culture, and make a very hazardous journey somewhere else?  There has to be something very powerful that’s driving that.  And in some cases, it’s conflict, repression, violence.  In other cases, it’s a lack of basic economic opportunity.  If there’s no prospect of having a job or putting food on the table or caring for your family, you’re going to try to do something else.  Sometimes it’s corruption and bad governance.  There are a whole host of things.

So the reason I say all this is I think we have two challenges, and we’ve been talking about this a lot the last couple of days, including at a migration meeting that we had with all of the foreign ministers in the region taking part, hosted by Colombia.  We have to deal with the immediate challenge; we have to do it in a humane, caring way that protects people.  But also, we have to find – we have to do it in a way that preserves law and order, that preserves the sanctity of our borders.  And that’s complicated, but we’re working on it, and we’re working on it together.

But even if we do that, it doesn’t answer the underlying problem.  So what we have I think is increasingly a sense of shared responsibility in our region among all of the countries that are affected – the countries that are seeing an exodus of people, the countries that are receiving people, the countries through which people are transiting – to try to work more closely together, both to deal with the immediate challenge, but also to deal with some of the underlying challenges.

So for example, we have to do more and we have to do better in creating a genuine opportunity for people in the countries that they originally come from.  One of our colleagues said that there should be a right to remain; but for that right to be real, there has to be opportunity.  And so there’s a lot that we’re doing now to try to build some of that opportunity to create opportunities for jobs, people who put money in their pockets to provide for their families.  It takes time, it takes investment, but – and by the way, one important way this happens is through small businesses, medium-size businesses.  We’re doing a lot.  Colombia is also doing a lot to try to support those.  But we also need to see – and this is hard, too – better governance, better security in some places, dealing with corruption, which corrodes everything.  So all of this is a long-term project, but one that we’re now engaged in. 

Let me just say one more quick thing because it will tie a couple of things together.  We are facing a climate crisis, and we have to adapt our economies, we have to adapt our countries to deal with it.  Well, as we’re doing that, there is a tremendous opportunity to find new jobs in these new areas – of green technology, of building new infrastructure that’s environmentally sustainable, of working with indigenous communities in ways that both preserve the climate and create opportunity, and as a result, a desire to build the future where you’re from.  So all of that is important.

One last thing I’ll say, too:  We in the United States, maybe more than any country I can think of, have been the beneficiaries of immigration throughout our history.  It’s our secret to success.  Wave after wave of people from all over the world at different points in our history have come to the United States from Ireland, from Italy, from Asia, from Latin America.  And every generation has brought something new to the story that is our country and has helped move it forward.

So we also want to make sure that we are creating more legal pathways to migration, even as we’re dealing with the challenges posed by irregular migration, and we will always look for ways to support communities already in the United States who need it.  So thank you.

But – and I’m – I don’t know, and I don’t want to put you on the spot, but if there’s anything you’d like to share about what actually brought you from Venezuela to Colombia?

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Yes.  Thank you for this opportunity.  Thank you for answering me.  Thank you for everything that you’re doing for all Venezuelans, from the embassy here in Colombia and the presidency of Colombia, and also directly from the United States, because I know there’s also a big wave of Venezuelan immigration there.

I came for many reasons.  Unfortunately, yes, when you leave, you leave your friends, your projects, your career, your family.  The major reason that I came here:  Because there were no opportunities at home, and also because of political persecution because I was a leader of an anti-government movement because the dictatorship was stealing my future and the future of all youth in Venezuela.

We need to resolve all of the needs and the lack of opportunities for my family and all my friends.  I can tell you that 100 percent of my friends, 80 percent of us are migrants now.  It has been a very difficult decision to take, but sometimes we have to be a little bit selfish and put ourselves first.  But I hope that there’ll be – that our country will be what it was at some point, and we can go back.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Gracias.

MR GALLO:  (Via interpreter)  Thanks.  Thank you, Coralia.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

We have Juan – oh, no, we have Julián Sánchez González.  He’s a Fulbright alumni and art history doctoral candidate from Bogotá.  Julián.

QUESTION:  Hello, Secretary Blinken.  It’s a pleasure to meet you.  My name is Julián Sánchez.  I’m a Fulbright alumni.  I did a master’s in art history at New York University and I’m currently pursuing a doctorate program in art history at Colombia University. 

So my question to you is:  You have traditionally been portrayed by the media as someone who is in favor of military and armed interventions abroad.  The recent pullout from Afghanistan, although chaotic, signaled an important shift in this step, perhaps calling attention to the need for further diplomatic efforts in the fields of culture and education.  Colombia, much like Afghanistan, has suffered the human and financial costs of a protracted armed conflict, and it seems that the current government is not entirely keen on respecting and honoring the historic peace agreement reached with guerrilla groups.  How is the U.S. Government thinking about addressing the resurgence of violence in Colombia’s urban centers and rural areas?  Could we think of a higher investment in culture and education as a long-term solution, rather than increased budgets – budgets for armed forces?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  The United States has a long partnership with Colombia in many different areas, including, of course, going back to dealing with the terrible problem that still exists but in a different way of drugs and narcotrafficking through Plan Colombia, but critically as well through the peace accord.  We were, when the accord was being developed, strong supporters, and we tried to be helpful in bringing it to conclusion.  And since its conclusion, we strongly support its implementation.

And I think it’s a very complicated story because, first, when you make – when you actually make peace, and then you start to do the hard work of implementing an agreement and all of its components and all of its complexities and changing something, doing something different than what’s been done for the last 10, 15, 20, 25 years, it’s hard.  And then it’s sometimes easy to forget what life was like before you reached the agreement, and then all you focus on is the difficulties in implementing it and the frustrations that come with that. 

So the first thing I’d say is it’s important to remember how far Colombia has come and what things were like before to maybe give further energy and inspiration to keep moving forward with the work.  But I think there have been tremendous successes already, dramatic demilitarization of the communities that were involved, the beginnings of political integration of the communities.  I think we’re seeing important steps taken on accountability for grievous abuses of human rights, a truth commission that will soon issue its report, work that we’re doing together to try to find missing persons as a result of the conflict.  All of that’s real and it’s important.  Not – it’s never perfect, but it’s real.

At the same time, I think we know that there is a lot of work that remains to be done on, for example, having a greater state presence in some of the rural communities that were most affected by the violence, but especially as well the ability to create greater opportunity for people.  So – and this goes back to what we were talking about.  Because if people don’t have an opportunity, if there is no ability for them to have a meaningful livelihood, to provide for their families, to have the dignity that comes with doing a job and doing it well, then it will be easy to be attracted to and feel you have no choice but to engage in some kind of illicit activity. 

Also, if the state, if the government, is not seen as delivering some of these opportunities, well, those who say we should go against the state, they’ll find new adherents.  So there is a lot of work that remains to be done there, but I think it takes constant re-energization.  It’s also so important throughout this process that those who are standing up and pointing out problems, pointing out continued abuses, pointing out deficiencies are protected, that their voices are not only heard but protected.  And we know human rights defenders and others, they have to be protected.  That’s the responsibility of the state.

I will tell you that in my conversations yesterday with President Duque and with other senior leaders in the government, I heard a commitment to implementation of the peace accord.  I heard of some of the progress that actually has been made, and I heard a commitment to continue to move forward to implement it. 

I do – I’m a very strong believer, though, in something that you referenced, and that is the ability of arts, of culture to bring people together, to create bonds, and to be part of what has to be, for lack of a better word, a holistic approach to these problems.  We may come to it, but when we’re talking about citizens’ security, for example, yes, law enforcement is important, it has to be done right, it has to be done effectively.  But unless you’re looking at the challenge comprehensively, unless you’re dealing with the needs of the people, unless you are creating real opportunity, it will never suffice.  And again, in the conversations that I had yesterday, that – I heard a conviction that that’s the right approach. 

So all of this is a work in progress, and I hope that all of you and any of you who may be involved in it will continue to energize your leaders and encourage them, push them to continue to move forward.  Because again, remember the alternative.  It’s not good. 

MR GALLO:  All right.  Thank you for that.  And I know you mentioned before about the importance of youth involvement.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah.

MR GALLO:  And a follow-up question comes from our virtual audience, and I’m going to read it to you, and it is from Kewin Obando, another MLK Scholar, and he asks:  “What are the most viable ways to achieve youth engagement in the process of creating public policies that affect them directly?  And how can they participate in policies focused on education or employment which they are often unable to impact?”

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So I think this starts in so many different ways.  It can start at a very, very local level, getting involved in trying to solve one particular problem – joining a group, working with others, speaking out.  And sometimes it’s just one seemingly small problem that’s affecting a community, but that is one way to get involved.

I have to say – we’ll see what happens, but I think what Colombia is doing now with this experiment with the youth councils and the first elections that will take place in just a month or so, I believe – that’s, I think, a fascinating and maybe very important experiment.  As I understand it, there are something like 46,000 candidates across the country for these youth council positions.  And if the government’s commitment to this carries forward, the young people who are elected – I think it’s 18 to about 24, 25 – that will be a possibly important vehicle for making sure that the voice of young people in Colombia is heard in the political system, and not just heard – is part of the political system.

The other thing I’d just say more generally is we need you.  We need you to be involved and engaged in whatever way you choose to be and find to be, because – we were talking about this a little bit yesterday in Ecuador – those of us who have been doing this for a while, especially those of us who have been in government for a while, as much as we try to keep open minds and try to constantly look for new and fresh ideas, the older you get, the harder it gets.  You get set in your ways sometimes. 

And what we see again and again in country after country around the world, where progress is made, it’s often because young people have been a driving force in that progress, because new generations feel almost intuitively that just because something has been done one way for 25 or 50 or a hundred years doesn’t mean it has to be done the same way the next 25, 50, or a hundred years.  That if there are persistent problems that we’ve not been able to solve, well, maybe we should try something different.  And if that’s done within the framework of a truly participatory democracy where voices are able to be heard and, as I said, protected, then that’s really how you make progress.  And it starts with, I think, rising generations, and I see a lot of their representatives right here.

MR GALLO:  Thank you.  For those who are joining us online, we are here live with United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

And Mr. Secretary, now we’re going to transition to a new category regarding vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, and our first question comes from Juan Carlos Mindinero, who is a musician like yourself, and —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  This is the talented musician?

MR GALLO:  Yeah, this is the talented musician – (laughter) – and anti-racism advocate from Tumaco on the Pacific coast of Colombia.  Juan Carlos. 

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Hello. Good morning.  I’m Juan Carlos Mindinero, more known as Canquita on the Pacific coast.  I’m a traditional musician.  I compose and arrange music in urban areas. 

Mr. Secretary, I’m convinced that culture is a very strong instrument to fight against racism, to promote peace, and to give economic opportunities to communities, especially to young people.  So my question would be:  How can United States promote culture in order to take advantage of the country and opportunities, especially in marginated areas of the country?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  And I don’t see if you brought an instrument with you; maybe we can hear a demonstration.  But next time.

First, I very much agree with your premise, with your argument.  I don’t think there is anything that has a greater ability, a more powerful ability, to break down barriers between people, between countries, between communities, than arts and culture.  We see it every single day.  We see how people are moved by music and it creates a common bond that transcends everything.  It transcends race.  It transcends gender.  It transcends ethnicity.  It transcends nationality.  It brings people together.  It unites the world.  And a young person or a not-so-young person will be affected by that expression of human creativity.  And then we start to see the people behind the creativity.  And you’re a representative, too, of a community.  We start to see the community, and we start to see it in very different ways.  So I couldn’t agree more. 

And look, we know this in our own country.  There was a soundtrack to the civil rights movement that had a powerful impact across communities in the United States.  So one of the things that I believe very strongly in is the United States doing what it can to promote arts and culture in different countries; to create exchanges between musicians, artists, and all of those engaged in creative enterprises; and to expose our own young people to creativity in one place, and to expose creative people, like yourself, to the United States.

And we have, I’m proud to say, programs that, as you know, do just that.  Our embassy works on these here in Colombia, but especially we want to put a focus on underserved communities, indigenous communities, Afro-Colombian communities, that don’t necessarily benefit from the same resources that others do.  And that’s a part of the work that we’re doing.

So there’s a lot that the embassy works on, supports, and it’s something that I very – believe strongly in.  We’ll try to do more of that going forward.  I know COVID, of course, has made things even more complicated.  But hopefully we are – we will turn the corner, and Colombia is doing very well, and that will allow some of the things that we want to do, to do even more of.  Thank you.

MR GALLO:   The time has been flying, so we have time for one more last question from our live audience.  And we’re going to invite Rosy Pacheco, who is an Afro feminist leader from Chocó, also on the Pacific coast. 

Bueno, Rosy. 

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Good afternoon to everybody.  Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary.  As he said, my name is Rosy Pacheco, Afro feminist from Chocó.  And I’d look to tell you that being a leader is not easy, and to be a leader of a marginal community is even harder. 

Today we wanted to ask you something very simple.  How can the United States help those young people from the LGBTQ community to take preventative measures to help us, and whether that’s a priority for you?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It is a priority.  And I think that in the first instance, maybe the most important thing we can do is to speak up, to speak out, to stand up for the rights of minority communities, or in this case LGBTQI communities, around the world; to put the voice of our government – and through our government, our people and our country – in support of, defense of, protection of your rights. 

And to the extent that our voice is heard and can – maybe it will help make a little bit of a difference – that voice can be expressed in different ways.  We express is publicly through the words of our government, through the men and women who speak for our government, starting with the President but also me and others.  Sometimes they’re expressed privately as we talk to governments around the world and press them, urge them, encourage them, to uphold the rights of different communities and minority communities that are being challenged.  And sometimes we have ways of putting some teeth into that by making it clear that if they don’t, there may be consequences in terms of the relationship with the United States, and then they have to choose what’s important to them.

But I was speaking to some colleagues from civil society in Ecuador just – we were in Ecuador before coming to Colombia – and like you, they were people who had in a sense stood up to defend and to protect and advance the rights of their community, and that had put a spotlight on them and maybe in some cases made them a target.  And one of the things that they told us that was the United States speaking out, sometimes raising their individual cases or the work that they were doing, had made a difference and had given them more space in which to do that work.  Now, that’s very imperfect, but it’s – I hope it helps.

Second, we need to bring countries together in terms of making real binding commitments to protect marginalized communities, marginalized groups, and there are different ways of doing that.  There are international conventions, international agreements, international statements where countries put themselves on the record and say we will protect communities, we will have accountability for those who abuse them.  And that’s an important first step, because if countries sign on to these basic understandings, then we have an ability to go back to these countries when we see them not living up to their commitments and call them out – call them out on that.

One of the things that is a challenge around the world and in so many of our countries has been violence against women, and COVID-19 has seen horrifically an increase in violence against women as well as against LGBTI communities and others.  One of the things that my boss, President Biden, has worked on for years is dealing with the problem in our own country of violence against women.  And I was saying to a group yesterday of all the things he’s done in his career, I think maybe the thing he’s proudest of is having written the law to give us tools and resources to combat violence against women in the United States, and there’s now an international aspect to that.

So this can be done in many ways, but I think the first step is to speak out, to put a spotlight on the issue, and to put whatever credibility the United States has behind the protection of those who need it.  Thank you.

MR GALLO:  Well, thank you, Mr. Secretary, for taking the time, for visiting Colombia – we’re very grateful – and coming to South America.  And thank you to the 20 young people from all over Colombia —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

MR GALLO:  — who came today.  (Applause.) 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Gracias.

MR GALLO:  And also those who submitted their questions online.  There were hundreds of them.  Also, if you want to rewatch this, you can do that on the embassy’s channels and on El Espectador, and I hope everybody has a great day today.  Buenos tardes and welcome to Colombia. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Buenos tardes.  Muchas graciasGracias a todos.  (Applause.)

Biden And Pelosi’s Radical Policies Are Making The Supply Chain Crisis Worse

21 Oct

America is facing a historic supply chain crisis that is threatening Christmas for millions of Americans,

Instead of working to fix this crisis President Biden and Speaker Pelosi’s radical agenda is only exacerbating the growing supply chain crisis.

BIDEN’S SUPPLY CHAIN CRISIS: 

  • Shelves across the country are bare because of workforce shortages that have left a record number of container ships waiting to enter ports.
  • Biden and Pelosi are prioritizing their radical Socialist agenda.
  • These policies are prolonging and worsening the supply chain crisis, and they will ensure that this Christmas (and many months after) will not be merry:
    • Overly extended unemployment benefits are fueling worker shortages.
    • Their multi-trillion-dollar spending spree is driving up inflation.
    • Plans to mandate vaccines are hurting businesses already struggling to hire while discriminating against workers regardless of their circumstances.
    • Over-regulating and over-taxing American businesses and families is making us less competitive.
    • Ignoring real infrastructure needs is making matters worse and further imperiling the upcoming holiday season.
    • Prohibitions on energy production are driving heating and gas bills through the roof.
  • The President must stop the indiscriminate vaccine mandates, excessive taxation, and government handouts that are disincentivizing work and harming American businesses.

House Republicans are now calling on Biden to prioritize real infrastructure solutions that focus on moving goods and people safely and efficiently.

The post Biden And Pelosi’s Radical Policies Are Making The Supply Chain Crisis Worse appeared first on gop.gov.

Federal Reserve Board announces it will begin its Survey of Finance Companies this month as part of the Board’s continuing effort to improve its understanding of credit availability to households and businesses in the United States

21 Oct
Federal Reserve Board announces it will begin its Survey of Finance Companies this month as part of the Board’s continuing effort to improve its understanding of credit availability to households and businesses in the United States

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks at a Climate/Sustainable Products Event

21 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Bogotá, Colombia

Jardín Botánico de Bogotá José Celestino Mutis

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, again, thank you.  Thank you all.  And it’s very wonderful to be here today.  It’s always wonderful to be outside or almost outside.  But let me just start by, Mr. Minister, thanking you for your partnership today and in the important months ahead.  And Madame Mayor, to you as well.

I think there’s a very powerful thing represented right here, which is a country at a national level showing remarkable leadership on climate and on preserving our planet, and a city doing the same thing.  And the two together – the leadership of cities, municipalities, urban areas, and national leadership shown by President Duque – that’s a very powerful combination.  And I think it’s going to be on evidence at COP26 when Team Colombia is very much present.  So I thank you so much for that.

And I really do want to thank President Duque for his leadership, for his vision, congratulate him as well for receiving the International Conservation Award this year from the International Conservation Caucus Foundation – further evidence of the very good work that he and Colombia are doing.

And then finally, thank you again to everyone here, including our terrific speakers, for everything that you showed me, you showed the colleagues traveling with us, for all that you’re each doing to help build a sustainable future.

Places like this Botanical Garden remind us of the extraordinary natural beauty of our world.  And again, in an extraordinary country like Colombia – but where, nonetheless, I think 75 percent of the population is in urban settings – it’s so important to connect those of us living in urban environments to rural environments, but especially to the natural habitat that we share and that we all have a responsibility to preserve.

This is a gift to our people; it’s a gift to the world.  It’s a gift that’s been given to us by previous generations, and we have a responsibility to care for it and to pass it on.  And again, Colombia’s leaders and citizens take this responsibility seriously.  We see this in the new environmental crimes law, Mr. Minister, in the recent decision to strengthen and to show remarkable leadership with the goals that Colombia set going into COP26, in Colombia’s leadership in the Renewable Energy for Latin America and the Caribbean initiative.  In these and so many other ways, Colombia is helping to show the way.

We also know that the climate crisis is a national security issue.  It’s about the safety and well-being of our people.  It’s about building a global economy that is genuinely inclusive and sustainable.  And it’s about equity.  We know that communities and countries who are most negatively impacted by the climate crisis are rarely those who did the most to cause it.

One of the reasons that I wanted to come here today is because the United States is deeply committed to rising to the challenge of the climate crisis, and we want to do so in partnership with Colombia.  There’s one area in particular that stands out – the minister mentioned – and that is conserving the Amazon and other important ecosystems.  As you know, deforestation is a key contributor to the climate crisis because the Amazon and other forests are carbon sinks, absorbing a massive amount of carbon dioxide, while at the same time deforestation itself produces more CO2 emissions.  Deforestation in Colombia increased by about 8 percent last year, most of it in the Amazon.  And in fact, about 75 percent of Colombia’s climate emissions come from deforestation and unsustainable agricultural production practices like clearing land to expand beef and dairy production.

By conserving Colombia’s forests, promoting more sustainable agriculture, we can make major strides in dealing with the climate crisis as well.  In the coming days we’re going to expand these efforts as we work to develop a new regional partnership specifically focused on addressing commodity-driven deforestation in the Amazon.  Together we’ll help provide actionable information to companies so that they can reduce their reliance on deforestation.  We’ll give much-needed financial assistance to help manage protected areas and indigenous territories, and we’ll help scale up low-carbon agricultural practices to farmers throughout the Amazon.

This new regional partnership will help prevent up to 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere while capturing another 52,000 metric tons of carbon, and we estimate it will save – save – more than 45,000 hectares of forest.

We know these programs can work.  Take, just for example, the Amazon Alive partnership which we recently launched.  We’re working with the Colombian Government to tackle environmental and conservation crimes and protect areas that are important for biodiversity.  Or take the Paramos and Forests program, another collaboration between Colombia and the United States.  Through that program we’re working with 19 Afro-Colombian indigenous communities to protect 500,000 hectares of Colombian forest, and that collaboration has already significantly reduced deforestation.  It’s generated about 6.2 million tons of carbon offsets.

And it’s done – and this is critical and we heard this as well – while supporting local business, local community leaders, in their economic endeavors, including a couple that we just heard about.  (Inaudible) experiences prove that we do not have to choose between conserving the environment and earning a living; we can do both.  And that’s what tackling the climate crisis is all about, and that’s what it will take – partnership between governments, private sectors, civil society activists working together in new ways with a shared focus on and commitment to protect our climate and to preserve a better future for our children.

Again, I’m very honored that the United States is able to be a partner in this.  I’m especially grateful for the work of our colleagues at the U.S. Agency for International Development who are doing remarkable work every single day to make this partnership real.  So I thank you.  I’m grateful to our Colombian colleagues.  We have a partnership.  We’re building it, we’re strengthening it, and I think it will be to the benefit of all of our citizens.  Thank you very much.

Federal Reserve Board announces a broad set of new rules that will prohibit the purchase of individual securities, restrict active trading, and increase the timeliness of reporting and public disclosure by Federal Reserve policymakers and senior staff

21 Oct
Federal Reserve Board announces a broad set of new rules that will prohibit the purchase of individual securities, restrict active trading, and increase the timeliness of reporting and public disclosure by Federal Reserve policymakers and senior staff

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry Travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

21 Oct

Office of the Spokesperson

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry will travel to Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on October 24-25, 2021 to engage with government counterparts and private sector leaders on efforts to address the climate crisis.  Secretary Kerry will participate in the Middle East Green Initiative Summit while in Riyadh.

Secretary Kerry’s engagements will bolster the United States’ bilateral and multilateral climate diplomacy efforts ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will be held October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

For media inquiries, please contact ClimateComms@state.gov.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks at the U.S.-Colombia High-Level Dialogue

21 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Bogotá, Colombia

Palacio San Carlos

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Buenos días a todos.   Wonderful to be here with all of you, with both of these remarkable teams, the teams behind the teams, because we know where the real work gets done.  We’re grateful to all of you.  And Marta Lucia, thank you so much for hosting us.  I had the chance to welcome you to the State Department a few months ago, so I’m very grateful to be here in Bogota, to the Palacio San Carlos, and to be with all of you.

So this is, in fact, the ninth High-Level Dialogue.  I am not new to the High-Level Dialogue.  I actually participated in at least two of them, maybe even three of them, back in 2015, 2016.  And I think what the continuity tells you is that this relationship transcends any administration or any political party in either of our countries, and that’s important.  It also extends far beyond our governments, civil society, the private sector, families, communities.  So while this High-Level Dialogue is taking place, there are countless other dialogues happening every single day at every level between Colombians and Americans, and that really is the fabric that joins us.

I think if anyone needed to be convinced of the breadth and depth of the relationship between our countries, the areas that we’re working on together, that are having an impact on the lives of our citizens, all they had to do was listen to the vice president, because with tremendous eloquence, you covered so much that we’re working on together.  And I think that’s evidence of everything that brings us together.

The core focus of this trip for me, my first trip to South America as Secretary of State, is how we can make democracies deliver for our people.  That is our common challenge; it’s our common responsibility.  And that’s true in our countries, and it’s true across the hemisphere.  And we know that one way we can deliver is by working closely with our partners and allies on the biggest challenges we face.  And that’s exactly what the United States and Colombia are doing.

Today’s dialogue, as you heard, will touch on many of them.  But let me just focus on a few, because I think they stand out at this particular moment:  COVID-19, the climate crisis, the migration challenge.  The way we’re tackling these challenges reveals some defining characteristics of the partnership between our countries.  And I think it will inform many of the discussions that we’re all going to have today.

First, we have to confront these vexing challenges together, because they’re simply too big and too complex for either of us to address alone.  That is a defining principle of what brings us here today.  The climate crisis, for example, no country – no group of countries, even, can do enough alone to limit the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which science tells us is our ceiling if we want to avoid catastrophe.  In the pandemic, the spread of the virus everywhere – anywhere, excuse me, threatens people everywhere.  We know that.

Second, in addressing these challenges, we both have to deal with the immediate consequences, but also, at the same time, we have to work to long-term, sustainable solutions.  COVID-19 – we’ve provided from the United States six million doses of safe, effective vaccines to Colombia.  We donated over $80 million in funding to support efforts to beat back the virus.  When the virus surged here and the country’s ICUs were overwhelmed, we sent more than 200 ventilators to Colombia.

Meanwhile, we’re deepening cooperation between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Colombia’s National Public Health Institute to strengthen Colombia’s public health system and security, from better integrating the use of data, to bolstering emergency preparedness and response.  And that’s not only going to help with this pandemic; it will help prevent, or if necessary, deal with the next one.

Third, we’re using our alliance to model the kinds of collaborative responses that we want to see in the world and marshaling greater regional collaboration.  Migration that we spent yesterday focused on.  Colombia and the United States are working hand-in-hand to attend to the urgent humanitarian needs of 1.8 million displaced Venezuelans in Colombia, thanks in large part to the remarkable generosity of President Duque and the Colombian people.  At the same time, we’re encouraging partners in our region to join the effort to address this and other migration challenges in the hemisphere, which was the aim of the ministerial-level meeting that we held yesterday that our two nations convened together.

Fourth, we’re focusing on addressing the root causes of these challenges, not just the symptoms.  Inequity, discrimination, corruption, and the lack of access to opportunity underlie many of these challenges, and they have to be addressed if we’re serious about overcoming them.  Together, we’re finding innovative ways to do exactly that.  Multiple discussions today will touch on this urban-rural gap that you talked about, Marta Lucia, and the digital divide that often comes with it.  Expanding rural broadband, which is critical to employment, to education, even access to basic services in the 21st century.  It’s a problem that both of our nations need to make great strides on and learn from each other as we go along, if we’re going to actually deliver for all of our communities.

And tackling root causes is critically important to another key issue that cuts across today’s dialogue, and that’s security.  We are as committed as ever to working with Colombia on implementation of the peace accords.  But as we carry this work forward, the United States is bringing a new, more comprehensive approach to promoting security.  The approach maintains a firm pillar of cooperation on strengthening law enforcement and our efforts to reduce violence, particularly in underserved rural communities, where the state, as we’ve heard, has limited albeit growing presence.

The approach keeps human rights at its core.  We’re continuing to focus on building the capacity and resources of prosecutors, judges, and other key actors to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuse, and we’re working together to improve the protection of journalists, human rights defenders, and other brave advocates in the face of ongoing threats and attacks.  But our new approach also seeks to broaden the tools that we have at our disposal and that we use by doing things like developing more inclusive economic opportunity for young people, who otherwise might feel that they have no other option besides illicit activity.  And investing in substance abuse prevention, treatment, recovery, which will not only help those struggling with addiction, but also reduce the demand of the United States, which is fueling so much criminal activity.

Fifth, every one of these challenges is also an opportunity – an opportunity to Build Back Better, to fix parts of our system that may be broken.  That’s ultimately what democracy is all about.  Both of our countries have made ambitious commitments to cut emissions and adapt to the inevitable changes to our climate that we’re already seeing.  As President Biden has made clear, the investments required to meet these commitments represent once-in-generations opportunity to invest in good-paying jobs that will also preserve our majestic planet, and to create these opportunities in communities that have consistently been marginalized like the Afro-Colombian community, the indigenous communities in this country, black and brown communities in the United States.

Build Back Better World, which the vice president talked about, is one way we help – we hope and help to create these opportunities together, not just in climate, but in infrastructure, by deepening social and economic support for working families.  There’s a lot that we can and will do with Build Back Better World.  We were very pleased to have some of our experts here, as you noted, in recent weeks talking to our partners in Colombia about that, and I think there’ll be lots more to say about that in the coming months.

Critically, we will do this in a way that is consistent with our two countries’ values: transparency, environmental sustainability, empowering local communities.  All of these things are vital in the approach that we’re taking.

We’ve heard as well – and I just want to say a note about this – on the importance and, I think, vitality of exchanges between our countries in all different areas from arts to culture, to academia, science and technology, STEM.  I’m a profound believer in these, in these exchanges.  I think that they do extraordinary things in developing understanding and ties between our countries that last for years and generations.  And also, they bring talented young people together, and when you bring talented young people together, the results are extraordinary.

Now, as I like to say, even if I was not a firm believer in these programs, I’d have no choice because my wife used to be the assistant secretary of state for Education and Cultural Affairs, responsible for these programs.  But I strongly believe in them.  I hope that our groups will continue to find ways to energize them.  Of course, COVID has made things difficult, but I believe we have to build back better there as well.

One final point:  This relationship persists, indeed it gets stronger, because it continues to evolve.  It continues to evolve to reflect the needs, the hopes, the aspirations of our people, just like our democracies.  That’s what it’s all about.  Marta Lucía, you said at dinner last night something I took note of.  This work, these groups are very, very important.  And the conversations that we’re going to have today, the work we’re doing today, all of you are doing today is very important.  But we have to move from the conversations, we have to move from the discussions, we have to move from the dialogue to, as you said, action and results.  So we are looking to all of you, our colleagues, to help us do that, to achieve that, and to carry the United States and Colombia forward.

Thank you.

DNC Statement on Republicans Protecting Steve Bannon

21 Oct
Today, nearly every House Republican voted against holding Steve Bannon in contempt for his violation of a congressional subpoena. DNC spokesperson Adonna Biel released the following statement: 

“Republicans refusing to hold Steve Bannon in contempt is just the latest example of their willingness to do anything to protect the people most responsible for the violent assault on our Capitol. Between their relentless attacks on voting rights and their willingness to defend a criminal instead of standing up to Trump, today’s Republican Party has fully branded themselves as the anti-democracy party. These Republicans are cowards who have fully surrendered to the puppeteering of a president who cost them the House, Senate, and White House. Between the lies, conspiracies, and shamelessness, House Republicans should probably seek medical attention to locate their missing spines.”

Let’s take a look back at how deeply that Trump loyalty runs: 

Daniella Diaz, CNN: “I asked @GOPLeader if he still thinks Trump is responsible for the Capitol attack (something he said on the House floor a week after 1/6)

“McCarthy ignored my Q & instead blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for ignoring a note passed to her about security issues during the attack.”

 Leigh Ann Caldwell, NBC News: “McCarthy and GOP are blaming Pelosi for security failures.

“When I and another reporter asked if McConnell, who was majority leader on Jan6, should also be questioned and blamed for security lapses, McCarthy refused to answer”

 CNN: “Fact check: Some Republicans have tried to rewrite the history of January 6. Here’s how”

 CNN: “A Republican House member just described January 6 as a ‘normal tourist visit’”

 CNN: “Why did 21 Republicans oppose honoring those who served on January 6?”

 The Hill: “GOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection”

 Associated Press: “House GOP leaders won’t support probe of Jan. 6 Capitol riot”
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The post DNC Statement on Republicans Protecting Steve Bannon appeared first on Democrats.

Speaker Pelosi And House Democrats Continue To Damage Legitimate Congressional Oversight Authority

21 Oct

America is in crisis.

Border arrests are at an all-time high, inflation is skyrocketing, and gas prices are surging.

Rather than addressing the numerous crises facing America, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats are instead trying to punish their political opponents.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  • Congress has significant and constitutional-based oversight authority to issue subpoenas but only for a legislative purpose.
  • Congress has no authority to issue subpoenas to expose, punish, or even look for criminal wrongdoing.
  • The Select Committee’s authoritarian undertaking against Americans has no place in Congress.
  • The Select Committee is ignoring their actual charter – to look at why we were so unprepared and what we can do to prevent this from happening again.

MAKE NO MISTAKE: This is a desperate attempt by Pelosi and House Democrats to shift attention away from their failed Far-Left Socialist policies, which have put America in crisis. We should be focusing on the crises facing the American people – not this political theatre meant only to distract from Biden’s failures.

The post Speaker Pelosi And House Democrats Continue To Damage Legitimate Congressional Oversight Authority appeared first on gop.gov.

On the Continued Erosion of Freedoms in Hong Kong

21 Oct

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

The United States remains seriously concerned at the continued erosion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including political participation, in Hong Kong. We note in particular the increase in politically-motivated prosecutions, including through the National Security Law, targeting Hong Kong’s teachers, labor unions, lawyers, journalists, health care workers, student unions, and individual citizens.  We again call on the Beijing and Hong Kong authorities to release those unjustly detained and cease their crackdown on peaceful civil society organizations.  We once more urge Beijing to abide by its treaty obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Hong Kong authorities continue to disqualify scores of pro-democracy district councilors, who received their public mandate from free and fair elections in 2019.  These retroactive and targeted disqualifications, based on the Hong Kong authorities’ arbitrary determination that these district councilors’ loyalty oaths are invalid, prevent people in Hong Kong from participating meaningfully in their own governance.

People in Hong Kong and its vibrant civil society have been the city’s greatest resource and the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s success as an international hub of business and exchange.  We will continue to support people in Hong Kong and their rights and freedoms.