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Video: A Conversation with Colombian President Iván Duque

Thursday, February 14, 2019


  • Iván Duque, President of Colombia
  • Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, Contributor, CNBC (interviewer)

Colombian President Iván Duque said it wasn't hard to step up and denounce the embattled Nicolás Maduro, comparing watching the crisis in Venezuela to hearing a neighbor beat his wife every night. When you see the neighbor in the elevator the next day, said Duque, you can’t simply pretend things are normal. “It was my moral duty to denounce that dictator [Nicolás Maduro],” said Duque at an event in Washington, DC, adding that he hopes Maduro is eventually tried by the International Criminal Court. He said that, more than discuss what will happen to Maduro, the international community should be focused on doing everything it can to bring about the end of the dictatorship. He called on both the Chinese and the Venezuelan military to recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's interim commander-in-chief.

On domestic issues, Duque and Caruso-Cabrera covered everything from boosting Colombian GDP not through oil exports but the creative industries (aka the Orange Economy), treating the coca problem wholistically, involving Afro-Colombian communities in state projects, and the need for Colombia’s special transitional justice court system to adequately mete out proper justice for former FARC commanders found responsible for crimes. He also said he did not begrudge his original mentor, former President and now Senator Álvaro Uribe, for publicly disagreeing with him on his tax plan. Disagreements in democracy and even within a party are healthy, Duque said, adding that Uribe’s decision to return to serve in Congress after his presidency—as John Quincy Adams also did—was patriotic. Duque pushed back on the characterization of him as from the right politically. Security is a public good, he said, and a lack of it disproportionately affects the poor. Entrepreneurship simply makes common sense. He talked at length about how unregulated market access can open the doors to “voracious capitalism,” and said that one of the aims of his administration is to work on “closing the gap between rich and poor and talking about social justice. Whether that’s right or left, I don't know or I don’t care. I want to make Colombia a better place.”