Last Tuesday, September 20th, Colombia’s new President Gustavo Petro addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Petro’s speech is in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, President Ivan Duque, who spent much of his professional life as a Washington DC Diplomat and used previous addresses to defend his personal record during his deeply unpopular presidency.
In President Petro’s first address, he rebuked the “war on drugs,” glyphosate coca fumigation, coal and petroleum production (Colombia is a major producer of both), climate change, and capital in general.
His speech largely reflected his stated policy goals of reducing Colombia’s dependence on oil & gas exports, which amount to roughly half of the country’s foreign exchange, and to reconcile with the country’s armed insurgents and narcotics traffickers, rather than attempt to defeat them.
Unlike other leftist Latin American leaders such those of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, Petro did not directly seek to directly antagonize the United States, Colombia’s largest benefactor and trading partner. He did however, condemn the US “War on Drugs” policy initiated by former President Nixon, and US pressure for coca plant eradication via aerial fumigation; but both policies have become controversial in the US as well.
While calling on Russia and Ukraine to make peace, Petro avoided naming Russia as the aggressor in the invasion. Colombia and Russia have relatively frosty relations after Russia was caught up in several recent spy scandals.
The translated text of Petro’s address follows:
Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Heads of Missions accredited before the 77th version of the United Nations General Assembly; Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Organization, Amina Mohammed, to everyone.
I come from one of the three most beautiful countries on Earth.
There is an explosion of life there. Thousands of multicolored species in the seas, in the skies, on the land. I come from the land of yellow butterflies and magic. There in the mountains and valleys of all green, not only the abundant waters flow down, but also the torrents of blood. I come from a country of bloody beauty.
My country is not only beautiful, but there is also violence there.
How can violence be combined with death? How can the biodiversity of life erupt with the dances of death and horror? Who is to blame for breaking the enchantment with terror? Who or what is responsible for drowning life in the routine decisions of wealth and interest? Who leads us to destruction as a nation and as a people?
My country is beautiful, because it has the Amazon rainforest, the Chocó rainforest, the waters, the Andes Mountain ranges and the oceans.
There, in those rainforests, planetary oxygen is released, and atmospheric CO2 is absorbed. One of those plants that absorbs CO2, among millions of species, is one of the most persecuted on earth. At any rate, its destruction is sought it is an Amazonian plant, it is the coca plant, the sacred plant of the Incas.
As in a paradoxical crossroads. The forest that is trying to be saved is, at the same time, destroyed.
To destroy the coca plant they throw poisons, glyphosate en masse that runs through the waters, they arrest their growers and imprison them. For destroying or possessing the coca leaf, a million Latin Americans are murdered, and two million Afro-Americans are imprisoned in North America. Destroy the plant that kills, they shout from the north, destroy it, but the plant is just one plant, more than the millions of species that perish when they unleash fire on the rainforest.
Destroying the rainforest, the Amazon, has become the slogan followed by states and businessmen. The cry of scientists baptizing the rainforest as one of the great climatic pillars does not matter. For the power relations of the world, the rainforest and its inhabitants are to blame for the plague that plagues them. 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 is more hypocritical than the calls to save the rainforest.
The rainforest is burning, gentlemen, while you wage war and play with it. The rainforest, the climatic pillar of the world, disappears with all its life. The great sponge that absorbs the planetary CO2 evaporates. The rainforest to be saved is seen in my country as the enemy to defeat, as the undergrowth to be extinguished. The space of coca and of the peasants who cultivate it because they have nothing else to cultivate, is demonized. For you, my country is of no interest to you except to throw poisons into your rainforests, take your men to jail and throw your women into exclusion. They are not interested in the child’s education, but rather in killing his rainforest and extracting the coal and oil from his entrails. The sponge that absorbs the poisons is useless, they prefer to throw more poisons into the atmosphere.
We serve them to excuse the emptiness and loneliness of their own society that lead them to live in the midst of drug bubbles. We hide from them their problems that they refuse to reform. It is better to declare war on the rainforest, its plants, its people.
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. .
What is more poisonous for humans: cocaine or coal or oil? The opinion of power has ordered that cocaine is poison and must be prosecuted, so that it only causes minimal deaths by overdose, and more by the mixtures caused by its ruled secrecy, but, instead, coal and oil must be protected, so that its use can extinguish all, all humanity. These are the things of world power, things of injustice, things of irrationality, because world power has become irrational.
They see in the exuberance of the rainforest, in its vitality, the lustful, the sinful; the guilty origin of the sadness of their societies, imbued in the deep unlimited compulsion to have, to have and to consume. How to hide the loneliness of the heart, in its dryness in the midst of societies without affection, competitive to the point of imprisoning the soul in solitude, if not by blaming the plant, the man who grows it, the libertarian secrets of the rainforest. According to the irrational power of the world, it is not the fault of the market that cuts down existence, it is the fault of the rainforest and those who inhabit it.
Bank accounts have become unlimited, the money saved by the most powerful on earth can no longer even be spent in the time of centuries. The sadness of existence produced by this artificial summons to competition fills it with noise and drugs. Addiction to money and having has another face: drug addiction in people who lose the competition, of the artificial race in which they have transformed humanity. The disease of loneliness is not cured with glyphosate on the rainforests. The rainforest is not to blame. The culprit is their society educated in endless consumption, in the stupid confusion between consumption and happiness that allows, yes, that the pockets of power are filled with money.
The culprit of drug addiction is not the rainforest, it is the irrationality of its world power.
Give him a blow of light, of reason to his power. Turn on the lights of the century again.
The war on drugs has lasted 40 years, if we do not correct the course and it continues for another 40 years, the United States will see 2,800,000 young people die of overdose due to fentanyl, which is not produced in our Latin America. You will see millions of African Americans being imprisoned in their private prisons. The imprisoned Afro will become the business of prison companies, a million more Latin Americans will die murdered, our waters and our green fields will fill with blood, they will see the dream of democracy die, both in my (Latin) America and in Anglo-Saxon America. Democracy will die where it was born, in the great Western European Athens.
By hiding the truth, they will see the rainforest and democracies die.
The war on drugs has failed. The fight against the climate crisis has failed. The fatal consumption of soft drugs has increased, they have gone to the hardest, a genocide has occurred on my continent and in my country, millions of people have been sentenced to prison. To hide their own social guilt, they have blamed the rainforest and its plants. They have filled speeches and policies with no reason.
I demand 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: a more supportive, more affectionate society, where the intensity of life saves us from addictions and the new slaveries. Do you want less drugs? Think of less profit and more love. Think of a rational exercise of power.
Do not touch the beauty of my country with your poisons. Help us, without hypocrisy, to save the Amazon rainforest to save the life of humanity on the planet.
You gathered the scientists, and they spoke with reason, with mathematics and climatological models, they said that the end of the human species was near, that its time is no longer millennia, not even centuries. Science set off the alarm and we stopped listening to it. The war served as an excuse for us not to take the necessary measures.
When actions were most needed, when speeches no longer served, when it was essential to deposit money in the funds to save humanity, when it was necessary to get away from coal and oil as soon as possible, one war and another and another were invented. They invaded Ukraine, but also Iraq, and Libya and Syria. They invaded in the name of oil and gas.
They discovered in the 21st century the worst of their addictions: addiction to money and oil.
Wars have served as an excuse for not acting against the climate crisis. The wars have shown them how dependent they are on what will end the human species.
If you observe that the people filled with hunger and thirst migrate by millions to the north, towards where the water is; so you lock them up, build walls, deploy machine guns, shoot at them. They expel them as if they were not human beings, they quintuple the mentality of those who politically created the gas chambers and the concentration camps, they reproduce 1933 on a planetary scale, the day of the great triumph of the assault on reason.
Do they not see that the solution to the great exodus unleashed on their northern countries is to return to the water to fill the rivers and the fields to be filled with nutrients?
The climatic disaster fills us with viruses that swarm us, but you do business with medicines and turn vaccines into merchandise. They propose that the market will save us from what the market itself has created. The Frankenstein of humanity lies in letting the market and greed act without planning, surrendering the brain and reason, kneeling human rationality to greed.
Why war if what we need is to save the human species? What use is NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and empires, if what is coming is the end of intelligence?
The climatic disaster will kill hundreds of millions of people—and listen well—it is not produced by the planet; it is produced by capital. The cause of climate disaster is capital. The logic of relating to each other to consume more and more, to produce more and more, and so that a few earn more and more, is that what produces the climatic disaster. They articulated the logic of the expanded accumulation of capital, the energy engines of coal and oil and unleashed the hurricane: the chemical change of the atmosphere that is deeper and more deadly. Now in a parallel world, the expanded accumulation of capital is an expanded accumulation of death.
From the rainforest lands and beauty. There where they decided to make an enemy of an Amazon rainforest plant, extradite and imprison its growers, I invite you to stop the war and stop the climatic disaster.
Here, in this Amazon rainforest, there is a failure of humanity. Behind the bonfires that burn her, after her poisoning, there is an integral, civilizational failure of humanity.
Behind the addiction to cocaine and drugs, behind the addiction to oil and coal, is the true addiction of this phase of human history: the addiction to irrational power, profit and money. Here is the huge deadly machinery that can extinguish humanity.
I propose to you, as president of one of the most beautiful countries on earth and one of the most bloodstained and violent, to end the war on drugs and all wars and allow our people to live in peace.
I summon all of Latin America for this purpose. I summon the voice of Latin America to unite to defeat the irrational that tortures our body.
I call on you to save the Amazon rainforest, in its entirety, with the resources that can be allocated to life worldwide. If you do not have the capacity to finance the fund for the revitalization of the forests, if it weighs more to allocate the money to weapons than to life, then reduce the external debt to free up our own budget spaces and with them carry out the task of saving the humanity and life on the planet. We can do it ourselves if you, from the north, don’t want to. Only change debt for life, only change debt for nature.
I propose and summon you in Latin America to do so, to dialogue to end the war. Do not pressure us to align ourselves in the fields of war. It is the hour of peace. Let the Slavic peoples talk to each other, let the peoples of the world do it. War is just a trap that brings the end of time closer in the great orgy of irrationality.
From Latin America we call on Ukraine and Russia to make peace.
Only in peace can we save life on this, our common land. There is no “Total Peace” without social, economic, and environmental justice.
We are at war, too, with the planet. Without peace with the planet, there will be no peace among nations.
Without justice, there is no social peace.
Thank you very kindly for listening to me.