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News > Latin America

Colombia's Duque Names Business Leader As Minister of Defense

  • Colombia's President-Elect Ivan Duque addresses the audience after receiving his credentials from the election council, in Bogota, Colombia July 16, 2018

    Colombia's President-Elect Ivan Duque addresses the audience after receiving his credentials from the election council, in Bogota, Colombia July 16, 2018 | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 July 2018

Guillermo Botero, longtime president of the National Chamber of Commerce was named as Duque's minister of defense amidst criticisms the cabinet is privatizing the government.

Colombia’s president-elect Ivan Duque has named the longtime business leader and Ph.D. in economics, Guillermo Botero, as his defense minister.

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Botero, a trained lawyer, business administrator and regarded economist has presided over the country’s National Chamber of Commerce for the past 15 years. He’ll replace Luis Carlos Villegas on August 7 when Colombia’s new president is sworn in.

"I want to announce to the Colombians that we are going to have a Minister of Defense with managerial experience, with a great love for Colombia, a person who has served many sectors of our country, that has character, that looks you in the eyes, that is transparent and that will help me recover (national) security, that is Dr. Guillermo Botero," announced Duque on Tuesday.

Botero thanked the president for his new appointment by Twitter.

I want to especially thank President @IvanDuque for designating me minister of defense. We will work arduously for all Colombians.

The former leftist presidential candidate, Gustavo Petro, criticised the appointee tweeting that Botero "completely excluded me from the election campaign debates that he called."

Petro’s party, Colombia Humana, along with the Democratic Pole and FARC parties say the incoming administration is privatizing the government and will cater to the interests of big industries.

Earlier this week Duque chose the politician, Nancy Patricia Gutierrez as his minister of interior. Gutierrez was investigated by the Colombian Supreme Court regarding links to paramilitary groups in 2008 but was later acquitted. She was also investigated for a state investigatory agency for private information on peace activist and former senator Piedad Cordoba in 2006.

Botero will be in charge of the National Armed Forces and National Police. 

Duque made campaign promises to fight illegal armed groups, urban crime, and drug trafficking, which Botero will also be tasked to combat.

According to a recent U.S report, coca production in Colombia rose 11 percent to 209,000 hectares between 2016 and 2017, while cocaine production increased 19 percent. Duque wants to reverse this trend by using planes and drones to spray crops with glyphosate, a likely carcinogen.

As minister of defense, Botero, who voted against Colombia’s 2016 peace agreement with the FARC, will be responsible for its implementation, which means protecting the lives of human and land rights activists in rural areas. Over 300 rural activists have been killed apparently at the hands of paramilitaries for land or money since 2016.

Duque has vowed to amend the accords to throw former FARC leaders in jail before they are able to run for office.   

So far the president-elect has appointed nine of the 16 cabinet ministers. Among them are Carlos Holmes as Foreign Minister, Andres Valencia as agricultural minister, and Alberto Carrasquilla as Finance Minister. Carrasquilla already served in the same post between 2003 and 2007 during the Alvaro Uribe administration.

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