The conservative presidents of Colombia, Iván Duque, and Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez, exchanged compliments Sunday at the Caribbean beach resort of Cartagena de Indias in the framework of the “Bilateral Economic and Trade Commission.”
When the commission convenes again in the second semester of 2022, Duque will have completed his term in office.
I told President Duque today that it was an honor for me to accompany his leadership in the region, Abdo pointed out. Paraguay has walked by democratic and libertarian conviction and has raised its voice in desire for freedom, against the oppressors, and perhaps today we still do not value the great legacy that those of us who decided to defend freedom and democracy in times of turbulence are going to leave, he added.
Abdo also highlighted both nations had faced difficult times through the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath.
Duque praised the way in which Paraguay has managed the pandemic, balancing health protection and economic reactivation, which he found admirable. The Paraguayan people should feel very proud of these achievements, Duque went on.
During the meeting, Bogotá vowed to Asunción's fight against the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) guerrilla group. We will be supporting with all our intelligence and counterintelligence teams, our training schools so that Paraguay manages to extinguish this misnamed Paraguayan People's Army, which has been a terrorist group, Duque explained as he highlighted Abdo's achievements against that terrorist organization.
Our support and our commitment is total, Mr. President, on this front, added Duque, whose country is currently facing the expansion of FARC dissidents, the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, the Clan del Golfo criminal organization, and other structures fighting for territorial control and drug trafficking.
Abdo, who arrived in Cartagena on Friday, met with local businessmen whom he offered to invest in his country.
Duque also praised the increase in binational agricultural trade and thanked his guest for opening Paraguay to Colombian products, such as coffee and flowers. He also underscored Paraguay's leadership in the region in the use of renewable energies.
Both heads of state also agreed to allow the validation or homologation of driver's licenses, which in Duque's view could boost tourism between the two nations, and even hoped that in the future there will be a direct flight Asunción-Cartagena de Indias, in addition to the return of direct flights between Asunción and Bogotá.
Abdo asked Duque to deepen integration and to open the pork and poultry production markets. The request was made after both leaders signed two bilateral cooperation agreements on human rights and driver's licenses. They also announced the constitution of a Binational Cabinet to coordinate public policies on multiple fronts.