Colombia’s Santos and regional heads vow “zero tolerance” against corruption at America’s Summit

By Michael Krumholtz April 16, 2018
summit of the americas

(Courtesy of Colombia Presidency Office)

Last weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru proved that global politics can never be put on pause. The two-day regional gathering that sees heads of state from the Western Hemisphere meet to discuss an array of multilateral agreements and shared values was overshadowed by the murder of three Ecuadorean journalists by FARC dissidents and the U.S. bombing of Syria.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that he had sent Colombian military personnel and policemen to Quito, Ecuador to help in the aftermath of the murders. Santos told a CNN reporter Friday that the three men were murdered within Colombian borders, meaning an investigation is expected to open up here to find those responsible for the kidnapping and killing of the Ecuadorean citizens.

“We express our solidarity with (Ecuador’s) President Lenín Moreno, who should have been here at his first summit but had to return because of this condemnable act,” Santos said during Saturday’s plenary session at the summit. “We’ve lent all our support and collaboration from the first moment and we will continue giving that until the responsible parties are captured and brought to justice.”

Leaders from throughout the Americas agreed to an informal promise that they would abstain from and root out political corruption in their respective countries at the Summit of the Americas in Lima this weekend. Through a legally non-binding document called the Lima Compromise, the regional heads of state made the agreement that they would take “strong stands” against corruptive practices.

The document suggests the use of electronic systems that track government purchases as well as public works contracts so that governments are fully transparent with citizens of each country.

“One of the most important challenges that we have as a region and that we must confront together is, without a doubt, the fight against corruption,” Santos said in his summit speech. “This is not something new. Corruption is an enemy that has become deeply embedded throughout time across the whole world.”

Santos also helped announce the addition of Canada and other countries to the Pacific Alliance trade agreement that was started by Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru. Those new additions will officially take place in July, the leaders of those countries said in a joint announcement Saturday.

Saturday’s plenary session at the summit also saw leaders from throughout the region offer their thoughts on key issues today, as many carried on the event’s theme to denounce political corruption, express solidarity with the slain Ecuadorean journalists, and speak on the situation in Venezuela.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, among others, repudiated Syria’s use of chemical weapons but expressed caution at escalating the situation following the U.S. attacks on Damascus.

Without some of the headlining names in the region in attendance, perhaps the most interesting speech came from Bolivian President Evo Morales, who spoke out against the U.S. government, calling it “the principal enemy against freedom, against democracy, against Mother Earth, and against multilateralism.”

He added that authorities in Washington DC should suspend the building of a border wall with Mexico, defund the military prison on Guantanamo Bay, and completely lift their archaic blockade with Cuba.

In relation to the worrying developments in Syria, Peru’s Foreign Ministry released a statement Saturday saying that it condemns the use of chemical weapons and “makes a call for diplomacy between all the concerned actors to avoid any escalation that would put international peace and security at risk.”

The original version of this article was first published in Peru Reports.