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Colombia Independence Day 2018

26 July 2018

Dr Maria Eugenia Correa Olarte, Ambassador of the Republic of Colombia to South Africa hosted a reception to celebrate the 208th Anniversary of Colombia's Independence which is celebrated annually on the 20th of July.

Photo (l-r): Ms. Maria Eugenia Correa Olarte, Ambassador of Colombia in South Africa, Mr. Derek Hanekom, SA Minister of Tourism, Mr. Jose Ignacio Juliao Ali, Second Secretary and Mr. Ivan Mendoza Benitez, Commercial and Cultural Attaché

In her remarks Ambassador Olarte said that after 52 years of internal conflict that ended in November 2016 when the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) signed a peace agreement, a brighter future to all Colombians was possible.

"Thanks to the leadership of President Santos during the last 8 years, Colombia has seen how its democracy has been strengthened along with its economy, human rights, environment protection, international relations, social standards, among others.

"The Government of Colombia through its Embassy in Pretoria has been more than committed in the promotion of commerce, tourism and investment between South Africa and Colombia, as well as the consolidation of the bilateral relations."


16 JULY 2018  
On behalf of the people and the government of the Republic of Colombia, it’s an immense pleasure and honour to address you on the celebrations of the 208TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE REPUBLIC OF COLOMBIA.
Colombian Independence Day is celebrated annually on the 20th of July.  The event marks the day that, in 1810, the residents of Bogotá, our capital, were stirred into protesting on the streets against Spanish rule. A limited independence, later made permanent, was decreed in the country, freeing Colombia from the Spanish.
This happened 208 years ago. And today, Colombia has become one of the regional players in Latin America and the Caribbean. We have overcome after 52 years of internal conflict that ended in November 2016 when the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) signed a peace agreement to put an end to more than five decades of conflict, bringing a brighter future to all Colombians.  
Thanks to the leadership of President Santos during the last 8 years, Colombia has seen how its democracy has been strengthened along with its economy, human rights, environment protection, international relations, social standards, among others.  
It is a delicate moment for one of the world's most ecologically important nations and I would like to extend our messages of gratitude for all the support from the international community in this transition.  
Therefore, we express with profoundly satisfaction and humbleness that nowadays the world has witnessed how a country that was once considered as a Failed State has become to one full of success.  
For example, at the beginning of the current Government, in 2010, Colombians could only enter without any visa requirements to 25 countries and 1 non-state territory. 26 nations in total.   
Thankfully, at the end of the Government of President Juan Manuel Santos, that will finish in the next 7th of August 2018, the figure has increased to 51 countries and 13 non-state territories where Colombians can travel without any visa requirements. It means 64 nations in total.
Thanks to these improvements achieved, the 26 different European nations that are part of the Schengen Area, as well as the Russian Federation, Turkey, Moldova, Montenegro and Albania, among other countries belonging to the European continent, are added to the destinations that Colombians can visit without a visa for short stays.  
The same in many countries in the Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean that have opened their doors because they know that Colombia can bring prosperity through cultural and commercial exchanges.   
However, Colombians still need visa to come and visit this beautiful country, South Africa. As a matter of fact, Colombians waited for 10 years the visa waiver to enter the Republic of South Africa.  
During those same 10 years, South Africans were able to visit my country without visa requirement until the Colombian government decided to remove the visa waiver to South Africans based on the principle of reciprocity. This happened last month of September 2017.
Nonetheless, and since then, the Government of Colombia through its Embassy in Pretoria has been more than committed in the promotion of commerce, tourism and investment between both countries, as well as the consolidation of the bilateral relation.  
To that end, in the last year we have seen an increase in the bilateral trade, that also motivated the Department of Trade and Industry of South Africa, the DTI, to organize jointly with the Colombian Embassy, the first Outward Selling Mission to Colombia, with the participation of 12 South African companies from the mining, automotive and agro-processing sectors.  
The delegation, 22 people in total, had the opportunity to enjoy a one-week of activities in different cities in Colombia, where they observed and recognized the potential that Colombia offers to all foreign companies that are interested in conducting business and investment. We are expecting to co-organize the first Outward Selling Mission to South Africa of Colombian companies in the next year.  
Similarly, in the past year, the Embassy has promoted the signing of four Memorandums of Understanding in the field of commercial cooperation between the Bogota Chamber of Commerce and the Chambers of Commerce of Randburg, Cape Town, Fourways and WESGRO.  
This solidification of the commercial cooperation has facilitated the business matchmaking of more than 100 companies from both countries.  
At the bilateral level, I am also glad to inform that in the last year, the governments of Colombia and South Africa had signed three Memorandums of Understanding in the following areas: 1) Diplomatic Academies; 2) Cooperation in protected areas management and wildlife conservation; and 3) Science and Technology.  
Also, the Embassy promoted in last June the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States Agency for International Development - USAID and the Colombian Presidential Agency for International Cooperation that will bring technical assistance to the Southern African region.  
Additionally, the Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of DIRCO, Ambassador Victor Rambau, was in official visit this year in Bogota, Colombia where he had the opportunity to meet our Director for Asia, Africa and Oceania, Doctor Alfredo Ramos. In this meeting, where

I was also present, both directors made a review of the state of the relation and agreed in different matters. This visit was also in the framework of the DTI mission to Colombia, which my country deeply appreciated and I look forward to having more missions like this.  
On the other hand, I have presented Letters of Credentials in the last year to different countries where I am accredited as Ambassador non-resident: Namibia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Botswana, Angola and Seychelles. I am expected to present credentials in the following weeks to Gabon, Comoros and the Kingdom of eSwatini.  
With some of these countries, the bilateral relation and trade have been also reinforced. We are still undertaking and finalizing some negotiations in the areas of Visas, Technical Cooperation, Education, Political Consultations, Security, among others.  
I am utterly convinced that this will boost and diversify Colombia´s positioning in this part of the world.
Regarding bilateral cooperation, Colombia has provided in the last year the following:  1) Spanish teachers appointed to DIRCO, University of Pretoria, and some secondary schools in Soweto; this year we will bring these Spanish teachers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Botswana and other education institutions; 2) Exchange of good practices for the strengthening of the technical and technological education in Mozambique; 3) Cybersecurity and Intelligence cooperation with South Africa; 4) Air and maritime control, interdiction, antiterrorism, and security cooperation; 5) Webinars with tourist associations in Zimbabwe to improve the ecotourism and management of protected areas; 6) Scholarships to study Spanish in Colombia, offered particularly to tourist guides as a support to the national strategies of countries like South Africa and Mozambique to improve tourist services.  
Similarly, the Embassy organized the first conference cycle entitled “Socialization of the strategy of the Government of Colombia to address the problem of illegal drugs” last April, with the support of the Randburg and Fourways Chambers of Commerce, University of Pretoria, the Monash South Africa University and Open Society Foundation.  
This academic event allowed the private and academic sector to understand the success of Colombia to combat the drug trafficking problem through a Human Rights and Health approach. Thanks to this event, universities and some local organizations are considering establishing a Drug Laboratory to monitor and combat effectively this world problem using the Colombian expertise in their communities.   
In terms of cultural exchange, in the last year, the Embassy organized a Food Festival with the renowned Colombian chef Gerardo Zabala, and also invited the Colombian entrepreneur and catalyst Pedro Medina, who presented his conference “I Believe in Colombia”.  
This conference aimed to show the real Colombia through its biodiversity, cultural richness and social values. These events have motivated many South Africans to visit and explore COLOMBIA The Land of Sabrosura.  
At the multilateral level, I am also glad to inform that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) accepted Colombia’s application to join the organization that promotes policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.
The Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Secretary-General Angel Gurría signed the Accession Agreement on 30th May 2018 during the past meeting of the OECD Council at ministerial level in Paris.
In regard to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – NATO, Colombia have concluded a partnership agreement with a view to strengthening dialogue and cooperation to address shared security challenges.   
Despite geographical distance, cooperation has been developing progressively since 2013 in a number of areas including military education and training, maritime security, good governance and building integrity.
Colombia is now one of a range of countries beyond the Euro-Atlantic area – often referred to as “partners across the globe” – with which NATO is developing relations.
Although, Colombia hold the presidency pro-tempore of the Pacific Alliance in the last year. The Pacific Alliance is a Latin American trade bloc, formed by Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.  
These countries have come together to form an area of integration with the purpose of ensure a complete freedom in the movement of goods, services, capital, and people.  
If counted as a single country, this group of nations would be the eight strongest economy in the entire world, according to our forecasted estimated gross domestic product based on purchasing power parity, abbreviated GDP (PPP).
With this, Colombia is reaffirmed in its international leadership and positioning, not only in the Latin America and Caribbean region.  
On the other hand, Colombia fully supported the South Africa´s candidature as Non-Permanent Member to the United Nations Security Council considering the pivotal role that South Africa can play in the maintenance of the peace and security, not only in the African context but in the world. This act of friendship reaffirms our willingness to continue building the bilateral relation based on mutual respect and support at national and multilateral level.  
To put it briefly, please allow me to mention that it has for us a significant importance to see today how Colombia has been historically establishing its bilateral relations based on mutual respect and on a strategic alliance for the benefit of the Southern region of Africa.  
The Government that I proudly represent tonight is committed to collaborate in everything within our capacities to the achievement of a sustainable development for this region.   
And we hope that the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa and the new elected president of Colombia, Mr Iván Duque, will continue in this path of mutual benefits.  
I am very grateful for your attention, and Mister Minister, please count on our will to work together and our affection and determination to drive these matters forward.
Dear guests: Tonight, the Embassy staff and I have organized a very Colombian night full of Colombian music and food.  
The renowned Colombian musician HUGO CANDELARIO will perform the best of our music from the pacific region, which also has a lot of African heritage. We are proud to show this tonight and we hope you can enjoy our hospitality and joy. And please feel free to join us in the dance floor!
I would like to extend our thanks to all of our sponsors… Thanks to Westfalia Fruits, Ambassador Duty Free, Tactical Edge, ALDOR which is a Colombian company with operations in South Africa. Thanks to Casa Toscana for their support and big efforts in making everything possible. And I would like to recognize the hard work from my diplomatic staff, Angela Burbano, Consul and Deputy Head Mission, José Juliao Second Secretary and Political Attaché, Iván Mendoza Commercial Attaché, Cristina Arango, Teresa Palacio and Paula Caicedo, Administrative Staff.
Finally, I could not forget the importance of this year that we are celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth and his legacy. Colombia recognizes Madiba as one of the most important world leaders in recent history and how he was able to change this country and the entire world.
Embassy of Colombia in South Africa




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