The not so veiled strategy of the United Kingdom to “improve its perception” in Colombia (while financing the Police and continuing its mining investment)


In the center of this 12 months, when Colombia was nonetheless going via the hangover from the protests that left greater than 60 lifeless due to police repression, the United Kingdom Embassy in Bogotá determined to make investments 31,000 kilos sterling (42,300 {dollars}, roughly) in a public relations program to assist him “establish new networks of influence” in the South American nation.

An investigation carried out by the portal Declassified, which might have had entry to paperwork from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, defined that the goal of this program was to “improve the perception” of the United Kingdom in Colombia. To do that, between 2019 and 2020, London invested greater than $ 8,000 in a examine of “soft power perception analysis” in that nation.

That earlier step, which coincided with the UK’s exit from the European Union, helped the British embassy to discover an “effective approach” for the marketing campaign outdoors, whereas, in parallel, London continued its Police coaching program Colombian lady, severely questioned for her repressive practices throughout the bloody demonstrations in opposition to the authorities of Iván Duque.

The ‘green’ aspect of gentle energy

Opinion polls made it clear that the UK’s ‘soft power’ ought to goal the setting, so it was determined to formally launch a bilateral program referred to as UKCOL2021 in June this 12 months.

“Since the institution of diplomatic relations between the two international locations in 1825, the United Kingdom has been a historic ally for Colombia. Today it’s our third most necessary investor and its dedication to our nation is mirrored in the contribution and participation in completely different social and environmental initiatives “, stated then the Vice Minister of Foreign Relations, Francisco Echeverri, throughout the announcement of that program.

“Our strong alliance with Colombia reflects our commitment to a better reconstruction from the covid-19 pandemic, with an emphasis on sustainability, in order to ensure greater shared prosperity for the two countries,” stated the British ambassador, Colin Martin-Reynolds.

The occasion was on June 17. The Colombian Foreign Minister, Marta Lucía Ramírez, did not take part as a result of the tour of Europe had not but concluded, in a journey that sought to restore the picture of the Duque authorities, notably questioned at the moment by the repression of the public pressure in opposition to the citizen protests that they lasted for nearly three months.

On the identical day of the launch, the citizen Juan David Muñoz Montenegro died in Cali for the alleged motion of the riot police. Despite that, the British embassy did not make any public condemnation of these violent acts.

The causes for the silence, in addition to the possible political correspondence, might be linked to the monetary and logistical assist provided by the Government of the United Kingdom to the Colombian Police, at the least since 2015. A assist that, in accordance to the journalistic investigation, can be prolonged to the Armed Forces of the South American nation.

And it’s that, on the eve of the announcement of the bilateral cooperation program, the Minister of State in the Ministry of the Interior, Kit Malthouse, admitted that the British National Crime Agency (NCA) labored in Colombia with varied departments, together with the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office, with the purpose of “reducing the threat” of drug trafficking and cash laundering, in addition to of “different prison economies linked to medication and organized crime “.

Additionally, Parliamentary Under Secretary of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Wendy Morton, declared throughout an look that his nation financed with £ 2.1 million (greater than 2.8 million {dollars}) the program of “Police Innovations for Stabilization in Colombia“since 2020, to” assist the transformation “of that institution by improving practices with a” preventive “and” rights “method.

“New networks of influence”

According to the revelations of the journalistic investigation, the UKCOL2021 program would enable the British embassy to “foster relationships and increase visibility, in particular to new audiences”, in addition to “review outdated perceptions”.

That visibility that will be exercised with the gentle energy of the agenda for the setting, would enable London – in accordance to the declassified paperwork – “to create a conduit for a future affect and a greater understanding of the United Kingdom amongst the youthful generations of Colombians and different non-traditional audiences “.

The aim in the future can be to “establish new networks of influence and connections with more diverse audiences in Colombia “, which would facilitate” a greater notion and a change in habits in direction of the United Kingdom. “For this, the strategy would consist of a work agenda with” key actors “from that country to” enhance “the profile from the embassy this 12 months, in areas that additionally embody safety and protection.

One of the factors advisable by the advisers was the promotion of the picture of Ambassador Martin-Reynolds, via “a series of conversations with high-profile local activists”, which allowed him to attain a younger viewers.

While the British embassy focuses its energies on making its ‘green’ administration seen in Colombia, UK corporations proceed to exploit the polluting coal mines that function in the South American nation.

“A big half of the coal mined at Cerrejón is probably going to provide the UK: in 2015, for instance, the UK imported 20 million tonnes of coal for energy vegetation, 37% of which got here from Colombia“, highlights the report ‘The rivers that bleed’, ready final 12 months.

Cerrejón is one of the mines with the best social and territorial conflicts in Colombia, and is operated equally between BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore, that are listed in London. Furthermore, the mission has been singled out by the UN’s particular rapporteur on human rights and the setting, David Boyd, as one which has “seriously damaged the environment and the health of the country’s largest indigenous community.”

A report ready final 12 months denounced the non-compliance by Cerrejón and the Colombian State of the judicial choices that acknowledge the violations of that mining firm in opposition to the rights to life, water and well being of the indigenous Afro and Wayúu communities that they stay in the exploitation zone.

This occasion, which social organizations describe as “ethnocide”, happens after the extraction of some 32 tons of thermal coal for export. This looting has not solely prompted injury to the setting, however has additionally resulted in the dispossession and privatization of 69,393 hectares of the territory, the extermination of 17 streams and the irreparable contamination of the Rancherías River, contributing to the water disaster in the area.

Nazareth Balbás

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