Felipe González, friend of Latin America and Colombia

There is no evil that for good does not come, says the proverb, and it is true. There are unfortunate events that can indirectly have positive consequences for some people.

An example – in my case – was the escape of drug trafficker Pablo Escobar from La Catedral prison, on July 22, 1992. That terrible event caused the then president of Colombia, César Gaviria, to cancel his trip to Spain to participate in the Second Ibero-American Summit and on the day of our country at the Seville Expo. The president delegated me, who was his foreign trade minister, to represent him at these events, and that was how I ended up traveling first to Madrid and then to Seville to meet that appointment with destiny.

It turned out to be a lucky date, because thanks to that assignment I met the president of the Spanish government, Felipe González, with whom we immediately established -as rarely happens in life- a frank and close friendship that has lasted for almost 30 years.

We were united – and continue to unite us – a liberal vision – in the best sense of the word – and at the same time pragmatic on the things of life and politics, and the interest to modernize and democratize our countries more and more.

Difficult to find a more cosmopolitan Andalusian, with more knowledge of the international scene, and closer to and friend of Latin America than Felipe González.

I dare to say that no other Spanish government has been so aware of the affairs of our region, has had such influence, they have appreciated it so much or have had more clarity about the links that unite the Iberian Peninsula with the Americas.

The first intervention of his that I witnessed in favor of our countries had to do with a system of banana import quotas that the European Union had established, which was detrimental to Colombia, other nations and the Canary Islands. It only benefited the large North American multinationals.

As Minister of Commerce, I told President González about the situation, and he did not hesitate to call President Mitterrand -because the French Caribbean islands were also harmed-, and between the two they promoted negotiations that concluded with the modification of the agreement and salvation of the Latin American banana industry.

This is just one example, among many, of the many occasions when his intervention has brought well-being and peace to regions that need them.

Felipe, since the early 1980s, has been a great promoter of peace efforts in Colombia. Starting with Belisario Betancur, the first president to attempt a negotiated peace with the guerrillas, there is no Colombian president who has not had his advice and advice.

In my case, their accompaniment was invaluable. What’s more, it was fundamental. In 1997 he agreed to serve as guarantor – accompanied by Gabriel García Márquez – in some peace approaches that I promoted as a private individual along with other members of Colombian society. They did not go well, but there I acquired the certainty that I could always count on him to work for peace.

Later, when as president I made the decision to negotiate a peace agreement with the FARC – which, by the way, was five years old last week – the always calm and pondered advice of Felipe González was there from the beginning and at all times. the order of the day.

He did not hesitate to take a plane and cross the Atlantic when circumstances required. And he ended up forming – together with former Uruguayan president Pepe Mujica – the so-called Commission of Notables to supervise the progress in the implementation of the agreement. That is why when he did me the honor of accompanying me to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, I told him that a part of that golden snout belonged to him.

All of the above is very important. But I must say that what Felipe González represents for me exceeds what I can tell about his immense work for Spain, for Colombia – which is now a great honor for us as well – and for Latin America. It exceeds his recognition as “the man who modernized Spain” and as one of the most important figures on the world stage. It is, without a doubt, a Universal Spanish.

For me, Felipe is above all a great human being and one of my greatest friends. He is a wise man with a child’s heart; always ready to embrace, laugh and trust, which – together with his extraordinary wife Mar – has opened the doors of his house and his soul to my family and to me. Above all, he is a generous and noble human being, whose friendship and advice I value like few things in life.

Today I thank heaven for having known him that year 1992 and for being able to give testimony of my gratitude – a gratitude beyond any word – for his affection and for his presence in my history, and in the history of Colombia and Latin America.

Thank you, Felipe, for your life and for your friendship!

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Felipe González, friend of Latin America and Colombia