Petro calls for UN to end “war against planet”

UN screenshot

Having received a warm welcome from the Colombian community resident in the New York City borough of Queens, President Gustavo Petro delivered Tuesday his first address before the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly, one that touched on climate change and the impact in his native country of the War on Drugs.

As a major policy objective of the country’s first left-wing government, and as the most recently elected progressive leader in South America, Gustavo Petro’s 45-minute address to other heads of state was direct, and above all, a powerful discourse on the threats facing a shared natural resource: the Amazon. Petro reiterated the government’s position that the U.S-led war on drugs is a “failure” and that Colombia’s immense biodiversity and rainforests “are not responsible” for the global demand for illegal narcotics.

“The sickness in humanity will not be saved by spilling glyphosate in the jungle,” stated Petro. “Societies educate towards endless consumption, and stupidly confuse consumption with happiness. The forests are not at fault for our addictions.”

The former M-19 guerrilla and Mayor Bogotá called on the global community to “illuminate power with reason, and put on the lights of the Century.” Words that were followed by a fatalistic warning to U.S authorities that should the War on Drugs last another 40 years, the United States will witness more than 2.8 million overdoses from fentanyl, and millions of Afro-Americans imprisoned in private jails as “pawns of the justice system.”

Petro affirmed that the scourge of overdoses is not happening in Latin America, but a region where more than a million have been killed due to drug-related violence. “Our green fields will be filled with blood, should the war continue another 40 years,” he said. Petro also warned that a continuation of drug policy in the hemisphere could see “democracy die, both in my Latin America and English-speaking America.”

Making a clear connection between the global demand for narcotics that “line the pockets of the rich,” and results in widespread deforestation of the Amazon, President Petro reminded leaders that Colombia has endured a “genocide” with demand for hard drugs. “I call from my wounded Latin America to end the irrational war on drugs,” he said.

Transitioning between a poetic discourse and realpolitik, Petro believes that ending drug consumption will require “building better societies, with more solidarity and affection,” he said. “You want fewer drugs? Think fewer profits and more love.”

In one of the most poignant lines of his address, Petro delivered this statement to the Assembly: “Do not affect the beauty of my country with your poison.” He then went on to claim that war in the 21st Century – from Syria, and Libya to Iraq – are waged to satisfy an insatiable demand for fossil fuels. Wars, that not unlike the ongoing war on drugs, are based on “the worst addictions of them all: Oil and Money.”

In a dire, and at times dark reading of the capitalist neo-Liberal mindset, President Petro warned the diplomatic community that “War on reason has been amplified at a global scale.”

Petro also championed the Amazon as a place that can save the world from the “artificial call to competition and greed.” For the economist and politician, the “cause of climate disaster is capital,” and the destruction of the world’s largest biosphere represents the “failure of humanity.” But the president offered a solution to protect the Amazon: a “debt with nature” fund. One in which countries substitute high military expenditures for environmental protection.

He then delivered another bombshell in the form of a question: “What is the use of NATO and Empires, if what is upon us is the end of our species, of intelligence, with climate change?”

Presenting a slate of interrogatives and petitions to his global counterparts, including an urgent call for the Slavic peoples of Ukraine and Russia to end the war through dialogue, the former guerrilla reminded the audience, that “war is only a trap that draws us closer to the end of time.” The Colombian President, however, did not condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In closing remark to the United Nations, Petro highlighted that “without peace with the planet, there can be no peace among nations.” After his opening shoutout that he hails from one of the “three most beautiful countries in the world,” the real question that will be challenged in Colombia is if Petro’s clamor for “total peace” transcends the punctuated rhetoric and deepening ideological divides at home.