tv Firing Line With Margaret Hoover PBS September 23, 2022 11:30pm-12:01am PDT
>> a former head of ststate of a key ally in latin america, this week on "firing line." >> ibuenas tardes! [ crowd cheering ] >> when he was elected as president of colombia, one of latin america's oldest democracies, conservative politician iván duque márquez was the youngest person ever elected to lead the country. [ crowd chants "duque!" ] he promised increased security and to win the war on drugs and received international praise for his handling of the pandemic. despite making university free for nearly all colombians, he faced massive protests for his economic policies. >> i've always perceived myself as a radical centrist, and centrist means you have to keep the balance. >> in a dramatic shift to the left, colombia has just chosen a former marxist guerrilla as its new leader. >> ...y prometo al pueblo...
>> what does this mean for colombia's close ties with the united states, the war on drugs, democracy in the region? wh does former president of colombia iván duque márquez say now? >> "firing line with margaret hoover" is made possible in part by... and by... corporate funding is provided by... >> president iván duque márquez, welcome to "firing line." >> thank you so much, margaret. it's a great honor for me to be here. >> you served as colombia's president for four years, until just august, when you were prevented by the constitution from running again. you have been described by one observer as a moderate conservative. your successor, gustavo petro,
is a former marxist guerrilla who attended the funeral of hugo chávez and has re-established ties between colombia and venezuela. his victory gave colombia the first leftist government in its history. why has there been this political shift? >> i think, in the last election, there wasn't a clear adversary that would have the arguments and the capacity to directly deft him. and we have to understand that when people go to the ballots. >> there's a pink tide sweeping the region -- bolivia, peru, chile, perhaps brazil come october. how do you understand these ideological trends? >> well, i think, margaret, the issue in latin america is not that there's debate between left and right. it's a debate between right and wrong. and -- >> isn't that a matter of perspective? >> and i say this because populism and demagoguery --
they sell hot bread today, but they're incubating hunger for tomorrow. and that has been the pattern in many countries. but when you see policies that want to intervene the forces of the market on artificially controlled prices, well, that deteriorates any economy. and i think people today are more aware that in times of high inflation, people don't want to go into crazy politics. and if their leaders who are promoting crazy politics because they're trying to generate a false sentiment of progress, what they're going to be incubating in the next 2 to 3 years is an absolute damage of the economy as it should work. and that's the issue with the left in latin america. and they want to be popular. and the way they want to be popular is by embracing policies that, at the end of the day, destroy all the values of capitalism. >> you have been called, in american media, the right-wing populist... >> well, you know -- >> ...even while you're simultaneously criticizing left-wing populism.
so what gives? >> well, margaret, i've always perceived myself as a radical centrist, and centrist means that you have to keep the balance. so you have to defend a market economy, but at theame time, you have to defend the rights of workers. you have to defend the sound environmental policies. you have to keep the possibility of having traditional energy but, at the same time, renewable energy. those balances have to be kept for the good of society. >> according to the world bank, colombia is one of the richest nations in latin america, but it also has one of the most unequal income distributions in the world. what can be done to tackle the inequality? >> well, margaret, i worked for almost 11 years in development policies in washington, d.c., at the inter-american development bank. and when i became president, i had clear that we had to think of economic growth, but at the same time, in having a stronger social safety net.
we had to face a pandemic. and i think that we did something that is very powerful, the largest, the most ambitious social safety net ever created by a government. and we're also able, in 2021, to reach the highest economic growth in our history and be able to reduce unemployment and something that makes me feel very prou-- the lowest informality rate that colombia has ever reached in the labor market. >> you're right. colombia did make a remarkable economic recovery in 2021. it grew by 10% after struggling during 2020 because of the pandemic. another thing that happened in colombia is massive and deadly protests, including protesters who died at the hands of police. in retrospect, can you give us some context for those protests and the lessons you learned from that? >> it has been, sadly, a pattern over the last four decades.
all the presidents in the last four, they have had to face this situation. what is interesting is that we have made clear that peaceful protest is a constitutional right in colombia. there has to be enforcement, but that enforcement has to be also hand in hand with human-rights protection. that's why i said that any wrongdoing of an individual member of any of the forces not only will be investigated, but will be trialed. and we have done that and we did that when we were in government. >> president petro campaigned on a promise to redistribute wealth. he has unveiled a plan that some estimates say would raise taxes on the wealthy by 200%. make the case that that approach won't work. >> well, margaret, you cannot distribute wealth if you stop creating wealth. you need to have an environment that is business-friendly, because if you start raising taxation in
an irrational way by, you know, telling investors that they're going to have to pay higher capital gains than the rest of latin america, they'll leave. you know, bringing investors to our countries is very difficult, takes a long time, but freaking them out can take just seconds. so you cannot distribute wealth if you are not capable of permanently generating new wealth. and i think that's something to be understood. and look at this year. i left government in august, and by the month of august, the economy was growing above 8%. >> so why weren't colombians satisfied? because i think at the end, margaret, we live in times where populism is more effective sometimes in the narrative, because they get people angry. and that can happen also in the united states, and that can happen in europe, because polarization is taking place everywhere in the world. and what it does is, it destroys
the essence of democracy. and that's why i always say that democracy is like health. when we have it, we take it for granted. when we feel it's threatened, we want to desperately recover. then maybe it's too late. so that's why we have to defend those values of democracy. >> i'd like to ask you about the war on drugs, which you supported. colombia continues to produce more than half of the world's cocaine. more than 90% of cocaine seized in the united states comes from colombia. what was your approach to tackling this problem? >> i had a holistic approach, margaret. when i assumed office, i received an exponentially growing space of illegal crops in colombia. so the first thing i did was to stop the exponential growth. and something that was also very important -- we attacked the heads of the cartels,
and, actually, we captured the most dangerous drug lord in the world, "otoniel," who was extradited to the united states. so we did all those things. but i always said something. we need to put an end to hypocrisy, because countries like colombia do a lot fighting the supply. >> yeah. >> but the higher consumers in the world are not doing enough about the demand. so, yes, dea supports colombia. fbi supports colombia. cia supports colombia. but i'm talking about even something more ambitious, which is where are the campaigns in the united states and europe telling people, "say no to drugs"? and even if you don't want to get into that simplistic kind of message, look at the environmental damage that cocaine produces to the world, because in order to plant one hectare of coca, you have to destroy 3 hectares of tropical jungle. and it is the most
environmentally damaging drug in the world, but nobody's taking care about these kind of debates. and i believe that, in 2020, the consumption of cocaine spiked all over the world. and no country is doing anything to put an end to that expansion in the consumption. so, yes, that has to be brought to an end. but that doesn't mean that i believe that we have to legalize all the drugs. >> well, let me get to that, because your successor, president petro, has said, in his address to the un general assembly just this week in new york... and his administration has considered psuing cocaine decriminalization. he has promised that drug traffickers who negotiate with the colombian government and stop trafficking drugs won't be extradited to the united states. these are very radical policies to some.
what is your reaction to this? >> you cannot negotiate with criminals. if you provide a safe haven to narco traffickers, your country will become a narco-state. >> so you think he's moving backwards. >> so if colombia decides to negotiate with all the kingpins of the cartels, colombia will turn into a narco-state. prohibition started in the '70s, and it is a policy that has been embraced by the whole world, with very few exceptions. so, if just one country decides to legalize all drugs, it will become the safe haven for narco traffickers. so, can we do something different fighting drugs? yes, we can. do i believe, for example, that you can have more progressive measures in the case of marijuana?
i believe so, with some controls. but can we afford, in society, to have legal cocaine in the streets of our cities? i definitely believe that some drugs are not possible to be legalized because they destroy the human being, the human brain, and that they can represent a bigger damage to society. >> i'd like ask you about venezuela. colombia and venezuela share a long history, politically, culturally, and you share a 1,400-mile border. colombia is now home, after your administration, to 2.5 million venezuelans who fled the maduro regime. and under your leadership, you welcomed venezuelans into your country, granting most of them temporary protected status and a pathway to citizenship. this move was called by the un, "one of the most important humanitarian gestures made on this continent since 1984."
how did you do this and how did you counter the politics, the anti-immigrant politics, that you faced? >> margaret, i lived in the united states for 14 years. >> so you know something about immigration debates? >> but not only the debates. when i saw how this country has been built with immigrants, as well, where you see italian-americans, japanese-americans, colombian-americans, cuban-americans, dominican-americans -- when you see how this country has been built, you understand that one of the values of the united states is to be friendly with migrants. and i saw the temporary protection status that were granted to the salvadoran population, to the haitian population, and i was an immigrant in those days. and i saw those policies, and they made a very impactful influence on me. when i run for the presidency and i saw what was happening with the venezuelans
that were crossing the borders with frozen bones, losing everything, trying to have an access to an opportunity, i said the best thing to be done is to replicate the temporary-protection-status model in colombia. and, in fact, that's what i did. it was very unpopular. yes, it was. but i decided to be in the right side of history and provide the venezuelan migrants the possibility to open a bank account, the possibility to buy a house, the possibility to work. and these families today -- they have hope. and i think that has become a reference for the world. and i remember, margaret, people said, "well, this is going to raise poverty. this is going to raise unemployment." you know what? after 2021, we got unemployment reduction. we got a multidimensional poverty reduction. and we had the highest amount of formal workers registered
in the social security system of colombia. so good policies, sound policies when it comes to migrants can be successful. migration policies in the world sometimes are not embraced because societies are captured either by xenophobia or by indifference. i think we demonstrated that you don't have to be a rich country to do the right thing when it comes to migrants. >> well, just last week, an airplane carrying almost 50 venezuelans flew to martha's vineyard from texas. president biden said of the move... what do you make of american politicians like governor ron desantis, who is using venezuelan refugees as a political football? >> i think the united states cannot take the risk of polarizing that debate. >> well, it is polarized and it
has been polarized since at least -- >> but it shouldn't, margaret, because i strongly believe, as a colombian, as someone who has lived in the united states for more than a decade, that comprehensive bills that can unite both sides of the aisle are the right messages, because you have migrants here that are paying your taxes, that have beautiful families, that are contributing to the to the success of the united states. that uncertainty for them harms the benefit of migration for the whole society. and, obviously, the united states cannot say, "you know, everybody who wants to come here, just come," because that is impossible. but something that i want to say is that you have to solve the issue inside, but you can prevent the pressure on the southern border of the united states by helping other countries generate more growth and more investment. if they have the opportunity at home, if they have the place to work at home,
i clearly believe that they will behave differently, and the incentives will be different, as well. >> i just want to ask you one more time, because i do think this is a new evolution in american politics, to see an american governor of a state literally treat venezuelan migrants as a political football, how does that sit with you? >> margaret, i have to be respectful of the political system inside the united states. so i have to be prudent there. but my reflection is, those people who are suffering, who are here trying to find an opportunity, they need a response that is not trying to make them the political opportunity of the day. and i think -- i honestly think that for the future of the united states having a true bipartisan, serious debate
about how to treat migrants, it's aust. and the only way that that can happen is to really say, "no more stupid polarized debates. a comprehensive migration bill needs to happen in the united states." >> well, from your lips to god's ears. or maybe to chuck schumer's ears. the u.s. does not recognize venezuela's maduro government and considers juan guaidó to be the president of venezuela. this was consistent with your administration's policy, though your successor has reversed that. we have also seen the biden administration relax some of the sanctions against venezuelan oil, as it looks to ease the economic cost of russia's war on ukraine. how will that impact maduro's power? >> i denounced nicolás maduro before the international criminal court, when i was a senator. >> mm-hmm. >> i did the same when i was
elected president. and i believe that nicolás maduro is producing to the venezuelan people the same thing that vladimir putin is generating to the ukrainian people. this is black or white. you are with maduro or you are against maduro, because being against maduro is being against dictatorship. >> did the united states and colombia miss an opportunity together to usher in democratic reforms and democracy in venezuela? because in 2019, trump seemed to waver in his support for guaidó. he publicly admitted that he agreed with president putin on not wanting to get involved. when you met with trump in 2020, you called on the united states and colombia to "work together jointly so there is political and democratic transition that is effective in venezuela." did the united states let down the democracy movement in venezuela? >> margaret, this is an issue
that didn't start with iván duque or with donald trump or with barack obama or with president bush. and i think the challenge that we have right now is that the united states, canada, and the rest of the hemisphere need to put all the pressure and say, "we have to call these elections, and this is the starting and the ending point of this conversation." >> i understand why you want to look forward and not look backward, but you have said that anybody who deals with maduro and is complacent about maduro is as guilty as being an accomplice of him. is president trump in that category? >> margaret, if you're -- i mean, my response is not focused on donald trump or president biden or president obama. my response, it's looking this in a holistic way. the one thing that cannot happen
is that you flip-flop when you deal with a situation as complex as the situation in venezuela. this is not just a dictator who wants to remain in power. this is a criminal structure that is governing venezuela, that is in bed with iranian terrorists, that has been in bed with colombian terrorists, that is linked to international cartels. it is an organized-crime organization that is managing a country, and that is absolutely insane, because this represents a major threat to the whole hemispheric security. >> 21 latin american and caribbean countries are now members of china's belt and road initiative. this is a policy of the chinese government to invest in the infrastructure in countries around the world. and critics of the belt and road policy say that china is doing this to establish hegemony and to lure vulnerable countries into debt. now, colombia is not part of china's belt and road initiative,
but when you were president, you praised the diplomatic and economic ties between the two nations. should your suessor be cautious about chinese investment in colombia? >> so, let me say this, margaret. the number-one country in this hemisphere with chinese investment is the united states of america. latin america followed what the u.s. began in 1973, when they opened the diplomatic and trade relations with china. all of our countries, all of our countries need to have infrastructure investment. and, yes, chinese companies have presented themselves for the biddings, and they have won some of the biddings. and sometimes, when i was president, i received the question, "why is it that china is winning x, y, and z project?" and i said, "well, because they bid." and most of my question back is, "where were the american companies participating
in all those bids?" i mean, chinese corporations are building the bogotá metro. chinese corporations are working on four generational highways. it's easy to blame. why are so many chinese companies winning the bids? okay, that's fine. and where are the competitors from the united states? i think we need to have more u.s. presence in the infrastructure biddings that are strategical in our countries. >> here in the united states, there are at least six trump-backed nominees running for governorships and senate seats in the upcoming midterm elections in november. and they have not committed and will not commit to accepting the election results in november. when candidates running for office in the united states cast doubt on our democratic systems and our democratic process, what impact does that have on other democracies around the world? >> margaret, i have to be prudent not to engage myself in u.s. politics, but i can tell you by my example.
when you decide to run, you have to accept what people decide in the ballots. that's the essence of democracy. if you're not willing to accept what people decide in the ballots, you better not run. as simple as that. >> in 1977, on the original "firing line" with william f. buckley jr., jorge luis borges, the argentine writer, joined the program and discussed some of the literary lions of south america. take a look at what he says about one colombian writ
i had no idea there was perhaps a friendly rivalry or not-so-friendly rivalry between the argentine writer and the colombian writer. of course, he's talking about -- >> well, i've never seen that interview, and i would love to see it all. but i have to say something, margaret. i'm a big fan of gabriel garcía márquez and his literature. >> of course. >> so, i grew up reading garcía márquez, and i think -- >> and you met him. >> yes, yes. he was a friend of my father. and i met him when he was -- when i was a kid. and he was this marvelous figure. so i just feel proud as a colombian to have such a figure in our history. >> well, with that, presidente iván duque, thank you so much for joining me here on "firing line." >> margaret, thank you so much. it has been a great pleasure. >> un placer. >> un placer.
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