BOGOTA – Spanish Defense Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal on Sunday began a two-day visit to Colombia during which she confirmed Madrid’s support for the peace process in the South American country and visited the Spanish peacekeeping contingent with the United Nations mission there.
After arriving in Bogota on Sunday morning, Cospedal met with reporters gathered at the Military Air Transport Command in the capital, where she emphasized Spain’s role within the UN mission to ensure that Colombia “can live in peace.”
“It’s very important for us to be able to participate ... in verifying compliance with the peace pact and in the handing over of weapons (by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – FARC – guerrillas),” said Cospedal before traveling to one of the zones where rebels are gathering to demobilize.
There are 14 Spanish soldiers, two members of the Civil Guard and two National Police officers participating in the UN peacekeeping mission in Colombia.
The Spanish security personnel are participating in the political mission and do not wear their uniforms or carry weapons, although they do wear blue jackets with the UN emblem on them.
“We have not participated in the (negotiation) process, as everyone knows, but Spain and the Spanish people have supported the peace process in Colombia,” the minister said, adding that Madrid considers the South American country to be a “brother nation.”
Cospedal traveled from Bogota to one of the gathering sites in the Caribbean province of La Guajira, where several Spanish observers are stationed. There, some 300 FARC guerrillas have congregated to hand over their weapons and formally demobilize.
Accompanying Cospedal on her journey to the demobilization site was Colombian Deputy Defense Minister Anibal Fernandez de Soto, who said that his country was “very pleased” by her visit.
Cospedal is scheduled to meet on Monday with her Colombian counterpart, Luis Carlos Villegas, make a visit to the UN Mission’s headquarters in Bogota and, finally, be received by President Juan Manuel Santos, after which she will give a press conference to provide an overview of her trip.