Colombian President Gustavo Petro addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York City on September 20, 2022.
Photo: AFP – YUKI IWAMURA
The American philosopher Martha Nussbaum affirms that emotions in politics can be used to fragment a community and destabilize it, or to excite it in the search for justice. Gustavo Petro’s first speech before the United Nations Assembly does the latter well: it produces a sense of urgency in the face of the climate crisis that he links to the violence in Colombia. In this way, Total Peace acquires a global dimension because it is conditioned to environmental justice.
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The springs of the emotionality of the speech appear in the first lines. The president attends what is now called the storytelling, which is nothing more than the narration strategy. Just as any reader is trapped since reading “Once upon a time (…)”, the “president of one of the three most beautiful countries in the world” captivates listeners when he begins to recount the paradox of his homeland in which the life and beauty, death and terror. The strategy of structuring the discourse from these oppositions, one of whose poles is highly valued (life and beauty) and the other is not valued (no one wants death or terror), forces the recipient of the discourse to side with the first. polo, that is, to take a position.
On the other side, next to death and terror, are those to whom President Petro alludes. Although he addressed the representatives of the 193 members of the UN, the speech refers to the countries of the economic center and their networks of power. He named them “world power relations” and blamed them for the civilizing failure of humanity, for promoting addiction to the consumption of merchandise, drugs and oil with which the jungle is destroyed and Colombian peasants are killed. The argument is reinforced by the powerful representation of the jungle as a beautiful woman violated by the fear caused by her exuberance. Petro says “come into the Jungle (…) in its vitality, the lustful, the sinful.”
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In this way, Total Peace acquires a broader dimension. We knew that it has three pillars, the implementation of the Peace Agreements, the dialogues with the ELN and the reception of other armed groups. Also that the Foreign Policy of the Government of Gustavo Petro will be oriented towards the creation of a favorable international environment for peace, in a similar way as Juan Manuel Santos did with the so-called “Diplomacy for Peace”. Proof of the latter is that Álvaro Leyva names himself “Minister of Foreign Affairs and Peace”; that the government has reestablished relations with Cuba, claiming its role in the negotiations with the ELN; that relations with Venezuela be restored and that negotiations be sought for the release of political prisoners in Nicaragua. But with the recent speech Total Peace does not only concern the space of the Americas, but is a matter of global environmental justice to compensate the Jungle and its inhabitants.
*Martha Lucía Márquez is a doctor in Social and Human Sciences, director of the Center for Research and Popular Education Cinep/PPP and associate professor at the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations of the Javeriana University.
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