Colombia foreign minister to move to top defense post

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s foreign minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo will move to head the defense ministry, President Ivan Duque said on Tuesday, where he will focus on everyday security and the fight against armed groups and drug trafficking.

Former defense minister Guillermo Botero resigned last week in the midst of mounting political pressure over alleged extrajudicial killings and the deaths of eight children in a military bombing.

“We are pleased that Carlos Holmes Trujillo will take on this new task,” Duque said in a televised statement. “He will be in charge, of course, of confronting organized armed groups in all national territory.”

Trujillo’s experience as the mayor of the city of Cali “puts him close to the reality of citizen security,” Duque added.

Long-time politician Trujillo, a former education and interior minister and ambassador to the European Union, has devoted much of his term as the country’s top diplomat to denouncing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as a dictator and supporter of terrorism.

Colombia has repeatedly accused Maduro of offering safe haven to dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, who refused to demobilize under a 2016 peace deal, and guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN).

The fight against those groups would be easier without Maduro as Venezuela’s leader, Trujillo has said.

Trujillo will also focus on fighting drug traffickers, destroying illicit cultivations of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, and increasing drug seizures, Duque said.