PRESIDENT URIBE'S APPOINTMENT OF A CABINET-LEVEL ADVISOR ON AFRO-COLOMBIAN ISSUES -- (Senate - September 29, 2005)
Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise today to call attention to an important step towards progress for Afro-descendants in Colombia, and an important opportunity for Afro-descendants throughout Latin America.
I wish to commend the work of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus on this issue, as well as the tireless efforts of nongovernmental organizations and religious groups both here and in Colombia.
This August, President Uribe of Colombia created a cabinet-level position on Afro-Colombian issues, and appointed an Afro-Colombian to fill the post. The creation of this position is especially significant because it signals both a recognition of the severity of the situation of Afro-descendants in Colombia and a willingness to address these inequalities.
At the same time, many of us recognize that this is only a first step and much more needs to be done.
I will be monitoring the progress of this office very closely in the coming months, and I especially look forward to the development of President Uribe's Committee on Civil Rights and Sustainable Development for Afro-Colombians.
It is my hope that this institution will have the resources and mandate to do an effective job of bringing some measure of equality and justice to a marginalized segment of Colombian society. It is my hope that this will encourage other governments in Latin America to consider taking additional measures to address racial discrimination, as well as economic and social marginalization, faced by Afro-descendants in their countries.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, our own country is being awakened to a great divide in our midst. As we struggle with troubling intersections of race and class, and how we have failed the most vulnerable members of our population, I hope we will be able to take a moment to reflect on similar struggles in places such as Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela.
While I realize that Colombia continues to face many challenges--from human rights to narco-trafficking--I wanted to bring some good news, that is often overlooked, about the country of Colombia to the attention of the Senate. I applaud these efforts.