Senior Lecturer in Spanish Dr Karl McLaughlin, from the Department of Languages, Information and Communications, received a privileged close-up view of the historic peace process in Colombia during a trip to the South American country.
Karl travelled over 10,000 miles to interpret for the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament during its official visit on 20-22 July. Colombia is the centre of world political attention at present due to hopes that the 52-year conflict between the state and the FARC guerrillas, which has caused more than 250,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 6 million people, will finally come to an end.
During its visit, the Committee – which included UK MEP Richard Howitt – met with the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, government ministers and victims of the conflict and received valuable first-hand information on the forthcoming referendum in which the details of the peace deal will be put to the nation for formal approval. A Yes vote is by no means certain as various sectors of society, headed by former President Alvaro Uribe, whose father was assassinated by the FARC, are opposed to the extensive concessions granted to the guerrillas.
On his return from Bogotá, Karl said: “I have followed developments in Colombia very closely for many years as part of EU delegations, including as part of election monitoring teams, and the latest visit leads me to believe a solution may at last be on the cards for this wonderful country”.