The New Colombian Presence

The New Colombian Consul General in Miami

Last October, the new president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, appointed William René Salamanca Ramirez the Central Consul General in Miami. Prior to his appointment, Salamanca had a long police career, where he earned distinction by implementing a Children and Adolescents Police, strengthening the nation’s Environmental Police, and, as Inspector General, creating the Human Rights Observatory and fighting for transparency in the National Police. His security assignments included the protection of candidates for the presidency, Congress, governorships, and mayors. He advised the campaign of President Petro on issues of security and citizen coexistence, and protection of the environment and natural resources. His first diplomatic post was Police Attaché at the Colombian Embassy in D.C.

With a background in security, human rights, environmental protection, and the protection of children and adolescents, why did you want to become involved as a consular officer?

It was an exclusive decision of Gustavo Petro that I be chosen as the Consul General in Miami, with various purposes. The first, to unite the Colombian community. The second, to accompany the Colombians here and strengthen his [advocacy] for their activities in academia, culture, sports, and gastronomy…. And third, to strengthen the cooperative bonds between the state and federal authorities, and [ensure] that the Colombian Consulate be a consulate with an open-door policy to all Colombian citizens.

How large is the Colombian population in Miami?

In Florida, we are talking about 1,200,000 Colombians, and here within this district, in South Florida, we are talking about 800,000 Colombians. These are not official numbers, but an estimate by academicians and commercial bankers. [In terms of foreign-born residents living in Miami], first it’s Cubans, then Colombians, and then Venezuelans.

Is part of your role here to improve trade and business relations between Miami and Colombia?

Yes, through support of the institutions of the Colombian government. There is an organization here called ProColombia, which is in charge of strengthening the commercial relationships between Florida and Colombia in three ways. First, through [direct] investment in Colombia; second, through the export of products to Florida; and third, through the promotion of tourism for American citizens to Colombia. So, we are allies of ProColombia in supporting these large pillars of our relationship with the United States.

So, the new president favors increased trade with the U.S.?

Absolutely. In fact, the United States is our primary commercial partner and our primary investment partner. Exports from Colombia to the United States represent 26 percent [of all exports] and exports from the U.S. to Colombia represent 23 percent of the total [imports]. And there is an agenda to propel industrial production between both countries.

Currently, the top exports from Colombia to the U.S. are gold and flowers. Will that change?

There is also a commitment by the new government to export new products to the United States. These new products have to do with metallurgical, chemistry, life sciences, and agri-food. We have initiated 108 new products that already have permits to enter the United States, including Hass avocados, red peppers, grapes, blueberries, mandarins, oranges, and pineapples… We are also actively involved in the process of exporting software, auto parts, and armored vests.

What are other areas of cooperation and growth?

In the area of security institutions, we aim to strengthen the relationships of cooperation and understanding to face national threats by organized crime, and to strengthen [security] institutions in all their capacities. We are also conscious that the goals of President Petro [include] protection of the environment, protection of water, and protection of life, and how the government of the United States adds to these initiatives.

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