Yenching Academy Ambassador Speaker Series: Sandra Salamanca Rosas, Minister Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Colombia


On a Friday, 23 March, the Minister Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Colombia, Sandra Salamanca Rosas, visited the Yenching Academy to give a speech to the Scholars on Colombia Today. Ms. Salamanca has previously visited the Academy in December to learn more about the Yenching Scholars and the Yenching Program, and how she could help facilitate more recruitment from Colombia, and was happy to be back with the Scholars.

The focus of the day’s talk was on Colombia today, and the current-day issues that affect Colombia’s governance and world interaction. Ms. Salamanca touched on a number of topics that were of key importance to Colombia at the moment, but in particular, spoke very frankly and passionately about the peace treaty signed last year between the government of Colombia and the FARC guerrillas. It was a historic milestone in Colombia’s history and signalled the end of a +50 year war. It offered an opportunity for students to engage with a present-day example of successful conflict resolution and the challenges and compromises that are faced in such situations.

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 After the talk, there were several questions from the Scholar audience. Alix Lewis ‘18 (Wellesley College, Trinidad and Tobago), asked what were some main lessons that other countries could learn from Colombia’s example. Ms. Salamanca spoke of the importance of fostering the difficult process of forgiveness and reconciliation in the community, as well as the support offered by the international community, in order to arrive successfully at the negotiating table.

Chris Murphy ‘18 (University of Michigan, USA) questioned how people felt about the rise of former guerrillas’ participation in politics, particularly in the upcoming elections. Ms. Salamanca spoke of the mixed public reaction to this but that for the most part, people seemed accepting of their rights to do so as negotiated in the peace deal.

Lais Sachs ‘18 (University of Brasilia, Brazil) spoke of the shared concern regarding the current state of Venezuela, and wanted to know how Colombia was facing the rise in Venezuelan immigrants in Colombia. Ms. Salamanca affirmed the solidarity between the two countries, namely that first and formerly, Venezuela is Colombia’s brother, and when there is a crisis in Venezuela, there is crisis in Colombia. She shared the initiatives that the Colombian government is working on to aid the immigrating and visiting Venezuelans, while also speaking about the social changes that tend to associate with a rise of displaced people.

Agustin Grizia  ‘18 (Universidad del Salvador, Argentina) noted that Colombia received support from the US regarding the signing of the peace deal and wanted to know what China’s role, if any, was in the peace deal process. Ms. Salamanca shared that while China is known for its policy of non-interference, did wish the Colombian government well throughout.

Mr. Grizia followed up asking about the future of China’s role in Latin America. Ms. Salamanca shared that Colombia welcomed the growth of new partnerships that strengthen the Colombian economic and Colombian development, especially in light of the Latin American pathway in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Following the Q&A session, the Yenching Academy presented Ms. Salamanca with a gift in appreciation of her continued support of the Academy, before a final group photo was taken in the courtyard of Jingyuan 3.

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By Alix Lewis