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Luis Gilberto Murillo was Colombia's vice-presidential candidate for the centrist coalition in May. He is an expert on environmental issues and has been active in the United States on behalf of Colombia's Afro-descendant communities.
Luis Gilberto Murillo was Colombia's vice-presidential candidate for the centrist coalition in May. He is an expert on environmental issues and has been active in the United States on behalf of Colombia's Afro-descendant communities. Photo: AL DÍA Archive

Afro-Latino leader is Colombia's new ambassador to the U.S.

Luis Gilberto Murillo was part of a research team at MIT until the beginning of 2022 that seeks solutions to the environmental crisis from an Afro- perspective.

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The president-elect of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, announced today that engineer Luis Gilberto Murillo will be his Ambassador to the United States — where he resides — starting Aug. 7, when he takes office. He is the first Afro-descendant in the history of Colombia to hold the position of Ambassador to the United States.

Murillo was the vice-presidential candidate for the centrist coalition in the first round of the May 29 presidential elections. Following his defeat, he immediately announced his support for Petro, leader of a center-left coalition, in the second round. Petro won, signifying a historic change for the Colombian government.

The new ambassador, with important links in the United States with the Democratic and Republican parties, will be the Colombian voice before Joe Biden's administration on issues that mark a transformation in bilateral relations. Key issues will be the review of the Free Trade Agreement and the revision of the failed counter-narcotics policy. In addition, they will join efforts on sensitive issues such as climate change and U.S. support for the implementation of the Peace agreement in Colombia,

In addition, it will mean a significant improvement in bilateral relations, which turns 200 this year. It also comes after disagreements with the current government of Ivan Duque, whose party supported the reelection of Donald Trump, breaking the impartiality and respect for internal affairs,

Murillo was on the cover of AL DÍA's Oct. 27, 2021 edition

He was born in the camp of a multinational mining company that exploited gold in Andagoya, a town bathed by several mighty rivers in the department of Chocó, in the Colombian Pacific. It is one of the areas with the highest indicators of poverty and state neglect in his country. In this environment, he achieved the best score in the region on the state exam for students finishing high school. This changed his life when he was only 16 years old.

Luis Gilberto Murillo is the first Colombian and the first Afro-Latino to be part of the prestigious Martin Luther King Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), assigned to the Environmental Solutions Initiative team. He worked until the beginning of this year on an innovative project that sought to help solve both the poverty of the continent's Afro-descendant communities and the environmental deterioration and the need to adapt to climate change.

Murillo is 55 years old, a mining engineer trained at the Moscow State University of Geological Prospecting and Mining, where he arrived on scholarship without intending to after his high school exam results. Life put him in a place he had never dreamed of and that changed his course.

He returned to Colombia to work for Chocó and headed the entity responsible for the environment. He was governor of the department at the age of 31. But one day, in the middle of the Colombian armed conflict, he was kidnapped by a paramilitary group that warned him what could happen to his life. Murillo's next decision was to go into exile in the United States with his family more than 20 years ago. Here, he worked intensely to publicize the living conditions and human rights violations of Colombia's Afro-descendant population. He gained the support of personalities such as Reverend Jessie Jackson and sectors began to support projects and actions for the benefit of Afro-descendant communities affected by the war.

Between 2011 and 2018, he returned to Colombia, first as governor of Chocó, then as manager of a National Government project to address the socio-economic crisis of the Colombian Pacific, and then as Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development. He was part of the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, who signed the peace agreement with FARC-EP in 2016. He returned to the United States and from Washington and Boston, worked for the health of the planet and its most vulnerable communities.

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