Alberto Furmanski / Colombia’s Ambassador
Alberto Rubio. 23/06/2017
He arrived in Spain in October 2015. “But I still have not managed to get the accent”, Alberto Furmanski jokes. Colombia’s Ambassador does not hesitate to affirm that “my wife and I feel very comfortable here”, but he points out that he will go back to his business activity when his period in Spain, which he describes as “a huge experience and honour”, comes to an end.
Unfortunately, we must start by the recent attack in Bogota. What does it mean in this moment for Colombia?
It has been a sad episode that has aroused great solidarity and great rejection of violence. We do not believe this means going back to the violent periods that the country lived and, even less, that it can put at risk the process of rapprochement.
Who could have been? Drug traffickers?
It is not the time to hazard guesses. Only the Police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office can give information. The FARC and the ELN deny any responsibility and nobody has claimed this attack. But let us be patient. I hope we soon know who the authors are.
Can Spain help?
Our respective governments have always supported each other unconditionally. We are deeply grateful to Spain for many circumstances. As well as promoting the Free Trade Agreement with the EU, it was the first country to contribute money to the fund of Europe for the post-conflict and it has always stood for us in European funds. All this makes relations flow in many aspects.
Starting by the citizens.
Spain is the home of 400,000 Colombians, of which 200,000 already have double nationality. Besides, Spain takes in 5,000 Colombian students in university degrees, masters or doctorate programmes. That creates connections that generate friendships with the passing of time.
Sport also unites us.
Of course, seeing Nairo Quintana succeed in the Tour of Spain last year, with the national flag in the streets of Madrid, or the performance of James in Real Madrid, makes us really proud.
However, sometimes, the negative image of drug trafficking prevails.
My country has wondered what is that you call drug trafficking. Nowadays, among those products banned, there are more synthetic than those derived from vegetable substances. The United States is suffering a real epidemic for the consumption of pills. And that is something people talk about.
What can be done?
President Santos has said it in the UN: drug trafficking must be treated as a health problem and not only in the police field. We see it in some countries where the product is provided to addict prisoners to keep the peace in prisons.
But Colombia is the one with the bad reputation. Is does not seem fair, right?
The treatment given to drug trafficking has been very serious for Colombia. We are left with the worst part: the dead and the economic problems. Contrary to what people think, the big figures of drug trafficking never get to Colombia, they stay in ‘consumer’ countries.
I am not trying to avoid the reality of the problem, but I think recipient countries must get more involved in the fight against drug trafficking.
Are you talking about a global strategy?
Well, in my country, many people are arrested for trafficking marijuana, whereas in others, it is sold legally. Besides, synthetic drugs are barely spoken about. They are produced in the most developed countries with sophisticated elements and laboratories. Then one wonders: how is that?
How are our bilateral economic relations?
Spain is our second or third biggest foreign investor; it depends on the number of years that we consider. These are companies that have settled there, because they trust in our legal security and generate jobs and exports. For us that is vital.
As for trade, Colombia exports to Spain 2,000 million euros and it imports 900. It looks like the balance favours us, but if we do not include oil and carbon, our exports only amount to 200 million. That is why we want to export products that generate more added value.
What about tourism? Colombia has a huge potential.
We are very interested in it. The number of Colombian tourists visiting Spain has really increased and we want to receive more Spanish tourists in Colombia. I believe the peace process will help and it will be one of our important industries.
We are the world’s second country with the highest biodiversity. And that is an aspect yet to be exploited. Besides, our connectivity is one of the best in Latin America: five daily flights between Madrid and Bogota, and direct flights to Medellin and Cali, and also from Barcelona. I hope we soon have direct flights to Cartagena de Indias.
There will be many Spanish tourist companies interested.
There are many that have already taken advantage of a law exempting investments in tourism from taxes for 20 years. I do not think this law can be maintained, but it has been an important incentive.
On the other hand, there are specialized companies that want to develop tourist places that do not have infrastructures. Spain has a wide experience in that field and that is one of our priorities.
Is there room for Spanish construction companies?
We have some of them working. And there is Bogota’s underground. I think this time the mayor will be able to call the bidding and there will be more than one Spanish company participating in it. I believe it will take place soon.
There have been some problems, such as that of Electricaribe.
The striking thing of the case was that Electricaribe, 83% of which belongs to Gas Natural, was having problems with the distribution of electricity in the Caribbean and it was making investments for the distribution of gas in the same area at the same time.