Colombian Defense Minister and former Foreign Minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo García died on Tuesday aged 69. He was one of President Iván Duque’s top aides, whom he aspired to succeed as head of state in 2022.
A lawyer with a long career in politics and diplomacy, Trujillo was a faithful sidekick of the president and a leading figure in the Democratic Center party, founded and led by former President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) and of which Duque is a member.
“Carlos Holmes was my friend, my companion in the struggle, my co-worker and my minister in two posts,” Duque said in a statement following the announcement.
The deceased minister was the son of liberal leader Carlos Holmes Trujillo Miranda, one of the Valle del Cauca’s electoral barons and from whom he inherited a passion for politics and public service.
A believer in classical liberalism
Trujillo García was born on September 23, 1951 in Cartago, a prosperous city in the northern part of Valle del Cauca, and trained as a lawyer at the University of Cauca, where he began to show the oratorial skills and liberal ideas that led him to become his father’s successor.
Throughout his public life, he was the first mayor elected by popular vote of Cali, capital of Valle del Cauca, in 1988; member of the National Constituent Assembly that drafted the Colombian Constitution of 1991 and Minister of Education (1992-1993) in the government of the liberal César Gaviria.
He was also high advisor for peace (1994-1995) and Minister of the Interior (1997-1998) in the cabinet of Ernesto Samper; Colombian consul in Tokyo, ambassador to Austria, Russia, the Organization of American States (OAS) and head of the Colombian Mission to the European Union in Brussels, among other positions.
One of his virtues was the eloquence with which he used to defend his ideas, first the classical liberal ones that characterized him during most of his life, and in recent years, those of the right-wing with which he aligned himself as a follower of the policies of former President Uribe.
He became one of the national figures of the Democratic Center and became the presidential running mate of Óscar Iván Zuluaga in the 2014 elections, in which Juan Manuel Santos was reelected.
A fervent critic of the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC, signed in November 2016, his political weight in the Democratic Center grew with the emergence of Iván Duque as a presidential candidate in 2018 and he came to profile as the card of a sector of Uribism for the next presidential elections.
In the Democratic Center he played a key role in the development of what would be Duque’s government program, who after winning the presidency, in June 2018, appointed him as foreign minister, the first appointment of his cabinet.
As head of Foreign Affairs, Trujillo worked for the strengthening of relations with the United States and led the so-called “diplomatic siege” against the tyrannical regime of Nicolás Maduro, which he considered a threat to regional security.
“He died full of achievements and projects, honors and simplicity. His life was the incarnation of patriotism”, said Duque, adding that “in all his actions his ethics, his integrity, his human condition and his search for excellence stood out”.