Colombian defense minister dies of Covid-19 complications

BOGOTA – Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo died Tuesday of coronavirus complications, the country’s president announced. He was 69.

Trujillo is one of about a dozen sitting cabinet ministers worldwide to have succumbed to the virus that has killed at least 2.1 million people since the outbreak began in China in December 2019.

He was hospitalized in Bogota on January 11 and admitted to intensive care four days later after suffering “acute lung function deterioration,” according to the defense ministry.

Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Twitter that Trujillo had died at dawn from complications due to Covid-19.

“Thank you, friend; thank you, partner; thank you, minister, thank you @CarlosHolmesTru. Your life was the purest reflection of vocation and public service,” Duque wrote.

Several top politicians around the world have survived coronavirus infection, including former US president Donald Trump, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Emmanuel Macron of France and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In December, Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini of Eswatini — formerly Swaziland — became the first sitting leader to die, joining ex-leaders such as former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Swiss ex-president Flavio Cotti and Burundi’s former head of state Pierre Buyoya.

Born in Cali in Colombia’s southwest, Trujillo has served in government under six presidents since 1990 — as interior and education minister, and several times as an ambassador.

– ‘A great gentleman’ –

After a frustrated bid for the presidency, he was appointed foreign minister in Duque’s government in 2018.

He then took over the defense portfolio after the resignation in 2019 of Guillermo Botero, accused of having tried to cover up the deaths of children in a military air strike on a drug gang.

In his last role, Trujillo was faced with the worst attacks committed in Colombia since the signing of a peace agreement with the armed guerilla group FARC in 2016.

According to the Indepaz independent observatory, Colombia in 2020 witnessed 91 massacres — described as attacks resulting in three or more deaths.

Trujillo said these crimes were motivated by the expansion of drug trafficking during the government of Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018).

“Despite our differences lately, he was always a great gentleman,” Santos said on Twitter.

Fernando Navarro, the head of the Colombian armed forces, acted as defense minister during Trujillo’s hospitalization.

Colombia has reported more than two million Covid-19 cases, according to official figures, and almost 52,000 deaths.

The South American nation has kept its land and river borders closed for nearly a year and will keep them shut until at least March 1.

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