Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno, Colombia’s minister of defense, is constantly on the move, traveling all over the country to meet with members of the armed forces and citizens as part of his duties. At any given moment, he may be on a military base awarding medals to the wounded in action, in a helicopter surveying a ministry-funded resettlement village for a displaced indigenous tribe, or in a remote rural village once ravaged by rebel violence, inaugurating five miles of road rebuilt by the Army Corps of Engineers.
But I met Pinzón Bueno—or Pinzón, following Colombia’s customary surname shorthand—in Bogotá. His office at the ministry was simply furnished and decorated with a set of flags—the national flag and the flags of the country’s armed forces and police. His office overlooks the ministry’s courtyard, over which hundreds of military and civilian employees traverse on a daily basis.
Born into a middle-class family whose legacy of military service spans 120 years, Pinzón said that his parents assumed that he would continue in the family tradition. But he said that as long as he could remember, he had always wanted to be minister of defense. He said with a smile that when his parents learned of his goal, “They didn’t believe me.”
In September of 2011, Pinzón, at age 40, after working in various capacities in the public and private sectors, was appointed by President Juan Manuel Santos, becoming the country’s youngest minister of defense. He has remained in office longer than any other minister of defense in Colombia’s history. That is due in part to President Santos’ confidence in him, which has trumped the anti-Pinzón stance of FARC and the far left.
“We continue the war effort and by doing so, our people are the country’s architects for peace.” All previous presidential administrations have
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