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Colombia’s First Lady Faces Scrutiny Over Foreign Travel and Meeting with Pope Francis


Controversy surrounds Verónica Alcocer's foreign travel expenses and second time meeting Pope Francis in 2023
Controversy surrounds Veronica Alcocer’s foreign travel expenses and her second meeting Pope Francis in 2023. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The wife of President Gustavo Petro, Veronica Alcocer, will represent Colombia on a diplomatic mission in Italy. However, as she prepares for this new international trip, there has been criticism surrounding her prominent role within the government and the foreign travel expenses her journeys have incurred.

From New York to Rome: A Swift Turnaround

Just days after returning from New York, USA, where she accompanied the head of state on an official visit, Alcocer will pack her bags again to spend a few days in Rome. There, the first lady will have several meetings, but the most important of them will be another encounter with Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, who has received her on previous occasions at the Vatican.

Papal Blessings and the Richness of Alba Town’s Chocolates

It was announced this week that the first lady is expected to arrive in Italy on Thursday, September 28th. Veronica will arrive in a town called Alba, where she will visit the large Ferrero Alba chocolate factory. Later, she will meet with some of the leaders of the social project of the company “Joy of Moving Village.”

Two Days of Diplomacy in Italy: Key Agendas

Verónica Alcocer’s diplomatic mission in Italy extends beyond Alba, encompassing two pivotal days, September 29th and 30th, dedicated to significant events. During this period, she is poised to witness the elevation of Monsignor Luis Jose Rueda to the esteemed rank of cardinal. This ecclesiastical event carries profound significance, symbolizing the enduring ties between Colombia and the Vatican. As Colombia’s First Lady bears witness to this historic moment, regardless of the ongoing controversy, she represents the country’s respect and reverence for the Catholic Church.

Additionally, on her diplomatic itinerary is a crucial meeting with the foundation of the Supreme Pontiff, Scholas Occurrentes. This organization, championed by Pope Francis himself, focuses on educational and social projects with global reach. Verónica Alcocer’s participation underscores Colombia’s commitment to promoting education, peace, and social inclusion. Through this meeting, she aims to explore avenues of collaboration and solidarity, uniting her nation’s aspirations with the global vision of Scholas Occurrentes. These two days of diplomacy hold the promise of fostering deeper bonds between Colombia and Italy, transcending borders and bridging cultures.

The Role of Verónica Alcocer: A Source of Debate

Despite it being normal for the wife of the head of state to travel with him or represent the country in diplomatic events, Colombia’s First Lady has found herself in controversy for her prominent role within the government. Some even question whether Alcocer “overshadows” the role and stature of Vice President Francia Marquez, as she has taken on some functions that the Vice Presidency has historically performed. Recently, for example, the first lady sparked controversy when it was revealed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had allocated 32 million pesos for her travel expenses to the funerals of Queen Elizabeth II in London and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

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