U.S.-Colombia relations anticipated to shift considerably



America is about to lose its greatest pal in Latin America.

For years, Washington and Colombia have shared shut relations on all kinds of points, together with immigration, combatting drug trafficking, finishing up coca eradication in Colombia’s highlands and standing as much as its neighbor, Venezuela.

One of many oldest democracies within the area, Colombia has lengthy been dominated by certainly one of two events, and for many years each have been admirers and allies of the USA, no matter whether or not a Democrat or Republican occupied the White Home.

However in an election runoff scheduled for later this month, an outsider will win Colombia’s presidency: both Rodolfo Hernández, an actual property tycoon with scant political expertise and unclear views, or Gustavo Petro, a former leftist guerrilla who fought Colombian governments for years earlier than serving in its Home and Senate and as mayor of Bogota, the nation‘s capital, between 2012 and 2015.

“This can be a watershed second in Colombian historical past — and doubtlessly a watershed second in U.S.-Colombian relations,” mentioned Cynthia Arnson, a distinguished fellow on the Wilson Middle suppose tank in Washington and a longtime professional on South America.

Each candidates, she mentioned, are questioning a few of the basic tenets of the U.S.-Colombian relationship. Petro, for instance, has spoken of legalizing medication, whereas Hernández is believed to be supportive of a hydrocarbons trade that these looking for to fight local weather change — together with Washington — want to see diminish in affect.

“Ought to it happen, a lack of strategic partnership can be a blow to U.S. coverage within the hemisphere,” Arnson mentioned of the results of the upcoming Colombian election. “We’re in for a special type of journey.”

The implications embody much less cooperation from Colombia on combating drug trafficking and the lack of a supportive voice in regional politics.

Colombian President Iván Duque, who will depart workplace later this yr, has made some extent of his affinity with the USA whereas visiting Los Angeles for the Summit of the Americas.

He stood subsequent to President Biden on the opening ceremony Thursday and acquired a standing ovation for his authorities’s willingness, at the USA’ behest, to provide residency standing to a whole bunch of hundreds of Venezuelans who’ve fled their nation.

Duque has repeatedly proven that he’s prepared to comply with calls for from the USA. Members of his political occasion made forays in late 2016 to fulfill with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Seaside, Fla., resort, in an try to curry favor with the then-president-elect.

On the summit in Los Angeles this week, Duque was a uncommon Latin American voice supportive of the Biden administration’s resolution to exclude the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from the occasion. The exclusion prompted a boycott by a number of international locations, in addition to criticism from different Western Hemisphere leaders who nonetheless determined to attend.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, additionally in Los Angeles for the summit, mentioned in an interview with The Instances that he believed a great relationship would proceed with Bogota no matter how Colombia’s election performs out.

“Now we have a robust, deep relationship over many many years that goes from authorities to authorities, regardless of who’s in energy [in Colombia],” Blinken mentioned. “I believe the pursuits that we share are such that we’ll work with no matter authorities emerges.”

He mentioned it remained to be seen whether or not the identical degree of cooperation would proceed.

“In our hemisphere, now we have a fairly huge number of democratic governments of the left, of the suitable, of the middle — however what’s more and more animating these governments is an easy proposition,” Blinken mentioned. “They know that they should attempt to ship for his or her folks, they should truly produce outcomes that matter to their folks” on points similar to COVID-19, healthcare, the financial system and local weather change.

It’s unclear what sort of overseas coverage Petro or Hernandez would pursue, however each have hinted at deep change. Within the first spherical of voting final month, Petro bested Hernández by greater than 10 share factors however didn’t attain the 50% threshold essential to keep away from a runoff. Now there may be hypothesis that Colombia’s many conservative sectors will be part of forces to again Hernández and forestall a leftist from being elected president.

But it surely might go both manner.

“Colombia is the USA’ most essential ally within the area, and a brand new period is being considerably redefined — in Colombia, in U.S.-Colombia relations and in Colombia’s function in Latin America,” mentioned Michael Shifter, previous president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a suppose tank in Washington that makes a speciality of Latin America.

Colombia was the positioning of the hemisphere’s longest conflict, as teams of leftist rebels fought governments, with drug traffickers immersed within the combine, for some three many years, till the United Nations brokered a peace accord in 2016 with sturdy help from the Obama administration.

Washington additionally sponsored Plan Colombia, a multibillion-dollar financial, diplomatic and navy help plan within the early 2000s geared toward combating guerrillas and drug traffickers — most likely the USA’ largest monetary funding in South America.

In latest weeks, Colombia and the USA celebrated 200 years of bilateral relations, the oldest such connection within the Americas. Some analysts are satisfied that the historical past between the 2 international locations will protect their sturdy ties.

“That’s a reminder that U.S.-Colombia ties have lasted throughout administrations, throughout events, each in Colombia and right here within the U.S.; it’s shared values, shared tradition, shared historical past,” mentioned Mark Inexperienced, a former State Division and USAID official who now serves as president of the Wilson Middle.

“So even with a few of the modifications, I’m positive we’ll discover methods to maintain working collectively for the great of each international locations, but additionally for the area,” he mentioned, including: “What it exactly means, nobody is aware of.”

Los Angeles Instances workers author Cesar Rojas Angel contributed to this report.

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