MIAMI ( Associated Press) — The United States wants to send a clear message: Colombia is one of its main partners in Latin America and Washington wants to continue working with its government when President-elect Gustavo Petro takes office, First the Left will lead the administration. in the history of the South American nation.
For this reason, a delegation made up of the White House’s National Security Adviser, Juan Gonzalez, and Brian Nichols, the Under Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, arrived in Bogota on Thursday to meet Petro, outgoing President Ivan Duque and a group of members of the Western Hemisphere. Congressmen
The two-day meetings come shortly after Petro’s inauguration on August 7 and President Joe Biden’s administration has faced criticism for delays in nominating a new ambassador to Colombia. The conservative-leaning duke has been a key partner of Washington in the region and his choice of Petro to succeed him raised fears that relations between the two sides could be strained.
Now Washington wants to clarify those questions and show a synergy despite the fact that there will be differences of opinion on how to deal with drug trafficking and trade.
“The United States’ relationship with Colombia is extremely important, and we want to find a way to not only promote our interests, but also to have a really constructive collaboration with a democratically elected democratic leader,” said a US government official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity. not recognize. With regard to the next Petro government, he said, “what is demanded is to demonstrate that “the United States really wants to continue to work with Colombia, as we have done with other leaders in the hemisphere.”
Amidst campaigning for the presidency in Colombia, on June 1 this year, the then US Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg had stepped down. On the same day, Francisco Palmieri was announced as char d’affaires in Colombia and a new ambassador has yet to be nominated for confirmation by the US Senate.
Also participating in the meetings are National Security Adviser John Finer and Phil Gordon, an advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris.
Petro’s team said there is a meeting on Friday with the US delegation and designated Foreign Minister lvaro Leyva will be there and Luis Gilberto Murillo, who will serve as ambassador to the White House.
Among the priority issues for this meeting, which will be a kind of follow-up to Biden and Petro’s first talks on June 21, are climate change, the implementation of the 2016 peace deal with the FARC, and economic cooperation. The fight against drug trafficking and transnational crime and the region’s response to Venezuela’s migrant crisis will also be discussed, officials said in a telephone news conference on Wednesday.
Petro, who was a member of the M-19 guerrilla, won the presidential ballot to replace the current conservative president on June 19. During his campaign he created resistance in a segment of the population that distrusted his past as a rebel. In addition, he challenged the establishment and proposed structural reforms in pensions and taxes for the wealthiest sectors. Later, however, with political compromises, he received the support of the most powerful of the traditional parties and several benches that did not support him in his campaign.
One of the issues on which Petro has expressed a different point of view than Duke is the fight against drug trafficking, and the US government wants to hear his position directly.
“This is an opportunity for us, first and foremost, to hear and understand the contours and nuances of the approach of the coming administration,” said another Washington official. “We believe that a holistic approach that addresses illegal activities, along with rural livelihoods and security, is important. And we trust that you will be of common interest to advance those goals for the benefit of both our countries. will be able to find areas.”
Coca cultivation and cocaine production continue to be of common interest to both countries. According to a United States Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) report, the figures fell somewhat, but remain high: 234,000 hectares of coca were cultivated in 2021, compared to 245,000 reported in 2020.
Another issue in which the United States hopes Colombia will help with Venezuela, whose president Nicolas Maduro has been described by Washington as a dictator. Biden is encouraging Maduro to return to the negotiating table with the opposition to move toward democratic elections.
Petro, on its part, said Venezuela “lacks democracy”. However, he plans to restore diplomatic relations with that country and will therefore recognize the Maduro government as legitimate. After winning the election, he accepted the Duke’s decision not to be invited to the broadcast of the order and said that the restoration of relations would be progressive.
Now the United States of America seeks their help for the path to democracy in Venezuela. “Colombia can play an important role in stimulating this process,” the US official said, after recalling that the Duque government offered to legalize more than a million of the more than six million Venezuelan refugees, who have fled their country.
Suarez reported from Bogotás