On October 3, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, while on a week-long trip to Colombia, Chile, and Peru, and Colombian President Gustavo Petro, leader of Colombia’s new leftist government, discussed taking steps to improve intelligence sharing and related drug trafficking matters between the two states, though no agreements were signed. However, the two countries continue to disagree on the extradition of drug criminals, according to Reuters.
Speaking at a press conference, Blinken said that “We [The American Government] strongly support the holistic approach that President Petro’s administration is taking to counter narcotics through comprehensive rural security, justice, development, environmental protection, supply reduction as well as demand reduction including in the United States,” according to the Associated Press. Though he described the two countries as “largely in sync,” according to Reuters, Blinken also acknowledged the continued differences on the matter of extradition and the lack of formal agreements on the issues discussed.
Petro, who has criticized the American “War on Drugs,” reiterated that Colombian priorities were the interdiction of drugs prior to their departure from Colombia, and the continued hunt for those who facilitate the drug trade.
Historically, Colombia and the United States have had close ties; the U.S. provided support to its long-time military campaign against drug cartels, and in recent years, worked with President Petro’s predecessor, Iván Duque in isolating Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, according to the New York Times. However, Petro, a former member of an armed urban guerilla group, has many different positions than his predecessor, including in regard to Venezuela and Cuba, putting him at odds with U.S. policymakers on key regional issues.
Speaking on Venezuela, though he concurred with U.S. sentiments describing Maduro as a “dictator,” has also sought to restore Colombian and Venezuelan ties, while President Biden has continued Trump-era sanctions against Maduro’s government.
The two countries have also found themselves in a dispute over Cuba, with President Petro describing the U.S. designation of Cuba, under President Trump, as an official state sponsor of terrorism as “an injustice [that] needs to be corrected,” according to Reuters.
While the leadership of the two countries may not find themselves in complete agreement on all issues at this time, these discussions with top officials are incredibly important to help facilitate better relations between the regional neighbours and longtime collaborators. They are especially important in making sure that relations between historically friendly states endure despite changes in domestic leadership. Friendly diplomatic relationships are one of the foundations of peace in the modern world, and it is good to see that the U.S. and Colombia are fostering these ties despite friction on some policy issues.
In conclusion, while it is clear that President Petro and President Biden will have more issues to work through than their predecessors, it is good to see that both administrations consider the relationship an important one, with President Petro wishing Secretary Blinken well in regard to his potential political ambitions in the future upon his departure.
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