Colombia: A Strategic Partner

Posted by Paloma Gonzalez
January 21, 2010
Colombians Farm Outside of Bogota

About the Author: Paloma Gonzalez serves as Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.

The day before the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg began a visit to Colombia, a valuable regional partner and a perfect example of how strong, bilateral relationships allow for more effective responses to crises in the hemisphere. Colombian police participate in the UN's mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), and Colombia was among the first countries to pledge and deliver relief assistance after the disaster.

Steinberg's visit was his first to Latin America since being appointed Deputy Secretary in January 2009. He was accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Chris McMullen and U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield.

The trip began January 12 in El Ubérrimo, President Alvaro Uribe’s family ranch in Montería, Córdoba, just minutes from the Caribbean. Reflecting our broad bilateral agenda, the topics discussed with President Uribe and his team included: human rights, justice, trade, security, counternarcotics, climate change, labor, and regional issues. Steinberg’s message was clear: Colombia is a strategic partner of the United States.

Following the meeting, Steinberg and Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez signed the Action Plan on Racial & Ethnic Equality. This plan focuses on addressing racial discrimination and issues affecting under-represented racial and ethnic minority communities. It establishes a joint Steering Committee to discuss challenges faced by racial and ethnic minorities in a variety of areas: Education, Culture, Housing, Health, Employment, Labor, and Anti-Discrimination Legislation. This is an important step in our efforts to support Afro-descendant and indigenous communities in Colombia who suffer disproportionately due to the internal conflict.

Before bidding farewell, President Uribe provided a demonstration on his graceful paso horses and introduced us to mango acebichado, a refreshing local treat, with the Mayor of Montería.

Next came lunch in bustling Bogotá with human rights and labor representatives who expressed concerns about extrajudicial executions, threats against human rights defenders, displacement, official impunity, and racism. Steinberg then discussed cooperation, human rights and judicial matters with the Prosecutor General and his team. He ended his busy day over dinner with the three leading presidential candidates from opposition parties who hope to succeed President Uribe this year. A successful day one allowed the Deputy Secretary to exchange views first-hand with government leaders, civil society, and the political opposition.

Steinberg’s second day took him to Nariño, Colombia’s southwestern corner, to witness Embassy assistance efforts. Our first stop was the “wild west” town of Llorente (pop. 8,000) near the Ecuadoran border, where 18 Colombian police supported by the USG valiantly work to improve security in a cocaine trafficking region besieged by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), both of which are on the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list, and other criminal groups.

Colombia, aided by substantial U.S. assistance over 10 years, has made tremendous progress in reestablishing security: while 199 mayors could not work in their municipalities in 2000 for security reasons, since 2008, every mayor in the country works out of his or her office. Significant challenges remain, however, as evidenced by the FARC’s kidnapping and assassination of the Governor of Caquetá just before Christmas. Through our Colombia Strategic Development Initiative (CSDI), we support Colombia’s tireless efforts to consolidate security gains in remote areas through increased civilian state presence, economic alternatives to illicit activities, and strengthened justice.

Next, Steinberg visited a USAID-supported nursery, where beneficiaries receive seedlings and learn to increase the productivity of cacao, a commercially viable alternative to coca. The project benefits 1,070 Afro-Colombian families on communal lands. Steinberg heard the testimonies of numerous participants, all of whom were grateful to have income streams and to have expelled illicit coca cultivation from their lands. Progress in rural areas involves a delicate balancing act between security, creating economic opportunities, and the pressures communities face in shifting to the licit economy and culture of legality. Young cacao farmer Yudi Enríquez said, “with the help of alternative development programs, we’re not only able to pull coca from the ground, but from our hearts.”

Steinberg then had lunch with the Governor of Nariño, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and two displaced individuals living in a USAID-supported IOM housing project. After a press conference, we flew back to Bogotá, where Steinberg gave an interview to El Tiempo newspaper before departing for Perú.

Deputy Secretary Steinberg left Colombia with first-hand knowledge of the complex realities this diverse country faces. His visit gave us the opportunity to reflect on how our work ties into the larger U.S. foreign policy strategy. We were reminded of Secretary Clinton’s remarks on a Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century: “Human rights, democracy, and development are not three separate goals with three separate agendas.” From the Action Plan on Racial & Ethnic Equality to CSDI, our projects here intend to create an integrated approach to help our strategic partner leave its history of violence behind for a future of peace and prosperity.

Comments

Comments

palgye
|
South Korea
January 25, 2010

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Like farmers of Colombia,

Me, I work want so far and thinks that the ability is insufficient. The many influences exist and moving they hang they think the money from actuality and them. Uses the problem of actuality and when to tie the person, thinks that there is not a possibility the who coming out falling into.

Also the will importance but, thinks from situation of now the variable where also the circumstance of circumference is important. Thinks very the issue of importance.

palgye
|
South Korea
January 25, 2010

Palgye in South Korea writes:

The corruption uses a fear and the narcotic drug group(?) which controls the resident Thinks that the result which is thorn suppresses must be reported in press.

Enlightens farmers and will arm the person which makes and (I think original to am like this), Fights to initially and the method which removes narcotic drug cultivation mobilizes to will be how? Removes the narcotic drug as a matter of and army commando raid hemp I for do to avoid an identity exposure, cannot believe the government the citizens…

One will make the hero and will hang and?
"Ernesto Guevara de la Serna"
Most the issue which is important thinks from the situation where the ideology loses economy. The support delivery thinks the thing which will become. But, being delivered well, is a doubt.

Has the pain of growth, loves seeks, the fatherland and the person which takes a pride about the nation, (?) Solves to the branch will do the self-conceit core voluntarily and will hang and?

From schedule point of view and support and the blight which are official does about the citizen of the government and absorbs with the method which sucks

When with time as a matter of like this mental leader appears in Colombia, thinks became.

If advises no matter how, the organization of society which gets sick will not be solved. That is like that, thinks knows that the country whole is such. There are not also times when becomes, they are not but there is talk which is a place which is not also the thing. So far the rule in compliance with the law thinks with the rule in compliance with the person the place where the change is possible.

palgye
|
South Korea
January 25, 2010

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Removes narcotic drug cultivation and to after difficulty divides thinks the farming village and the industrial zone and that there is a method which manages.

For the autogeny power of mining and agriculture field does to make the cooperation found, early stage is difficult and does to make overcome, makes come to divide to after that oneself in field of each one, thinks the thing. Respects consuming which the amount of material which is supplied in the city is quick to erect the professional agricultural products market.....

Position transactions the plan which minimizes the intervention the outside and long-term like that for small-scale loan and narcotic drug cultivation abandonment at the time of about 3-5 years actual object compensation support method etc.

The school and the hospital think in the country indispensability. If there is not a bank,

The industry field detains certain period 3D industries to thinks a help decrease. Later the problem occurs, different altitude industry immature will not be difficult a little and peels? Thinks with only the coffee that is insufficient. Equipment oneself moves and from assembles fading industry mobility and a environmental standards (satisfactorily, there is a plan of preparation and thinks from the actual place and that but) must provide a job.

The development equipment does to make the maximum solar heat and the solar storehouse use, drops a manufacture consultation unit cost and with the method which minimizes an effect in international energy market. I think to this the biggest dillema. About five will split about development and to pay cold night wear out. The society, economic. When the gas price ascends again and the vicious circle thinks that is continued. and
i lost wind mill........................................

palgye
|
South Korea
January 25, 2010

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Indio considers seriously the regiment of the family which listens and to is, or, thinks very big weakness. Will hang and solves and thinks that must establish what kind of policy. Will be able to use in opposition but

and

Does not know English and contents is
i just heard his thinking.

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/10/14/us.drugs.policy/
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October 14, 2009 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)

John
|
California, USA
January 26, 2010

John in California writes:

It's wonderful to learn that the devastating violence that once gripped Colombia has lessened and that alternatives to coca farming are being introduced.

While the FARC & ELN violence is a huge problem in itself it is also an indication of problems elsewhere in the system. I hope their goals in areas of human rights, justice, trade, security, counternarcotics, climate change, labor, and regional issues are met and raised and met again until there is no need for a counter insurgency in our good neighbor Colombia.

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