LatinNews Daily - 28 March 2023

COLOMBIA: High level dialogue with US gets underway

On 27 March a US delegation arrived in Colombia for the 10th High Level Dialogue between the two countries.


This is the first such dialogue under Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro, whose inauguration in August last year was viewed by some as a potential inflection point in US-Colombia relations. However, Colombia’s Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva yesterday emphasised that the Petro administration is not planning to spring any “surprises” on the US. Making relatively few references to counter-narcotics and security – the focal points for bilateral cooperation under Petro’s predecessors – Leyva instead drew attention to the Colombian government’s goals on environmental protection, social welfare, and agrarian reform. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken indicated that President Joe Biden’s administration would support these objectives, but underlined the continued importance of combatting drug trafficking.

  • Leyva sought to dispel any concerns that the US-Colombia relationship could deteriorate under Petro, a fierce critic of the US-led war on drugs. Leyva said that “there’s a new head of state with new rhetoric but he won’t surprise [you]; there will never be a surprise from our side in the relationship with our eternal ally, the US”.
  • Leyva emphasised the Petro administration’s eagerness to cooperate on fighting climate change and deforestation, saying that “we were the country of coca, now we’re one of the great [carbon] sponges offering a solution to the possible disappearance of the human race”.
  • Blinken said that the US would support Colombia’s efforts on climate and environmental protection, and said that “we’ll expand pathways for farmers, for textile producers, and other small- and medium-sized businesses in rural areas to get their products to global markets, and reap the benefits of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement”.
  • On counter-narcotics, Blinken said that “countering… illicit groups and the flow of illegal drugs is a key part of our ongoing discussions on security”. He said that the two delegations would discuss how to reduce drug supply, “from strengthening interdiction by land and sea, to providing vulnerable communities with alternative ways to make a living”.

Looking Ahead: Ahead of the two-day dialogue, Colombia’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that compared with previous bilateral meetings, “Colombia will bring a broader agenda based on the diverse range of issues that are a priority for the new government”. Leyva said that these issues will include migration, counter-narcotics, deforestation, agrarian reform, healthcare, human rights, and the transition to green energy.

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