Monday, June 16, 2014

Santos and Obama

Juan Manuel Santos' victory in the second round is not about the United States. But stop for a minute and consider U.S. policy, especially in the context of constant chatter that the Obama administration is ignoring the region and slighting its allies.

In December 2013 President Obama stood with President Santos and praised the FARC negotiations:

I congratulated President Santos on his bold and brave efforts to bring about a lasting and just peace inside of Colombia in his negotiations with the FARC. Obviously, this has been a longstanding conflict within Colombia. It is not easy; there are many challenges ahead. But the fact that he has taken this step I think is right, because it sends a signal to the people of Colombia that it is possible to unleash the enormous potential if we can move beyond this conflict. But obviously, there are going to be some very challenging questions moving forward. I’m pleased to see the President’s strong commitment on that front. The United States is supportive of those efforts.

The Obama administration hitched its horse--wisely in my opinion--to the peace negotiations and so clearly hoped for a Santos victory. Really, really quickly after Santos got over the 50% hump, the State Department issued a congratulatory statement:

We congratulate President Santos on his victory, as well as the Colombian people and electoral officials on a peaceful and orderly election. We look forward to continuing to work with President Santos and his administration to advance our bilateral relationship and to continuing to support the Colombian Government and people as they pursue a negotiated end to the conflict there.

I had argued in a recent op-ed that the Obama administration was engaging a lot with Latin America, but just quietly. This is one example. We got over the militarized Bush-Uribe era and quietly encouraged conflict resolution. It seems the Colombian people chose the same. From the standpoint of U.S. policy toward Latin America, it's refreshing.


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