Tuesday, August 07, 2018

US-Colombian Relations Under Trump and Duque

The Washington Post has an article about how Iván Duque will automatically become the closest U.S. ally in Latin America.

Duque, a conservative, hopes to turn Trump’s concerns about drugs and safe borders into a stronger partnership with Washington while promising to revisit elements of a historic peace agreement with rebels struck in August 2016 with the vigorous support of the Obama administration. 
“When he is sworn in, Duque will overnight become the most pro-American head of state in Latin America,” said a senior U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about U.S. diplomatic priorities.
A big question is how much Duque stays hardline after being sworn in. He is of course an Alvaro Uribe disciple and even is seen as a potential puppet (to the point that he actually had to say he wasn't a puppet). There are plenty valid of reasons to envision a major shift away from the Santos administration.

At the same time, this isn't the 1990s. Simply going back to aerial fumigation and old style punitive policies don't have the same national or regional support they did back then. Former presidents are calling for decriminalization. There is already precedent for a hardliner president to advocate for decriminalization. There is broader consensus that the U.S. drug war is largely a failure. And there is no more civil war.

Nonetheless, I would expect it to be relatively easy for Duque to the closest U.S. ally, in large part because the U.S. has no close allies at all at the moment. But will he bend to reach U.S.-determined goals of coca cultivation? Will he just redo Uribe's policies in a totally different environment?

Nikki Haley, who is attending the inauguration on Trump's behalf, published a carefully worded op-ed that did include a push for more eradication:

Working with Colombian police and military forces, the United States helped achieve record cocaine seizures in 2017, while Colombian forces eradicated over 125,000 acres of coca last year. But there is much more to do to achieve the goal set between our two countries to reduce by half coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia.
There is no mention of goals to reduce U.S. cocaine consumption, but that's a different story.


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