The United States seems to be alone in the continent as socialism and transnational crime advance. This Sunday, June 19, the leftist Gustavo Petro won the Presidency of Colombia and with it, the American government is about to lose its greatest ally in the region.
In view of Petro’s victory, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated Colombians on the presidential elections and wished to “strengthen” the relationship with the future government of the South American country. It remains to be seen what the attitude of an openly socialist government will be.
The United States has not only been Colombia’s largest trade and investment partner, but also a great ally in the fight against transnational crime and terrorism. Now, the relationship could be in limbo as Venezuela, the neighboring country, has become a bunker that shelters Colombian guerrillas, Iranian terrorists, and drug cartels.
“Colombia remains a strong partner with the United States on security issues, including actions against terrorism and drug trafficking. We are working together to reduce coca cultivation and cocaine production by 50% by the end of 2023,” says the website of the U.S. Embassy in Colombia.
Sergio Guzman, director of Colombia Risk Analysis, said the election is likely to “destroy the bipartisan consensus under which both Democrats and Republicans have supported military cooperation and joint efforts to combat the illicit drug trade.”
“American Republicans will be reluctant to approve funding for Colombia if Petro is in office,” he said.
Petro’s victory is a U.S. failure in the region
Colombia was the only country in the region that had not fallen into the hands of the left and socialism; however, now it will be in the hands of a former guerrilla that —just as Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela— could destroy everything that has been built in terms of relations with the United States.
El American consulted specialists in international relations to know the impact of Petro’s victory not only for the United States, but also for the region. They agree that America is losing to the left, while the outlook in the region is increasingly bleak.
“Colombia was the United States’ main ally in Latin America on security issues; in fact, Colombia is even a global partner of NATO. Petro’s arrival is a major setback for the US geopolitical situation and demonstrates the failure of its policy towards the region,” César Sabas, an expert in international relations and security, told El American.
“Without Colombian support for U.S. activities, the Venezuelan regime has much more room for action to continue and intensify its criminal activities,” the specialist added.
Sabas pointed out that the United States is practically alone in terms of alliances, making this “backyard” increasingly vulnerable.
“Basically, Brazil is the only major Latin American country that is not governed by the left, and yet there is a real likelihood that Lula will soon return to power. At this point, the United States has little leeway, as it should have done something much earlier, such as cooperation agreements or promoting infrastructure development, as China does with its client countries,” criticized Sabas.
Over the years, the United States has put Latin America on the back burner in terms of foreign policy. While countries such as China and Iran reach trade agreements in the U.S. “backyard,” American governments have distanced themselves, giving the green light for the enemy to establish itself in the region.
“I think it is necessary that if the United States wants to retain a relevant geopolitical role for the coming decades, it should pay more attention to its sphere of influence and not wear itself out so much in distant conflicts that it doesn’t understand well,” Sabas said.
“Latin America is about to become a migraine for the United States”
The United States and Colombia have just celebrated 200 years of diplomatic relations, and now with the arrival of Petro those relations may weaken.
Joseph Humire, global security expert and executive director of the Center for a Free and Secure Society, explained to El American that Petro’s arrival in the presidency is worrisome because of his alliances with the most “anti-American” leftist political leaders in the region.
“The main negative of this is the network in which Petro moves. He’s not a politician without alliances, he is an old politician from Colombia, and he also has sympathy with the most anti-American politicians in Latin America, and that was evident with his victory because figures such as Nicolás Maduro, Diosdado Cabello, Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Kirchner, Rafael Correa, celebrated and congratulated him publicly.”
Humire explained that he is now very concerned about how the relationship between Colombia and Venezuela will be, and what this might imply to the region.
“One of the most worrying things is the relationship that will now be between Colombia and Venezuela, because Venezuela mixes between the public and the criminal; it mixes licit and illicit activities and that is the type of capitalism that Nicolás Maduro is now promoting. With Petro in the Presidency, there is a risk that this will be strengthened”, he added.
Humire further stated that “the other concern that arises is for cross-border issues, where Maduro and Petro could reach agreements in the supposed fight against drug trafficking, but with operations between both countries where a criminal system is established.”
“For a long time the American rulers have looked little to Latin America without much concern, they know there is migration, they know there is organized crime, but they know there are not those conflicts that there are in other parts of the world as in the Middle East, but this can be complicated,” Humire explained.
“The narrative has been that Latin America has headaches, but the Middle East has migraines; and my response, for the last 20 years, has been that headaches turn into migraines if you don’t take care of them, and in this case that is what we are seeing,” added the specialist.
“Latin America is about to become a migraine for the United States because all aspects that can affect us on a day-to-day basis (trade, tourism, security) may begin to worsen because of the new lists of socialist presidents. Migration is an issue that is already being felt and can get even worse; drug trafficking is another one that is already being felt and that will get worse,” he warned.
“Russia, China, and Iran will continue to position themselves in Latin America and that can bring us closer to a conflict. We have not had a conflict for over 100 years, but I think we are approaching a moment in which Latin American governments want to put the United States in a weakened position, and they will work for that. That was the project of Chavez, of Evo Morales, of the Castros, and now it may happen with Petro,” concluded Humire, who warned that Petro could become the next Hugo Chavez, as the main leader of the left in the region.