Colombia and Ecuador, currently being visited this week by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, are seen as chess pieces in a “new cold war,” being waged by President Biden seeking to abate the influence of China and Russia in the region.
Fair enough, can one conclude?
Should this be the case and given the lack of importance that has been afforded South America by previous US governments, then we have a problem. Re-entering this game is not an easy prospect for President Biden. With all sorts of domestic issues to deal with, Covid-19, the migrant crisis at the southern border with Mexico, Venezuela, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, COP26, Russia, China and beyond, Colombia and Ecuador are but small fry.
But, if Colombia, as the case in point, is treated as merely a pawn in this game, then Colombians will lose out.
If Colombia is seen as a lowly chess piece in this new great game, then it will be more probable that the Biden administration prefers to look the other way when it comes to putting pressure on the South American country’s government in terms of human rights, getting them to answer for the alarming number of massacres currently taking place (Indepaz puts the number for 2021, with a cut off at 20/10/21 at 77), the issue of 80 deaths during the Paro Nacional (April-July 2021, source: Indepaz) and then revise the funding currently earmarked for Colombia’s security forces in the form of training and providing weapons.
and it’s positive news that Blinken has suggested, that the administration looks at and commits to a change in US policy in order to address the underlying causes of the issues leading to unrest, over-aggressive policing, violent crime and a total lack of faith and confidence in government institutions in Colombia.
Tackling the root issues in Colombia – or South America as a whole – would mean an entirely different flank taken by the US in the economic race with China. It would represent a significant gamble as the return is not in the short-term, such as so many items on China’s massive belt and road initiative (infrastructure is arguably long-term as well), but just perhaps, in the long-term there would be success in the form of the creation of a more equal and socially aware society?
Or is it just a pipe dream to imagine that a government could focus on long-term social aspirations rather than immediate political gratification?
Please tune in to Episode 400 of the Colombia Calling podcast on 2 November when it airs as we will be discussing this subject and more.
don’t take too much from a piece like this one in the New York Times (20/10/21)