Why Won't Biden Call Duque?
U.S. support for Colombia goes back decades and has been bipartisan. The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a bipartisan group supporting foreign economic and development assistance, described “Plan Colombia” as “A Development Success Story:”
Colombia is one of the strongest examples of the transformative effect of American engagement. U.S. security and economic assistance has helped the nation move from a cartel-ridden fragile state to a strategic ally and economic partner.
Plan Colombia began in 2000 and was followed by “Peace Colombia” in the Obama administration. Colombia has been the top recipient of U.S. assistance in Latin America.
The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement says this about Colombia:
Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine and was the source of approximately 89 percent of the cocaine seized and subjected to laboratory analysis in the United States in 2019. After dramatic increases from 2012 to 2017 led to record high levels, coca cultivation and pure potential cocaine production stabilized in 2018 and 2019…. Colombia and the United States have collaborated effectively to confront transnational crime for nearly two decades. The United States has made a sustained investment in Colombian peace and security, representing one of the top foreign policy successes of the past half century…. With robust enabling support from INL, the Colombian government reported destroying more than 130,000 hectares of coca through forced eradication in 2020, a more than 37 percent increase over the 2019 forced eradication results and the most total eradication since 2012. Also in 2020, Colombian police and military forces seized or assisted in the seizure of a record 579.9 metric tons of cocaine HCl and cocaine base.
All these facts are worth recalling today in a remarkable context: now five months in office, President Biden continues to refuse to speak to Colombia’s President Ivan Duque.
Why? Presumably because he thinks Duque got too close to Donald Trump. Perhaps he has forgotten that in 2019 Trump attacked Duque, prompting Duque’s defense by Democrats as well as Republicans. Whatever the reason for Biden’s stance, it is worse than silly; it is damaging to U.S. interests. It suggests to Latin leaders and others that being a close ally of the United States may win no support in Washington.
President Biden has spoken to scores of world leaders, many of them not friends of the United States and many of them people took power by undemocratic means. It is long past time that he spoke with the president of Colombia, Ivan Duque, the democratically elected leader of an American ally.