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It has only been five weeks since Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was last in Washington, D.C., but it has been an eventful five weeks in Colombia—and for U.S.-Colombia relations—that will almost undoubtedly have long-term ramifications for two of the most interconnected countries in the Americas.
Today, President Uribe arrives in Washington to continue his personal crusade to secure approval for the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement and for continued U.S. foreign assistance for Colombia. He does so against a dynamic backdrop:
- Yesterday, the House of Representatives Foreign Operations Subcommittee reportedly reduced the overall level of U.S. assistance to Colombia by 10 percent. It also reallocated the balance of that assistance away from the past distribution of 80 percent toward military/police assistance versus 20 percent for economic and institutional development that has been the hallmark of the U.S. assistance to Colombia throughout this decade.
- In the past week, President Uribe also has taken steps to unilaterally release hundreds of imprisoned members of Colombia’s Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia – the country’s largest leftist guerrilla group—including the highest ranking FARC member in Colombian custody, apparently in hopes of prompting the FARC to release the 56 hostages, including three U.S. citizens, it currently holds.
- In the past month, President Uribe raised the possibility of releasing from prison the 13 Colombian legislators (12 of whom belong to parties that back President Uribe) held for alleged connections with the country’s brutal paramilitaries, if they fully confess regarding their paramilitary connections.
- Just days after President Uribe’s last visit, U.S. congressional leaders and the Bush administration reached an agreement that will likely open the path for approval of trade agreements with Peru and Panama. The pending deal with Colombia was specifically not covered by the agreement, as members of Congress continued to express concerns regarding violence against labor leaders, other human rights violations, and impunity in Colombia.
In the midst of all of these developments, The Americas Project at the Center for American Progress has published two reports, “Colombia & the United States at a Crossroads: A Conversation with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe,” and “Rethinking U.S.-Colombia Policy: The U.S. and Colombia Can Break Cycles of Violence and Repression” by Aldo Civico, that highlight the complexity of the issues at the core of the U.S.-Colombia relationship and provide suggestions for a path forward.
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