Center for American Progress

: The United States & Colombia: What comes next?
Past Event

The United States & Colombia: What comes next?

12:00 - 2:00 PM EDT

The United States & Colombia: What comes next?

Featuring a keynote address by Andrés Pastrana, former President of the Republic of Colombia and current Colombian Ambassador to the United States

Followed by an expert panel discussion involving:
Russell Crandall, Associate Professor of Political Science, Davidson College
Nelson Cunningham, Managing Partner, Kissinger McLarty Associates
Sam Farr, United States Congressman from California (CA-17)
Isaac Lee, Editor-in-Chief, Page One Media, former Editor-in-Chief, Colombia’s Semana

Moderated by:
Dan Restrepo, Senior Policy Advisor and Director of The Americas Project, Center for American Progress

Colombia has made great strides in recent years, and the special relationship it has with the United States must be updated to reflect the changing needs of a work still in progress. This was the largely agreed upon consensus of a distinguished panel of experts hosted by The Americas Project at the Center for American Progress today.

The Center was honored to welcome former Colombian president and former ambassador to the United States, Andrés Pastrana, who delivered the keynote address. Pastrana was introduced by John Podesta, president and chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress, and joined on the panel by Rep. Sam Farr (D_CA). Also on the panel were Isaac Lee, editor-in-chief for Page One Media; Nelson Cunningham, managing partner at Kissinger McLarty Associates; and Russell Crandall, professor of Political Science at Davidson College. Dan Restrepo, director of The Americas Project, moderated.

Pastrana broadly outlined the state of U.S.-Colombia relations, focusing on the strong mutual support relative to other South American countries and the progress made since the implementation of Plan Colombia in 2000. Recent free and fair elections, he said, show “the resilience and determination of the Colombian people” in the face of an often violent past. “Plan Colombia has produced many benefits,” Pastrana said, pointing to more professional and effective security forces, economic growth, and successes in combating the drug trade. “U.S. support has been a critical component,” he said, in Colombia’s improvement.

Making a point that was supported by the other panelists, Pastrana said that an important shift in the U.S.-Colombian relationship is needed. Colombia is the third highest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, and in the past that aid has been largely focused on security. This is important, as Pastrana pointed out, because without security, social progress cannot occur. But, he said, “we need to get more investment in the social side.” Pastrana also expressed hope that progress could be made this year on a free trade agreement, so that economic growth will allow Colombia to pay for its own development. “We don’t want aid,” he said, “we want trade.”

That assessment was echoed by Farr, although he was pessimistic about a free trade agreement being finalized this year. Cunningham agreed, pointing out that “we’re not where we thought we would be with a Colombian free trade agreement.” The hope was expressed that, when an agreement does eventually gather momentum, there will be bipartisan support for mutually beneficial trade.

Farr was more optimistic that support exists for a shift in aid. Colombia originally became an issue for Congress because of the war on drugs, he said, but in recent years there has been growing awareness that a more comprehensive approach would be more effective. “Colombia is in this very delicate transition right now,” he said, and successfully navigating that transition means “less support for the military and more support for the domestic agenda.”

Crandall added that, although targeted at the drug trade, Plan Colombia has been successful in improving the state of Colombia generally. The U.S. took risks, he said, in supporting Colombian security forces, and those risks seem to have paid off. He sees evidence that “engaged U.S. involvement assistance can make a difference.” But he also cautioned that, however important U.S. aid is, if Colombians “want to save their own country, they have to do it themselves.”

That will not be an easy task, despite an improved security situation. Lee, referring to the leftist rebel groups — the FARC and the ELN — that have caused so much disruption, said “they are contained, but the war is not over.” Pastrana added that even today “all Colombians are suffering violence.” While supporting the paramilitary demobilization process that is under way, Pastrana emphasized the need for transparency in that process, and was hopeful that national reconciliation could occur through a formal process. With continued support from the United States that adapts to changing needs, Colombia can continue to progress. “The challenges,” said Lee, “are the execution of Plan Colombia and the paramilitary process.”

from left: Columbian President Andrés Pastrana, Moderator Dan Restrepo, Professor Russell Crandall, Nelson Cunningham, Isaac Lee (not pictured: Congressman Sam Farr)

Conference Materials

• Colombia Event Report

• Colombia Event Report Espanol



Note: All video provided in QuickTime (MPEG-4) format.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Lunch will be served at 12:00 noon.
Program: 12:30 p.m.- 2:00 p.m.         
Admission is free.

Center for American Progress
1333 H Street N.W., 10th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20005
Maps and Directions. 


Andrés Pastrana was appointed Ambassador of Colombia to the United States in October 2005 by President Alvaro Uribe. The appointment marks his return to a long career in public service. Andrés Pastrana was elected President of the Republic of Colombia on June 21, 1998. Highlights of his tenure as president included developing and launching a comprehensive program, entitled Plan Colombia, to combat narco-trafficking, increasing the presence of the State in regions controlled by terrorist and drug trafficking organizations, advancing peace talks with the country’s two largest guerrilla organizations and providing sound policy stewardship during a deep economic recession which began shortly before he assumed the presidency. He improved bilateral relations with the United States, securing bipartisan support for $4 billion in U.S. military and development assistance to address Colombia’s security problems. Prior to entering public service, Mr. Pastrana was a respected journalist as the founder of a political magazine, Guion, and news director and anchorman of a daily nationwide news program, TV-Hoy (TV-Today). In the 1980s, he won several prestigious awards for his reporting, such as the International “Rey de España” in Madrid (twice), and the Journalism Award “Simón Bolívar” in Bogotá. Mr. Pastrana is the son of a former Colombian President, Misael Pastrana Borrero, who governed Colombia from 1970 to 1974. He has a law degree from the University of El Rosario in Bogotá, and was a fellow at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. Mr. Pastrana is married to Nohra Puyana de Pastrana. They have three children.

Russell Crandall is an associate professor of political science at Davidson College where he has taught since 2000. He is also an adjunct professor at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. At Davidson, Crandall has held the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur professorship and was awarded the college’s outstanding teaching award. In 2004-2005, he served as the director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council and as special assistant to the deputy director for counter-terrorism at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. From 2002-2004, he served as an advisor for Latin American security to the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. He has also worked as a human rights official with Catholic Relief Services in Colombia and has been a consultant for the World Bank, Andean Development Bank, and United Nations. Crandall just published Gunboat Democracy: U.S. Interventions in the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Panama (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006). He is currently working on a second edition of Driven by Drugs: U.S. Policy Toward Colombia (Lynne Rienner, 2002), as well as a new book on U.S. policy in Latin America since the Cold War. Crandall received his BA from Bowdoin College and MA and PhD from Johns Hopkins University.

Nelson Cunningham is Managing Partner of Kissinger McLarty Associates, the international strategic advisory firm headed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former White House Chief of Staff and Special Envoy for the Americas Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty III. KMA counsels businesses on global affairs, trade policy, market entry and competitiveness issues. Mr. Cunningham served in the Clinton White House as Special Advisor to the President for Western Hemisphere affairs. He speaks frequently on foreign policy and trade and economic policy issues, and acted as a foreign policy advisor to John Kerry’s 2004 Presidential Campaign. He previously served as a lawyer at the White House and was General Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee under Senator Joseph Biden, and was a federal prosecutor in New York under then-U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani. Mr. Cunningham was raised in Latin America and speaks fluent Spanish. He serves on the boards of the Institute of the Americas, the Business Council for International Understanding and the U.S.-Spain Council, and is a member of the Yale University President’s Council on International Activities, the Council of Americas, and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a graduate of Yale College and Stanford Law School, where he was an editor of the Stanford Law Review.

Sam Farr, a fifth-generation Californian, represents the state’s Central Coast. His district encompasses the length of the Big Sur coastline, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Salinas Valley “salad bowl,” the redwoods, mountains and beaches of Santa Cruz County, and the majestic rural landscape of San Benito County. He began his career in public service in 1964 with a two-year commitment in the Peace Corps in Colombia, South America. Rep. Farr served 12 and a half years in the California State Assembly. Prior to serving in the California Assembly, Rep. Farr was a Monterey County Supervisor. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Farr serves on the Agriculture and Military Quality of Life and Veteran’s Affairs subcommittees. Farr’s service in the Peace Corps stimulated a life-long interest in U.S. foreign policy and U.S. policy toward Colombia. Farr was appointed in 2002 to the Commission on Post-Conflict Reconstruction, chaired by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Association of the U.S. Army. The commission issued a report in 2003 entitled, “Play to Win,” that outlined the need to enhance U.S. capacity to work in post-conflict environments. One of the conclusions in the report is that failed nation states “can pose a direct threat to the national security interests of the United States and to the stability of entire regions.” Rep. Farr graduated from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon with a bachelor of science degree in biology in 1963 and attended the Monterey Institute of International Studies and the University of Santa Clara. He is fluent in Spanish. The Congressman was born on the 4th of July, 1941. He is a long-time resident of Carmel, California and is married to Shary Baldwin Farr. The Farrs have one grown daughter, Jessica and one grandchild, Ella.

Isaac Lee is the editor-in-chief of Page One Media, a company he founded in 2005. Prior to founding Page One, Lee was editor-in-chief of Zoom Media Group, publishers of PODER and LOFT magazines, two titles he developed and founded in 2001. Lee has been a magazine editor for over a decade. At the age of 26, he was named editor-in-chief of Semana, Colombia’s most prestigious news magazine. PODER also hosts an annual forum in partnership with Georgetown and Columbia universities, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the City of Miami, and Kissinger McLarty Associates. Forum participants have included the President of Colombia Alvaro Uribe Velez, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist Bill Emmott, among others. The magazine also produces the PODER Business Awards with the Boston Consulting Group. In the coming months, Page One Media will launch PODER Chile and in 2007 plans to launch editions for Puerto Rico and Central America. LOFT won the Folio award for best lifestyle magazine and an award for best design from the Florida publishing association. PODER won the Freedom of Press Award from IAPA. Lee has a master¹s degree in journalism and postgraduate studies in publishing, negotiation and conflict resolution from Stanford and Harvard universities. He is a member of the Georgetown Leadership Seminar, Foro Iberoamerica, National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the IAPA. He serves on the board of Paraiso Pictures, a company dedicated to producing movies for the U.S. Hispanic market.

Dan Restrepo is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Center for American Progress and the Director of The Americas Project. In his role, Dan is responsible for the Center’s work related to the United States and its place in and relationship with the rest of the Americas.


The Americas Project at the Center for American Progress is focused on the United States’ relationship with and place in the Americas. The United States is in the midst of dramatic changes that will profoundly affect its future and are manifest both in the rapid growth of its Latino population and the ever-increasing interconnections with its neighbors throughout the Americas. Through rigorous research and open collaboration, The Americas Project seeks to more fully explore and understand those changes, the relationships among them, and their implications for progressive policy abroad and at home. The America Project endeavors to formulate innovative policy recommendations to address those changing realities and, through active engagement of all forms of media, effectively communicate its proposals to a wide range of audiences.



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