Posted by Santiago Sosa on Aug 8, 2011 Leave a comment

A year with Santos

Santos speech

Sunday marked Santos’ first anniversary as Colombia’s president. He now has approval ratings of more than 71% and a coalition in Congress of about 80% of the lawmakers. So far it has been a good run, but many troubles lie ahead.

In foreign affairs, there is a clear difference with his predecessor: The conflicts with the neighbors have been minimized and relations are amicable, to say the least. However, many hardliners see his as a weakness in the Santos government, as they do not like Colombia’s stance regarding Ecuador and Venezuela. Indeed, some seem to want a distant relation with Venezuela as they deem Chavez untrustworthy. Be that as it may, cooperation with the neighboring country has borne some fruit in reestablishing Colombia’s regional leadership and, to some extent, aided in the fight against FARC.

However, there is still conflict regarding FARC and ELN presence in Venezuela, as there was disagreement between the defense minister and Colombia’s Armed Forces commander regarding this matter. This unfortunately shows that the views inside the government are not united, and this may lead to trouble, which is unacceptable in handling Colombia’s security, even more so because Santos’ defense minister has been highly criticized and many would like to see him leave.

In economic and commercial matters, Colombia is looking up. Despite the emergencies caused by the flooding, there is hope in the economic growth. However, there is great environmental worry about the many mining projects that are being discussed and started throughout the country, showing that better controls are needed in granting exploitation projects. Also, these projects may bring a big amount of money to Colombia, but this doesn’t cause wealth distribution nor does it develop the country as a whole. In other words, there is risk of focused growth and leaving behind many Colombians.

In addition, although international commerce is picking up and is being diversified, some projects seem clumsy. Indeed, establishing relations with Turkey doesn’t seem to have a good economic support, nor does it seem to have enough resources to actually establish a good mission in that country. Moreover, this is coherent with the lack of an official foreign policy document that focuses diplomatic and commercial efforts abroad. In other words, Colombia’s success in international commerce appears to be a product of momentum rather than planning.

But where Santos’ has shown his best has been in the strengthening of judicial processes, fighting corruption and victim reparations. So many processes have been held and so many corruption scandals have been discovered that many get the feeling that Colombia will never recover from them. This shouldn’t be a time of despair but of hope, as such an anticorruption crusade has never been done before and it has shown that impunity can be beaten.

It as been a very good year for Colombia, but it can and must be better next time. The Santos administration, although having improved processes, still lack a coherent overall policy, particularly in foreign relations.