Posted by Esteban Refshauge on Sep 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Colombia to remain ‘critical priority’ for US: senior analyst

No matter who wins the U.S. presidential election in November, Colombia will remain a “critical priority” for Washington, said a senior policy analyst Thursday.

“The U.S. considers Colombia an asset, a friend and an ally in the region…we continue to be targeting the $300-400 million range in assistance,” Ray Walser, a foreign policy expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. told Colombia Reports.

According to Walser, the outcome of the presidential election in November will have little effect on Washington’s approach towards its South American ally. “Either candidate will see Colombia as an important player in the region.”

The analyst emphasized the importance of the bilateral free trade agreement that was enacted earlier this year, calling it the, “fulcrum in the whole U.S.-Colombia relationship.”

Walser was dismissive of concerns that the agreement provided insufficient protection of workers’ rights, claiming it was a done deal. “One way you try to bring stability and preserve democracy in Colombia is to give it [economic] access,” he contended.

Nevertheless, there is reason to believe the U.S. has a diminished interest in Colombia. “Colombia’s problems have become ones that the U.S. is less directly involved in,” Walser admitted. Indeed, he believed upcoming peace talks between FARC guerrillas and the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos are primarily an internal matter.

“I think the Obama administration feels fairly comfortable with the Santos regime…however I’m highly skeptical that [the talks] will achieve the kind of outcome that people would like to see, which is peace in Colombia.”

Walser joined fellow conservative analysts in questioning FARC’s motives. “FARC are a terrorist and criminal organization much more than they are a political one. They have no political credibility and they don’t seem to have any ideology that is in line with the 21st century…They basically victimize and kill marginalized Colombians…they kill indigenous leaders they don’t like.”