For the past months, everything seems to be going swell for the Colombian government regarding international relations. In particular, Latin American countries seem to be willing, as they were decades ago, to have stronger and closer relations with Colombia. Thus, the country is now enjoying what is seemingly a perfect neighborhood. But, what caused the region to change? The answer is nothing: Colombia is the one who changed.
It only took, it seemed, a change in administration and the tensions between Colombia and the region were gone for the most part. Of course, one cannot forget the great work done by Jaime Bermúdez, Uribe’s last Foreign Relations Minister, in stabilizing relations with neighbors, but Colombia almost completely isolated itself in the Uribe administration. Even the country’s closest allies seemed to keep their distance.
The regional leadership that Colombia had ever since the end of World War II, which started to wane with the beginning of drug trafficking problems, seemed all gone in 2010, but it is starting to come back. All it took was a different stance, a positive outlook and a great deal of pragmatism to turn things around.
It is particularly surprising how the situation turned around so quickly, even more so because many governmental strategies of the past administration continue: security is still of the utmost importance, the relations with the US are still a priority, as are free trade initiatives and combating drug trafficking. The new government has successfully changed Colombia’s reputation by presenting a respectful and pacific image.
The obvious outcome is the improvement of the troublesome relations with Venezuela and Ecuador. Colombia now also has better relations with its closest allies: Colombia is integrating its stock exchange with those of Peru and Chile and a great integration agreement is being reached with the latter two and Mexico. There have also been new efforts to strengthen ties with Brazil, a seemingly forgotten neighbor, as eight cooperation agreements were signed in 2010.
There is plenty of room for improvement in Colombia’s foreign policy, but as long as the Santos administration keeps its pragmatic and non-conflictive stance, a good neighborhood is most likely assured.