Outgoing U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield is leaving Colombia on a better note than he left his previous post as ambassador to Venezuela.
One of Brownfield’s last acts as the U.S. representative in Venezuela was to send President Chavez a red T-shirt with the phrase, “Uh Ah, Brownfield is going,” in a clear jibe at the Chavez re-election campaign slogan, “Uh Ah, Chavez is not going.”
According to a report by Colombian weekly magazine Semana, Brownfield will leave Colombia on much better terms, with the belief that Colombia has improved protection of human rights and restored state institutions, despite the controversy of U.S. military bases on Colombian soil, and the fact that Brownfield didn’t see the passage of the stalled free trade agreement.
Incoming U.S.ambassador Michael McKinley will arrive in Colombia under a different atmosphere than his predecessor, as many analysts believe that although Colombia is still one of the best friends of the U.S. in the region, the Andean nation is no longer among the priorities of U.S. foreign policy.
“Although Brownfield sought a friendly relationship and tried to communicate the decisions of its government well, today Colombia has a low profile with the government of Barack Obama,” said Horacio Godoy, director of international relations at Bogota‘s University del Norte.
Godoy believes that although Brownfield was media-savvy and able to dodge tricky questions with humor, he struggled because he was restricted by the limited power that the U.S. gives its diplomatic corps.
“Although he was sociable, conversational and struck a chord with the media, and also knew the problems of the region, we did not see him playing a leading role,” Godoy said.
One of the things that Brownfield will be remembered for was the cooperation he oversaw between the U.S. and the Colombian justice system regarding the extradition of Colombian paramilitaries to the U.S., despite occasional friction with the Supreme Court.
Paramilitaries extradited to the U.S. will now be concentrated in two Miami prisons, from which they will testify in Colombia’s Justice and Peace process.
“What happened with the paramilitaries is a glimmer of hope because it represents that the United States respect the agreements with Colombia,” said Colombian senator, Juan Manuel Galan.
Some Colombian political analysts believe that the new Santos administration will focus less on the “special relationship” developed with the U.S. during the Uribe era, and concentrate more on diversifying foreign policy, by looking to other parts of the world and strengthening regional ties.
While others, such as Professor Godoy, believe that the new Colombian government will make an improvement on the diplomatic staff in the U.S. during the Uribe presidency.
“Uribe failed with Carolina Barco and Andres Pastrana; they did not know how to do politics in Washington. Santos has more knowledge of the international public, and Gabriel Silva is an excellent ambassador,” Godoy said.