2010 was the year with the most contrast in Colombia’s foreign affairs in recent history. The Uribe administration, some said, was on the brink of war with two neighbor countries and had made Colombia one of the undesirables in the region, sustaining only “good” relations with center to right-wing governments such as Peru or Panama (the relation with Chile was quite insipient).
It had, thus, succeeded in granting Colombia once more the title of the Cain of Latin America (a title earned in the 20th century because of the preferential relations with the US rather than with other Latin American countries). In 2010, especially, confrontations with the neighbors were quite intense (and quite personal).
Juan Manuel Santos, during his presidential campaign, was seen as a war-thirsty man, even more so because of his attitudes during his term as Uribe’s defense minister (in which he wasn’t very diplomatic) and his promise of giving continuity to his predecessor’s administration. Chávez himself had warned that, should Santos become elected, his government wouldn’t have anything to do with Colombia. Of course, this may have helped Santos’ campaign immensely because many Colombians like to do the opposite of what Chávez suggests.
In the last days of his administration, Uribe once again alleged that the Venezuelan government had links with the FARC and accused Chávez of harboring criminals (or terrorists, rather, as the label was and isofficially used). To everyone’s surprise, no war erupted but the relations became better than ever after Santos started his term. Relations with Ecuador and Venezuela were normalized surprisingly fast (perhaps too fast), which is rather bizarre, but it helped to prove that the Colombo-Venezuelan disputes were largely personal issues between the presidents.
As a cartoonist of the Colombian newspaper El Espectador put it brilliantly, Santos’ successful first 100 days in office were characterized by congratulating Uribe and doing exactly the opposite as he would have done. This has been exactly Santos’ success: he has chosen his ministers wisely (or at least conveniently) to try to improve many internal and external sectors, and he has very wisely (and extremely conveniently) distanced himself from his predecessor, which has given him a clean slate and a fresh new image, an image that seems to irritate the most zealous Uribists (surely including Uribe himself).
2010 saw the shift from a pointless, aggressive and distancing foreign policy to a smart and friendly one, making Colombia a good neighbor once again. Who would have thought that Colombia would be receiving international aid from Ecuador in the wake of the damages caused by the rainy season? Who would have thought that Chávez would ever stop talking about Colombia?
But then again, who would have thought that the apprentice now had to confront the corruption of his master? Who would have thought that so many scandals of the past government would have been unveiled so quickly by the new one and, most impressive of all, prosecuted so swifty? And, most foul of all, who would have thought that one of the new government’s greatestobstacles would be Uribe himself?
The ex-president continues to stir both national and international trouble through his declarations and his constant posts in his twitter account, which have become a nuisance. The more he writes or says, the worse off is the new government (although he continues to enrich Colombian humorists’ writings). In order to have a permanent shift in Colombia’s foreign affairs for the better, the ex-president should express himself more carefully and let the new leaders do their work. His time has passed.