Colombia’s newly appointed ambassador to the United States met with President Barack Obama on Monday.
Former Defense Minister, Juan Carlos Pinzon, was accompanied by his family on his visit with the primary focus to “deepen and strengthen this partnership to the benefit of our peoples, the hemisphere and the world.”
Pinzon presented his credentials to Obama at the formal ceremony performed to accredit a diplomat to the host country, thus marking the official start to his term as the country’s top diplomat to the US.
“In times of crisis and international uncertainty, the strategic relationship between Colombia and the United States is a beacon of hope and represents a successful example of cooperation for the stability, prosperity and peace,” reported Pinzon.
The US Congress in currently in recess until September, what little political activity currently exists has been put into campaigning for the upcoming 2016 presidential and legislative elections.
However, the two discussed plans for the interim regarding support of Colombia’s peace negotiations and longer-term goals of partnership with initiatives to grow both economies.
Colombian peace negotiations
Pinzon additionally looked for support from President Obama with respect to ongoing peace negotiations with the rebel group, the FARC. He echoed demands of Colombia’s President Santos requesting that the process not be used as a point of debate between candidates in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
Regarding US relations amid ongoing peace talks in Havana President Santos this week affirmed that these could not be used to divide politics, or “sow discord”, “under any circumstances”, referring to visits to Republican allies made by his predecessor, the right-wing leader Alvaro Uribe.
The ambassador and American President furthermore discussed issues surrounded continued contributions with Plan Colombia, a 1999 military agreement sponsored by the US seeking to curb drug trafficking that additionally wore on leftist guerrillas who have been financially dependent on this activity.
Although the US administration accepted the Colombian decision to suspend the aerial fumigation of coca cultivation with the controversial chemical glyphosate, they were known for being largely opposed to this decision which has been re-addressed in recent weeks. As such there exist many topics of potential debate between the parties.
Talks of growing economies
The two officials additionally discussed continued improvements to economic relations in order to expand investments.
At this time an economic crisis can been seen from a Colombian perspective in light of the ever diminishing Colombian peso, against the giant of the US dollar. On Tuesday the dollar broke COP2900, due to falling oil prices, one year ago the dollar sat at COP1,900. Since last September ever decreasing oil prices have dragged on the peso, highlighting Colombia’s reliance on the export of this product.
As a result of the devaluing peso, inflation has also reached a new high, not seen since the 2008 banking crisis that hit the global economy. Colombian exports have additionally dropped as the country fails to compete with large free trade agreements from the US and Pacific Alliance.
As such, it is increasingly essential to maintain strong “cooperative initiatives” with the United States, particularly against a backdrop of ongoing peace negotiations.
The diplomat claimed, “That will serve to increase investment in different sectors, increase employment levels throughout the country, and improve coverage and quality of education for all young people, resulting in prosperity for the country.”
In his new role as Colombian ambassador to the United States Pinzon commented on the importance of relations with the US “not only in politics, economy, trade and security but by the close ties between the two nations.”
President Santos appointed Pinzon as ambassador to the United States on May 19. He previously served as private secretary to now President Santos during his time as Finance Minister and most recently spent four years as Colombia’s Defense Minister, succeeded by Luis Carlos Villegas.