Colombia’s President-elect Juan Manuel Santos will pay greater attention to diplomacy, regional integration, the diversification of international relationships, cooperation and human rights, according to an analysis by weekly Colombian magazine Semana.
Diversification of relationships
The magazine said it expected to see a diversification in Colombia’s foreign relations.
Speaking in an electoral debate, Santos said that “to move towards democratic prosperity will require greater diversification of Colombia’s international relations, both on a multilateral level and in the search for new partners and strategic alliances in the international arena.”
Santos’ tours of Europe and Latin America are also evidence of a possible intention to diversify the country’s foreign relations. According to Semana, this would not mean a break with the U.S., but rather a realignment of the relationship.
International relations expert Socorro Ramirez argued that “[Colombia] needs to change the way it interacts, to construct a more diversified foreign policy, to understand that its interests are not the same as those of Washington, to look at the [Latin American] region with respect.”
On June 20 during his victory speech, Santos spoke of a Latin America “united in the generation of prosperity and well-being.”
“Diplomacy and respect will be the core of our international relations … I invite [other nations] to open up paths, for the good of our people,” Santos said, inviting neighbor nations to work in unity with his administration.
According to Semana, these words, along with the president-elect’s silence during the recent confrontation with Venezuela, demonstrate his willingness to use diplomacy instead of political rhetoric, which was characteristic of outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s presidency.
Furthermore, analysts say that the appointment of Maria Angela Holguin as minister of foreign affairs is an indication that Santos plans to professionalize the diplomatic service, awarding high level positions on merit instead of political allegiance.
“As a minister, she probably won’t be able to do everything she wants to. But we know that she recognizes the importance of the diplomatic corps. We hope she will influence ministerial appointments so that they are chosen on merit and not for political criteria,” said Samira Algecira Diaz-Granados, union president of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to Santos there are two choices when it comes to conflict, either to “look with bitterness back to the past or open roads of cooperation in the future.”
When it comes to Venezuela, the former vice minister of Foreign Affairs David Cardona said the restoration of diplomatic relations was a priority because of the president-elect’s plans for economic development.
“His development model is closer to that of the Asian Tigers [highly developed newly industrialized Asian countries]. To make that a reality he needs a market like Venezuela, which is a natural market,” Cardona explained.
Similarly, international relations expert Laura Gil described Santos’ approach to the crisis as pragmatic because he believes that nothing can be achieved through confrontation, preferring to explore other possibilities.
According to foreign affairs expert Michael Shifter, “Santos is more sensitive to international opinion than Uribe and it is hoped that he will be better at handling Washington’s concerns, a city he knows very well.”
The U. S., Canada and the European Union have previously put pressure on Colombia to improve its human rights record in order to move forward with a free trade agreement.
Consequently, Semana expects Santos to focus more on human rights.
The president-elect has already said that human rights would be a “priority in Colombia’s foreign policy,” explaining that “in a world where the idea of state responsibility is increasingly important, human rights is one of the pillars on which foreign policy is built.”
Santos assumes office on August 7.