Colombia is apparently back in good graces with the US, a marked contrast from March and April when President Donald Trump publically trashed President Ivan Duque, saying the Colombian leader “has done nothing for us.”
But this past week, there were only compliments coming out of Washington about its relationship with Colombia.
This week resumed
- Trump had good words to say about Duque in an interview on the Telemundo network. Trump said: “We have a very good relationship in Colombia with the new president, who’s doing, I hear, a very good job.”
- The two countries signed an agreement allowing assets seized in international drug interdictions to help fund a Colombian government program known as FRISCO (Fund for Rehabilitation, Social Investment and Fight Against Organized Crime).
- And members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the nominee to be the next ambassador to Colombia had only good words to say about the Colombian government’s efforts on drug reduction and help for Venezuelan refugees.
Most striking was the 180-degree shift in Trump’s view of Duque, from “has done nothing for us” two months ago to “who’s doing, I hear, a very good job” this week.
Even earlier, Trump had threatened to decertify Colombia’s anti-narcotics work, which would have been financially devastating to Colombia.
To Colombians who don’t pay attention to Trump on a daily basis, it may be confusing that he would say such contradictory things in such a short period of time.
But to US audiences, that kind of back-and-forth talk—suddenly reversing himself and sending continuingly confusing signals—is quite typical for Trump.
This makes it impossible to predict with any confidence what will be his position next month.
The most reliable thing Colombia has going for it in Washington is the broadly bi-partisan support in Congress for continuing US aid. Congress has twice resisted Trump’s effort to slash foreign aid funding to Colombia and other countries.
But Duque remains under pressure from the US to aerially spray the pesticide glyphosate on coca fields, a practice drawing strong opposition from farmers and health experts.
Trump has made it consistently clear that he is focused on the amount of coca and cocaine coming out of Colombia, to the exclusion of other issues.
This has helped divert resources from the kind of rural development that is needed for a long-term solution to the cocaine issue.