most of the press coverage surrounding the Summit of the Americas has
focused on the pictures of Presidents Obama and Chávez shaking
hands, Álvaro Uribe, without too much media attention, got
himself an unplanned power lunch with Barack Obama that has marked
the beginning of a new era in the bilateral relations between the
United States and Colombia.
the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs carefully fueled rumors
about a potential bilateral meeting between Uribe and Obama in Port
of Spain. Then again, if Obama were to meet with someone, Uribe
definitely deserved to be at the very top of that list.
In this very column,
I stated all of the reasons for which it was necessary for Obama to
meet with Uribe and jumpstart a cooling alliance.
White House decided to avoid the politics of accepting bilateral
meetings with some of the 34 American leaders, and not with others.
Instead, they opted for regional meetings in which the U.S. President
could meet simultaneously with multiple of his counterparts.
seemed to have lost his chance for a one-on-one and rather ended up
scheduled to meet with Obama at the same time as the other South
American presidents. Once again, Chávez took the spotlight
while Uribe sat calmly.
Colombia and the United States had a thing or two to discuss (think
Plan Colombia, Free Trade Agreement, still being BFFs). Uribe, in
what only seems to be the most overt foreign policy expression of his
paisa drive, ended up sitting right next to Obama during a
lunch amongst all of the nations’ leaders.
end of a 45-minute one-on-one conversation, Uribe had gotten what he
wanted. He received his first invitation to Washington, effective
immediately, and as if that weren’t enough, he got Obama to
promise to visit Colombia.
also explained to the U.S. president the three pillars of his agenda,
all of which fell under the idea of confidence. To those of us who
follow the Colombian president’s mandate, the fact that there
were three clearly stated items defining his agenda came as a
surprise. Who would’ve known it was all so simple and clear?
small piece of paper, and in English, Uribe wrote the three items: 1)
Security with democratic values, 2) Investment with social
responsibility, and 3) Social cohesion. Explanations about each one,
and the way the administration’s policies reflect them would be
showed the paper to reporters, which Obama signed: “To
President Uribe – with admiration.” Was Obama not
supposed to keep that?
unplanned power lunch with Obama that Uribe was able to sneak in his
agenda at the Summit transforms the perceptions regarding the future
of the relationship between the two nations.
Obama, Uribe and Minister Bermúdez were also able to chat with
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Additionally, the U.S. government
announced that Obama has charged Trade Representative Ron Kirk to
work on the Free Trade Agreement.
winds seems to be leading the relationship between Uribe and the
Democratic U.S. president to a new era of cordiality resembling that
between Andrés Pastrana and Bill Clinton.
and the Democrats had had a less than cordial relationship,
particularly since the latter regained their control over the
legislative branch, and after they have been hesitant to support the
approval of a trade agreement for which the Uribe administration
lobbied so aggressively.
after a nice lunch, it seems it’s time for a new tune. A tune
that plays while Obama and Uribe sit down in Cartagena, and remember
that it is easier to be friends with those who like you than with
those who don’t.
international press focuses so much attention on Venezuela, Bolivia,
and Nicaragua, and on how the charming U.S. president is able to make
even the worst of enemies smile, for Colombia, the message coming out
of the Summit is equally important but quite different: the United
States may be trying to turn foes into friends, but it still
remembers who its best friends are.
about a good lunch!
Author Felipe Estefan is Colombian and studies media and international relations in New York