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Issue Brief

June 18, 2021

Colombia’s National Strike: Overview of the Situation and Strategies Moving Forward

By Camila Hernandez and Jason Marczak

Amid the third peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Colombia faces the longest and most destructive mass protests in recent history. The protests, which began on April 28, 2021, were triggered by a tax-reform bill proposed by the government to stabilize public debt and fiscal deficit. Despite the bill’s removal on May 2, 2021, protests continued and expanded, becoming a broad call for improvements in other areas. To date, dozens of people have died, and thousands have been injured.

How Did Colombia Get Here?

Colombia, like other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, its economy contracted by nearly seven percentage points, affecting the livelihoods of millions of people. Poverty rose from 35.7 percent in 2019 to 42.5 percent in 2020, which reversed the country’s progress in the fight against poverty by almost ten years.1“Pobreza Monetaria y Pobreza Monetaria Extrema 2019,” Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE), October 13, 2020, https://www.dane.gov.co/index.php/estadisticas-por-tema/pobreza-y-condiciones-de-vida/pobreza-monetaria/pobreza-monetaria-2019; “Pobreza Monetaria y Pobreza Monetaria Extrema 2020,” Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE),April 2021, https://www.dane.gov.co/index.php/estadisticas-por-tema/pobreza-y-condiciones-de-vida/pobreza-monetaria.

To address this situation, the Colombian government undertook a series of emergency actions in 2020. It increased public spending to strengthen the healthcare system, to assist vulnerable populations, and to help businesses remain afloat. As a result, the fiscal deficit rose from 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 to 7.8 percent in 2020; public debt increased from 44 percent of GDP in 2018 to 55 percent in 2020.2Carolina Salazar Sierra, “‘Esta Reforma Tributaria, tal Como la Presentó el Gobierno, no Va a Pasar en el Congreso,’” República, April 2021, https://www.larepublica.co/economia/esta-reforma-tributaria-tal-como-fue-presentada-no-va-a-pasar-en-el-congreso-3158477. In 2021, the fiscal deficit is expected to reach 8.6 percent of GDP, and public debt 65 percent.3Ibid.

Protesters have voiced discontent over growing inequality, deficient public services, the slow implementation of the 2016 peace agreement, among other issues.

If unattended, Colombia’s fiscal situation will negatively affect societal well-being and quality of life in the medium-to-long term. Fiscal instability compromises a country’s ability to attract foreign capital, create new jobs, provide public services, and finance social programs. In fact, Standard and Poor’s (S&P) Global Ratings reduced Colombia’s credit rating from BBB- to BB+ on March 19, moving the country’s debt to junk bond status and hurting future economic growth.

President Iván Duque’s proposed tax reform aimed to improve Colombia’s fiscal situation by raising nearly $6.4 billion.4Carolina Salazar Sierra, “Estos son Todos los Puntos que Incluye la Tercera Reforma Tributaria de Iván Duque,” República, April 2021, https://www.larepublica.co/economia/estos-son-todos-los-puntos-que-incluye-la-tercera-reforma-tributaria-de-ivan-duque-3154132. The reform would have reduced the threshold for starting to pay income tax, placed a value-added tax (VAT) on new products and services, and removed many VAT exemptions.5Most VAT exempt products in Colombia are basic necessity goods included in the country’s Canasta Básica – a group of goods considered necessary to meet a household’s basic needs.

However, most Colombians—fully 80 percent—opposed the bill.6Aliza Chelminsky, et al., “Ficha Técnica: Evolución de la Situación en Colombia,” Centro de Estudios Internacionales Gilberto Bosques, May 2021, https://centrogilbertobosques.senado.gob.mx/analisisinvestigacion/contexto/protestas-colombia/viewdocument. Many political parties and leaders, including those close to President Duque, were also against it. Notwithstanding the advisability—and even urgency—of addressing Colombia’s fiscal situation, a tax hike on top of COVID-19 lockdowns, led many to conclude that the approach was not well timed. As a result, thousands of Colombians took to the streets on April 28 to protest the proposed reform.

Despite the government modifying the bill on April 30 and removing it on May 2, protests continued and expanded to include preexisting grievances, many exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Protesters have voiced discontent over growing inequality, deficient public services, the slow implementation of the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), unkept government promises to vulnerable communities, political and social violence, corruption, and increases in organized crime. Unless these and other underlying issues are addressed, social and political tensions are likely to continue.

Demonstrators take part in a protest demanding government action to tackle poverty, police violence and inequalities in healthcare and education systems, in Bogotá, Colombia, May 9, 2021. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

How Has the National Strike Evolved?

Led by the National Strike Committee, labor unionists, Afro-Colombians, indigenous communities, LGBTQI people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex), students, and activist groups, thousands of Colombians mobilized on April 28 against the now-cancelled tax overhaul. Fueled by other grievances, protests have continued for more than a month.

Although demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some have resulted in violent clashes between protesters and police forces. On June 9, Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed that thirty-four deaths occurred in the context of the protests, attributing at least twenty to the police.7“Colombia: Egregious Police Abuses Against Protesters,” Human Rights Watch, June 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/06/09/colombia-egregious-police-abuses-against-protesters# HRW also received, and is investigating, credible reports of thirty-four other deaths.8Ibid. On June 13, Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office reported fifty-one civilian deaths, of which twenty-one were directly connected to the protests, nineteen were not, and eleven still need to be verified. The Colombian government claims that more than 1,100 civilians have been injured as a result of the protests.9Colombian Ministry of Defense (@mindefensa), “Balance general del paro nacional. Cifras del 28 de abril al 13 de junio. En esta imagen se puede ver el número de actividades relacionadas con las marchas, así como las lamentables afectaciones a la población civil y miembros de la @PoliciaColombia,” Twitter,June 14, 2021, 8:22 a.m., https://twitter.com/mindefensa/status/1404413894731386885/photo/1 Also, according to Colombia’s National Police, two police officers have been killed and more than 1,360 have been injured.10Ibid

The strike has also become an increasingly polarizing issue in Colombia. At first, 72% supported the protests, but weeks later support collapsed to 47%, while 79% say they disapprove of the blockades.

To investigate alleged abuses of force and police misconduct, Colombia’s National Police opened two hundred and four disciplinary investigations.11Colombian Ministry of Defense (@mindefensa), “Afectaciones a bienes de la @PoliciaColombia e investigaciones disciplinarias en lo corrido del paro nacional.” Twitter,June 14, 2021, 8:22 a.m., https://twitter.com/mindefensa/status/1404413911575711745/photo/1. Arguing that investigations related to homicides, personal injuries, and sexual violence should be conducted by the Attorney General’s Office, that agency requested on May 31 that Colombia’s Ministry of Defense share all information on these investigations.12Francisco Roberto Barbosa Delgado, “Ref. Remisión de diligencias de competencia de la jurisdicción penal ordinaria,” Francisco Roberto Barbosa Delgado to Dr. Diego Andrés Molano Aponte, Bogotá, Colombia, May 31, 2021, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fCQnBcO2PeJcQi9sbeXJ0BkKhSKOtyV9/view. In addition, on June 6, President Duque announced upcoming reforms to the Ministry of Defense and National Police.13Ivan Duque (@ivanDuque), Twitter, June 6, 2021, 10:50 a.m., https://twitter.com/IvanDuque/status/1401552002816122883

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) visited Colombia from June 8 to 10 to assess the human rights situation.14Daniela Blandón Ramírez, “CIDH Visitará Colombia entre el 8 y 10 de Junio para Analizar Situación de Derechos Humanos,” France24, June 2021, https://www.france24.com/es/américa-latina/20210601-cidh-colombia-visita-paro-nacional-violencia-derechos-humanos. The delegation met with diverse sectors in Bogotá and Cali, including government officials, civil society and union leaders, and victims of human rights violations and their families to gather testimonials and complaints.   

Protests have also led to vandalism, arson, and property destruction, particularly in Cali, Bogotá, and Medellín. The police have reported more than 4,300 of such instances, most of them targeting public transportation, banks, and commercial establishments, as well as government and police buildings.15Colombian Ministry of Defense (@mindefensa), “Afectaciones…” Also, nearly three thousand road blockades have taken place across the country, disrupting the flow of people, interrupting COVID-19 vaccinations, and causing shortages in goods and services. The effects of blockades have been especially dire in the Valle del Cauca department and its capital city, Cali. Only a few days into the protests, the department became the epicenter of violent clashes and criminal activities. Illegal armed groups and other criminal actors have taken advantage of ongoing unrest across the country.

Public opinion regarding the national strike has evolved as protests continue. The strike has also become an increasingly polarizing issue in Colombia. After two weeks of protests, 72 percent of Colombians said they supported the strike, with 68 percent against blockades as a form of protest.16“El 72% de los Colombianos Apoya el Paro, pero Rechaza Contundentemente los Bloqueos: Encuesta SEMANA,” Semana, May 2021, https://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/el-72-de-los-colombianos-apoya-el-paro-pero-rechaza-contundentemente-los-bloqueos-encuesta-semana/202136/. A May 15 survey also found a strong correlation between political-party identification and opinions on blockades.17Ibid. A month into the protests, support for the national strike fell to 47 percent and disapproval of blockades reached 79 percent.18“Así Ven los Colombianos el Paro un Mes Después: Encuesta,” Tiempo, May 2021, https://www.eltiempo.com/politica/gobierno/encuesta-asi-ven-los-colombianos-el-paro-un-mes-despues-592671. Still, the almost 50-50 split in attitudes toward the strike underscores the polarizing and divisive nature of the situation.

After ten days of protests, President Duque announced his “Agenda on the Fundamentals,” a space for dialogue with different sectors. However, as with the failed National Dialogue of 2019, the agenda was set by the government; members of other participating sectors believed they should have been consulted in the drafting of the agenda. Between May 6–9, the government met with business associations, universities and colleges, student and youth groups, religious leaders, unions in the healthcare sector, local quasi-governmental Community Action Boards (Juntas de Accion Comunal), and Colombia’s higher courts, including the Special Jurisdiction of Peace (Justicia Especial para la Paz).19The transitional justice body set up by the 2016 peace agreement. President Duque also met with mayors and governors, who later agreed to hold regional dialogues. He also had a meeting with political opposition leaders.

Thirteen days into the protests, on May 10, the Colombian government met with the National Strike Committee, something that had not happened since 2019 talks were derailed by COVID-19. Formal negotiations were announced on May 14, and conversations began on May 20. Accusing the government of delaying negotiations, the National Strike Committee halted talks on June 6. 

Ongoing dialogues with different sectors have produced important, yet insufficient, outcomes, most of which benefit young Colombians. These include free public-college tuition for low-income students in the second quarter of 2021; the Young Homeowners Program that will reduce interest rates and increase financing options for young home buyers; and new credit lines with preferential rates for youth in agriculture. The government is also working with groups of young Colombians to develop a Great Pact for Youth (Gran Pacto por la Juventud), which will prioritize connectivity and opportunities for youth employment, education, and representation.

A man walks behind a barricade built with parts of a police station, in Cali, Colombia May 13, 2021. Picture taken May 13, 2021. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

What are the Social and Economic Implications of the National Strike?

Blockades and vandalism across the country are having detrimental social and economic effects. The first thirty-one days of protests have cost the Colombian economy between $1.3 and 1.6 billion, comprising between 2.3 and 2.9 percent of the country’s GDP in the first quarter of 2021.20“Paro ha costado entre $ 4,8 y $ 6,1 billones, según Fedesarrollo,” El Tiempo, June 2021, https://www.eltiempo.com/economia/sectores/cuanto-ha-costado-el-paro-nacional-a-la-economia-593367. After a year of economic contraction, Colombia had started to slowly recover productive activity and domestic consumption in early 2021. However, experts now project slower economic growth in the second quarter.21Ibid. 

Ongoing blockades are also hurting societal well-being by compromising employment recovery and putting at risk existing jobs. A survey of nearly thirteen thousand business owners revealed that more than 90 percent will have to lay off between one and five employees due to the effects of the National Strike. In Bogotá, 21 percent of businesses will reduce staff if the situation continues. 

Medium- to long-term employment will depend on how many businesses need to reduce or permanently close operations. As of May 24, more than 53 percent of Colombian companies were operating at 50 percent or less of their productive capacity, and more than 22 percent had to suspend their operations.22“Encuesta de las Cámaras de Comercio sobre el Efecto en las Empresas de la Conyutura Social y de Orden Público,” Confecámaras Red de Cámaras de Comercio,May 2021, https://www.ccc.org.co/file/2021/05/Encuesta-Cámaras-de-Comercio-Mayo-2021.pdf. If blockades continue, more than 12 percent of businesses would have to permanently shut down in June.23Ibid. This would cause a massive spike in unemployment, which was already relatively high prior to the national strike, at 15 percent.24“Mercado Laboral—Información Abril 2021,” Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE),April 2021, https://www.dane.gov.co/index.php/estadisticas-por-tema/mercado-laboral/empleo-y-desempleo. An increase in unemployment would reverse decades of progress in poverty reduction, curtailing domestic demand and compromising the prospects for a speedy COVID-19 recovery. 

Blockades are also disrupting the free flow of people and essential goods and services, particularly in the departments of Valle del Cauca and Cauca. In those departments, nearly 70 percent of companies have faced food-supply interruptions, and more than 47 percent of workers have struggled to get to work.25“Estas son las Reveladoras Cifras de la Crisis Empresarial en Valle y Cauca, Según Encuesta de Cámaras de Comercio,” Semana, May 2021, https://www.semana.com/economia/empresas/articulo/estas-son-las-reveladores-cifras-de-la-crisis-empresarial-en-valle-y-cauca-segun-encuesta-de-camaras-de-comercio/202104/. More than half of the productive capacity in these areas is paralyzed, and nearly 53 percent of companies expect to reduce or permanently close their operations in June.26Ibid. In fact, almost 42 percent of companies in the Valle del Cauca and Cauca departments had to lay off workers in May.27Ibid. In addition, the port of Buenaventura in Valle del Cauca, Colombia’s most important port in the Pacific, remained closed for forty-eight days causing billions in economic loses.  A return to normal will take at least four months.

Shortages have led to increased prices in basic foodstuffs such as potatoes, eggs, dairy products, and animal proteins, putting a strain on low-income and unemployed Colombians, who are already experiencing food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.28“Alimentos que Aumentaron por los Bloqueos en Colombia,” Infobae, May 2021,https://www.infobae.com/america/colombia/2021/05/19/alimentos-que-aumentaron-de-precio-por-los-bloqueos-en-colombia/. Moreover, protests and road blockades have interrupted COVID-19 response by preventing the transport of key medical supplies, including oxygen.29Dave Lawler, “Colombia’s Protests Rumble on into their Second Month,” Axios, May 2021, https://www.axios.com/colombia-protests-continue-police-brutality-379d1651-e410-4352-968c-6f3dab7e7a7c.html. Mass demonstrations are also expected to cause a surge of transmission of COVID-19. 

Vandalism and criminal activities have severely impacted Colombia’s public and private infrastructure and interrupted crucial infrastructure projects. In Bogotá, damages to the TransMilenio rapid-transit system, which transports 2.5 million passengers per day, will take up to six months to repair.30“TransMilenio: Estas son las Estaciones que no Tendrán Servicio hoy Jueves 27 de Mayo,” Semana, May 2021, https://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/transmilenio-estas-son-las-estaciones-que-no-tendran-servicio-hoy-jueves-27-de-mayo/202116/. Additionally, seventy-five active construction projects were forced to halt operations. 

The current climate of uncertainty is also impacting Colombia’s ability to attract and retain foreign capital. S&P Global Ratings already lowered Colombia’s long-term foreign currency rating to BB+, and Wall Street banks predict that credit rating agency Fitch will follow suit.31“Wall Street Giants Bet on Colombia Sinking Deeper into Junk,” Reuters, May 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/jpmorgan-morgan-stanley-bet-colombia-sinking-further-into-junk-after-sp-move-2021-05-20/. Many businesses have already postponed their investments in Colombia to 2022. If investor confidence continues to decrease, Colombia may experience capital flight, leading to increased levels of unemployment and poverty.

Finally, the current political and social polarization, fueled by the protests, might lead to a precipitous decline in trust in democratic institutions. This, along with the increased antagonism evidenced between sectors of the civilian population and government, will have lasting effects with important implications for Colombia’s upcoming presidential elections in 2022.

Finally, the current political and social polarization, fueled by the protests, might lead to a precipitous decline in trust in democratic institutions. This, along with the increased antagonism evidenced between sectors of the civilian population and government, will have lasting effects with important implications for Colombia’s upcoming presidential elections in 2022.

Why is This Relevant to the United States?

The United States faces unprecedented global and regional challenges today. The longstanding and strategic relationships with partners like Colombia are fundamental to addressing these challenges.  

Hemispheric stability and prosperity hinge upon a close and efficient alliance between the United States and Colombia. As President Joe Biden said, Colombia is the “keystone” of US foreign policy toward LAC.32Joe Biden, “’Reconstrucción de Alianza con Colombia Será Una de Mis Prioridades,’” Tiempo, October 2020, https://www.eltiempo.com/mundo/eeuu-y-canada/elecciones-en-estados-unidos-que-dice-joe-biden-sobre-colombia-541912. US foreign policy toward Colombia is also a point of bipartisan consensus. Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) reinforced this on May 19 at an Atlantic Council event, saying, “Colombia has been an amazing foreign policy success story and an amazing ally.”33Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), What is the Road Ahead for Colombia?Atlantic Council, May 2021, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/what-is-the-road-ahead-for-colombia/?mkt_tok=NjU5LVdaWC0wNzUAAAF9CznfjWzq6ghKBMewyitwdkVj8z4IwSoVZRyqCq6Z01G5s9BGDuxs9fmosQ3qnX5VxMnhHeNAXSq1hGWZqUcC9ve27pWEHr0xaAWzQxY. US Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), also present, said, “Colombia is our best Latin American partner in the Western Hemisphere…they have been a stabilizer in the region…a true model for South America about what liberal democracies can do and can continue to do.”34Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), What is the Road Ahead for Colombia?Atlantic Council, May 2021, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/what-is-the-road-ahead-for-colombia/?mkt_tok=NjU5LVdaWC0wNzUAAAF9CznfjWzq6ghKBMewyitwdkVj8z4IwSoVZRyqCq6Z01G5s9BGDuxs9fmosQ3qnX5VxMnhHeNAXSq1hGWZqUcC9ve27pWEHr0xaAWzQxY. 

In the past two decades, the United States and Colombia have built a mutually beneficial alliance that has safeguarded US interests in LAC, and consolidated Colombia’s role as a key regional player. Colombia has also become an indispensable US partner on many fronts. It hosts the largest Venezuelan diaspora, recently granting temporary legal protected status to nearly two million people. Colombia also cooperates with the United States on security and defense in Central and South America, and in the global fight against drug trafficking, money laundering, and organized crime. 

How Can the United States Support Colombia?

In May, the Atlantic Council convened its US-Colombia Task Force—a bipartisan and binational group of experts from Colombia and the United States—to discuss concrete ways in which the United States can support Colombia as it continues to address the situation. Here are three things the United States could do.

  1. US Vaccines to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), particularly Colombia. Given the urgent need for vaccine support across the Western Hemisphere, the United States should continue to prioritize LAC countries as it allocates the remaining fifty-five million US vaccine doses available for global distribution by the end of June. Although critical, the six million doses allocated to LAC countries on June 3 are only a first step. China, by comparison, has provided 165 million.

    Sharing more doses of US vaccines with Colombia will accelerate COVID-19 recovery and help to curtail the conditions that have furthered protesters’ grievances. It will also strengthen US-Colombia relations, support regional peace, and allow Colombia to continue welcoming migrants and refugees safely from Venezuela. As of May 20, Colombia has bilateral and multilateral agreements for nearly seventy-two million vaccine doses, but has only received fewer than twelve million. More US vaccines to Colombia will help to increase the percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated, which currently stands at nearly 8 percent. Those vaccines should then be allocated to Colombia’s vulnerable and marginalized communities, particularly Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples.
  2. Increased Financial Assistance for the Venezuela Crisis. The Venezuela regional crisis remains the most underfunded crisis in modern history. By 2020, the international community had provided only $1.4 billion in funding to assist Venezuelan migrants and refuges across the region—an astonishingly small number when compared to the $20.8 billion provided for the Syrian refugee crisis. Given their similarity in magnitude and evolution (both have displaced 5.5 million people in their first five years), the gap in funding is even more striking. In per capita terms, host countries like Colombia have received $256 in international assistance for each Venezuelan migrant or refugee—less than one tenth of the $3,150 received by host countries for each Syrian refugee.35Dany Bahar and Meagan Dooley, “Venezuelan Refugees and their Receiving Communities Need Funding, not Sympathy,” Brookings, February 2021, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2021/02/26/venezuelan-refugees-and-their-receiving-communities-need-funding-not-sympathy/. 

    Colombia hosts the largest Venezuelan diaspora, with nearly two million people making up 32 percent of the total number of migrants and refugees from Venezuela. Despite the social and economic challenges brought on by COVID-19, the country has continued to welcome and provide critical assistance to Venezuelans in its territory. 

    The United States should increase its financial, diplomatic, and technical support to Colombia and other host countries as they respond to the crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This will not only support hemispheric peace and stability, but also help prevent the continued upward spike in Venezuelans arriving at the US southwest border due to deteriorating conditions in Venezuela and in host countries.
  3. Information Assessment. Decision-makers in the United States should continue to inform themselves about the situation in Colombia. Through social and traditional media, people in the United States have received an important, yet incomplete, version of recent events. It is essential that the international community, including the US government, continue to engage with key stakeholders in Colombia (policymakers, business leaders, civil society), as well as independent groups of experts, to learn more about the situation on the ground. This will help to inform future official and unofficial policy actions, as well as decisions regarding US foreign policy toward Colombia.

Acknowledgments

Many of the ideas in this spotlight are the product of a May 10 strategy session of the Atlantic Council’s US-Colombia Task Force. The group, comprising policymakers, business leaders, and civil-society representatives in Colombia and the United States, has worked to strengthen US-Colombia economic and diplomatic ties since 2017. Members who have decided to have their name associated with the spotlight are listed below. The document is also a product of independent research and consultations carried out by the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. Thank you to Eva Lardizabal and Felipe Félix Méndez for their research and writing support.

About the Authors

Jason Marczak is the director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, joining the Center in 2013 for its launch. He has more than twenty years of expertise in regional economics, politics, and development, working with policymakers and private-sector leaders across the region to shape public policy. Marczak is also adjunct professor at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs since 2016. Among his previous positions, he served as director of policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas in New York City and co-founder of Americas Quarterly magazine. Marczak is a frequent English- and Spanish-language contributor to major media outlets, and a sought-after speaker, and has testified before the US Congress on key regional developments. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and a master’s degree in international affairs and economics from the Johns Hopkins University Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

Camila Hernandez is assistant director at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, where she leads the center’s work on Colombia and its US-Colombia Task Force. She has co-authored and edited reports on the US-Colombia strategic partnership and Colombia’s energy future. Camila provides regular commentary on political and economic issues affecting US-Colombia relations to major media outlets in Colombia and the United States. Prior to joining the Atlantic Council, she worked at the World Resources Institute and Human Rights Watch. She holds a bachelor’s degree in government and economics from Georgetown University. Originally from Colombia, Camila is a native Spanish and English speaker, and is fluent in French.

About the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center: The Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center (AALAC) broadens understanding of regional transformations through high-impact work that shapes the conversation among policymakers, the business community, civil society, and media. Founded in 2013, the center focuses on Latin America’s strategic role in a global context, with a priority on pressing political, economic, and social issues that will define the trajectory of the region, now and in the years ahead. Select lines of programming include: China in Latin America; Venezuela’s crisis; Mexico’s US and global ties; Colombia’s future; a changing Brazil; Central American prosperity; combatting disinformation; shifting trade patterns and modernization of supply chains; charting a post-COVID future; Caribbean development; and leveraging energy resources. Jason Marczak serves as center director.

US-Colombia Task Force members who contributed to the spotlight:

The Hon. Ruben Gallego

US Representative (D-AZ)

US Congress

Dr. Cindy Arnson

Director, Latin America Program

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Amb. William Brownfield

Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (2011-2018), US Department of State; Former US Ambassador to Colombia (2007-2010), Venezuela (2004-2007), and Chile (2002-2004); Non-resident Senior Adviser, Americas Program

Center for Strategic and International Studies

Mr. Andrés Cadena

Senior Partner

McKinsey&Company

Min. Mauricio Cárdenas**

Former Minister of Finance and Public Credit (2012 – 2018); former Minister of Mines and Energy (2011 – 2012)

Republic of Colombia

Ms. Rosario Córdoba

President

Consejo Privado de Competitividad

Mr. Stephen Donehoo

Managing Partner

McLarty Associates

Amb. Marlen Fernandez

Vice President Government Relations

Arcos Dorados – McDonald’s Latin America

Ms. Muni Jensen

Senior Advisor

Albright Stonebridge Group

Min. María Claudia Lacouture

Former Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism (2016-2017), Republic of Colombia; Executive Director

AmCham Colombia

Mr. Bruce Mac Master

President

Asociación Nacional de Empresarios de Colombia (ANDI)

Amb. P. Michael McKinley

Former US Ambassador to Brazil (2017-2018), Afghanistan (2014-2016), Colombia (2010-2013), and Peru (2007-2010); Senior Counselor

The Cohen Group

Mr. Alejandro Santo Domingo

President

Grupo Santo Domingo

Mr. Alejandro Mesa

Partner

BakerMcKenzie

Roger Noriega

Former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere (2003-2005), US Department of State; former US Ambassador to the Organization of American States (2001-2003)

Mr. Juan Esteban Orduz

President

Colombian Coffee Federation – North America Subsidiary of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia

Amb. Anne Patterson

Former US Ambassador to Egypt (2011-2013), Pakistan (2007-2010), the United Nations (2005), Colombia (2000-2003) and El Salvador (1997-2000)

Ms. Kristie Pellecchia

Former Senior Advisor for Western Hemisphere, United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC); Principal

Pellecchia International

Mr. Michael Shifter

President

The Inter-American Dialogue

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela

Former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere (2009-2011); US Department of State; Former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere, National Security Council (1999-2000); Emeritus Professor of Government

Georgetown University

Amb. Kevin Whitaker

Former US Ambassador to Colombia (2014 -2019)

**Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center’s Advisory Council Member

The Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center (AALAC) broadens understanding of regional transformations through high-impact work that shapes the conversation among policymakers, the business community, civil society, and media. Founded in 2013, the center focuses on Latin America’s strategic role in a global context, with a priority on pressing political, economic, and social issues that will define the trajectory of the region, now and in the years ahead. Select lines of programming include: China in Latin America; Venezuela’s crisis; Mexico’s US and global ties; Colombia’s future; a changing Brazil; Central American prosperity; combatting disinformation; shifting trade patterns and modernization of supply chains; charting a post-COVID future; Caribbean development; and leveraging energy resources. Jason Marczak serves as center director.

Image: Demonstrators take part in a protest demanding government action to tackle poverty, police violence and inequalities in healthcare and education systems, in Bogota, Colombia, May 9, 2021. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez