Bipartisan Colombia Task Force Calls for Renewed US Engagement with Critical Ally

Atlantic Council Launches Group Chaired by US Senators Blunt and Cardin
Task Force to Propose Path Ahead for US-Colombia Relations

The Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center concluded on December 8, 2016 the first convening of its Colombia Peace and Prosperity Task Force, chaired by US Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD). The meeting ended with a call for the incoming Donald Trump administration to make strengthening relations with this critical US ally a key foreign policy goal. Meeting just one week after Congressional approval of the peace accords with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Task Force reiterated the importance of continued bipartisan support to ensure a lasting peace in the country. It called for mobilizing new US and international development assistance as well as expanded diplomatic, technical, and security engagements.

As the new Trump administration takes office, the Task Force will focus on several objectives between now and its expected mid-April recommendations.  Among those are: how to make “Peace Colombia” a long-term congressional and administration foreign policy priority; determining the right funding levels for United States-Colombia cooperation; and analyzing how to catalyze support from the international community and development institutions.

“Colombia’s historic peace accord and hard fought victories against the illegal drug trade are remarkable achievements.” said co-chair Senator Blunt. “It is important that we continue our commitment to enhancing Colombia’s security capacity and expanding economic opportunities between our nations.”  

Co-chair Senator Cardin spoke of the need to ensure continuous support as Colombia implements a hard-won peace deal: “Colombia is one of our most important partners in the Americas and, as the U.S. undergoes a major political transition, we must take further steps to strengthen this strategic relationship. The Atlantic Council task force will play a central role in helping Congress and the next Administration set priorities for how the U.S. can best support Colombian efforts to strengthen governance and security in the years ahead.”

The Task Force meeting received a briefing from US Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker, Colombia’s Ambassador to the United States Juan Carlos Pinzon and Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process Bernard Aronson. All three urged consolidated bilateral cooperation in the next administration to guarantee mutually beneficial economic growth and regional stability.

“The US-Colombia relationship is the most important strategic partnership in the hemisphere, and the key to our success has been strong US bipartisan support,” said Colombian Ambassador to the United States Juan Carlos Pinzón. “As seen in the successes of Plan Colombia, the US-Colombia alliance has helped drive Colombia’s transformation over the past decade and a half. Building on this strategic partnership through Peace Colombia will be crucial as we work to build a stable and lasting peace, and this new task force will have a vital role to play in the post-conflict period.”

“Plan Colombia was a success in large part because of the bipartisan support it enjoyed in the United States. The next phase, Peace Colombia, will need the same kind of endorsement. The breadth of leaders who joined us today—from Congress, the private sector, and civil society—demonstrates a commitment to continued engagement with this critical ally,” said Peter Schechter, Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council.

The Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center will publish a final report on the Task Force’s recommendations in mid-2017.

Other Task Force participants include:

Scarlett Alvarez
Vice-President and Global Chief Stakeholder and Sustainability Officer
The AES Corporation

Cynthia Arnson
Director, Latin America Program
Wilson Center

Amb. Carolina Barco
Former Ambassador of Colombia to the US; Senior Advisor
Inter-American Development Bank

The Hon. Rand Beers
Deputy Homeland Security Advisor to the President
US Department of Homeland Security

Virginia Bouvier
Senior Advisor for Peace Processes
United States Institute of Peace

Daniel W. Fisk
Former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the NSC; Chief Operations Officer
International Republican Institute

The Hon. Ruben Gallego
US Representative (D-AZ-7)

Amb. Robert Gelbard

Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; President
Gelbard International Consulting

Thomas F. McLarty, III
Former White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton; Chairman and Co-founder
McLarty Associates

The Hon. Gregory Meeks
US Representative (D-NY-5)

Amb. Roger Noriega
Former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere; Founder and Managing Director
Visión Américas

The Hon. Devin
US Representative (R-CA-22)

Juan Esteban Orduz
Chief Executive Officer
Colombian Coffee Federation, Inc.

Jaana Remes
McKinsey Global Institute

Catherine Robinson
Director, International Government Affairs

Michael Sheridan
Director, Global Trade Strategy and Policy
Ford Motor Company

Michael Shifter
Inter-American Dialogue

Arturo Valenzuela
Former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere; Senior Latin America Advisor
Covington & Burling LLP

Image: Lucho Molina, Bogota 2010