Shifter: “This election will represent a shift, and it will be important to work out new terms for the US-Colombia relationship”

Photo of Michael Shifter Credit: Francisco Arteaga

On June 21 Michael Shifter, senior fellow of the Inter-American Dialogue, was interviewed at the microphones of Canada’s CBC on the recent victory of Gustavo Petro as a new president-elect of Colombia. The conversation was also centered on the future of US-Colombia and Canada-Colombia relations.


Questions (Q): What’s your view on the new tide of left governments in the region?

Answers (R): “I think incumbents are having a hard time governing, there are huge demands and expectations by well-informed citizens, especially the young. The economic conditions are not good enough to satisfy these demands, so this is a formula for frustration and discontent with the status quo. Many of the incumbent governments were of the right or center-right and they didn’t deliver, so now people are looking for alternatives, which happens to be the left. Still, if the left will not perform, it will be thrown out as well. People are really just looking for governments that can function and meet their demands.”

(Q): How is this move to the left going to position Colombia, with regard to the other countries in the region?

(A): “Colombia is a very important country for the region, being the third most populous one as well. Something that will be key is the coming election in Brazil in October, where Lula da Silva is trying to make a comeback to the presidency and Petro has talked very openly about a possible alliance with him. Petro also mentioned a possible cooperation with Boric, with whom he shares his climate change agenda. He sees an alliance that could be built region-wide with other like-minded governments but whether this will materialize remains to be seen.”

(Q):  How will the election change US-Colombia relations?

(A): “Petro had a conversation with Secretary of State Blinken, which signals that the Biden administration has the intention to build a constructive relation, which is though definitely going to be different. Petro has not been shy on his opposition to the drug war, which has been the basis of the recent US-Colombia relations through Plan Colombia. There is also the issue of Colombia relations with Venezuela, where Petro mentioned he would like to normalize relations with Maduro. Petro will want to maintain relations with the US but also, at the same time, build connections with China, the European Union and other actors. This election will be a shift, and it will be important to work out new terms for the relationship.”


Listen to the full episode on CBC

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