What is at stake for Colombia in the US legislative elections – USA – International

According to most surveys, the Republican Party appears to be the most likely winner of the legislative elections that will be lived next Tuesday in USA.

It is almost a fact that this political force will gain control of the House of Representatives and, most likely, also the Senate. A scenario that will have great implications for the bilateral relations with Colombia, given the enormous ideological distance that exists between the likely new bosses on Capitol Hill – much further to the right than republicans of the past – and the leftist government that represents the President Gustavo Petro.

Also read: The weight of the candidates and the Latino vote in the United States elections.

Analysts agree that, if it occurs, it would be an unprecedented situation in the recent history of both countries and with the potential to cause strong tensions.

“Until now, the Joe Biden administration has handled this new period of relations with Colombia well after Petro’s victory. But if the Republicans regain even just control of the House, there will be problems on many more fronts, such as trade and anti-drug policy. This is something that could affect cooperation with Colombiabecause the Republicans are not going to have the same degree of patience that they have had up to now Biden and the Democrats”, says Michael Shifter, former president of the Inter-American Dialogue and today a professor at Georgetown.

If the Republicans even regain control of the lower house, there will be problems on many more fronts, such as trade and anti-drug policy.

In that it agrees Jose Miguel Vivanco former director of Human Rights Watch (HRW)member of the Council for International Relations and partner of the firm Denton Global Advisors.

“A Republican-controlled Congress is going to be very complicated for Petro and for America Latina in general, especially if they win the Senate. If I have learned anything in almost 40 years in Washington, it is that the Senate has enormous weight in the foreign policy of the United States and can nullify the vision of the White House. Particularly, if a Senate with trumpists, given their ideological orientation, their lack of interest in the issues that most concern the region and because they do not identify with the defense of democracy,” says Vivanco.

José Miguel Vivanco, former director for the Americas of HRW.


Juan Jose Horta. EFE

For the former director of HRW, “the statements made by the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, after Petro’s victory, when he called him a ‘narco-terrorist communist’, which seem to be taken from the Cold War, are close to the tone that this new majority would have against a Colombian government.

narco-terrorist communist

Although the Executive has a constitutional mandate to guide the country’s international policy, the power of Congress -especially when it is unified- is very great, since it not only approves the budget that can be spent in other countries but also its goals and conditions.

Image of the US Capitol in Washington.

And although it helps her Colombia, that goes around the 500 million dollars annuallyis not going to disappear overnight, it could begin to decline with a legislature dominated by the opposition.

According to Shifter, this new Republican party -which is more nationalistic- is not so interested in what happens in other countries and wants to focus its attention on domestic issues. They have already said, for example, that they even plan to cut off the aid given to Ukraine for the war against Russia. In this context, the Colombian could also be reduced.

Donald Trump, in the middle of the two most important candidates of the party, Marco Rubio (l) and Ted Cruz (r), in Detroit, in March.

Likewise, this analyst notes, they will be more reluctant to support a government like Petro’s, which blames them for the global economic crisis, the “failed” war on drugs, among other things.

In any case, the resources that come out of a Congress controlled by Republicans will very surely have more severe conditions before being disbursed.

A few months ago, the Republican senator Ted Cruz He presented a bill that he called precautionary act, in which it says that no resource approved for Colombia could be spent until the Secretary of state certifies that the Petro government has not taken steps that affect the military Cooperation, in intelligence and anti-terrorismand that does not collaborate on military and intelligence issues with Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, China and Venezuela.

Likewise, the document establishes that Colombia must ensure that it does not legitimize terrorist groups, interfere with the work of the JEP, or suppress freedom of expression or the press, due process, and/or the right to private property.

In the current Congress of USA, legislation like yours has little chance of being approved. But, in one controlled by Republicans, his options would grow.

Drugs, a hot topic

At the same time, on the issue of the war on drugs, both Petro and the Republicans seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

In the Colombian case, EL TIEMPO sources pointed out that anti-drug operations have been stopped due to lack of financial support.


Archive / WEATHER

While the Colombian president talks about the failure of the current policy and airs ideas such as legalization, throughout this campaign, the Republicans have toughened their speech and are pressing for a stronger hand against drug traffickers.

In large part, that is due to the proliferation of fentanyl, a drug that is causing a large number of overdose deaths in the US. And while this synthetic opioid is not produced in Colombia but mainly in Chinaand enter via Mexico, the atmosphere against the traffic of illicit drugs, such as cocaine, is also rarefied.

The Senate, in turn, could block the appointment of a new US ambassador to Colombia of a moderate nature – the country has not had an ambassador since June of this year – and press for a more combative one that would complicate relations.

In the commercial area, problems are also looming. Last week, 12 major trade unions USA., among them the American Chamber of Commercewrote a letter to the Biden administration in which they expressed their deep concern about the Petro government’s tax reform and said that some of its aspects would violate the FTA between the two countries.

It is foreseeable that their complaints will have even more echo in a Republican Congress, which has historically been closer to the interests of businessmen in this country and that would not welcome an attempt to renegotiate the FTA, as the Petro government intends.

On issues such as climate change and migration, priorities for Biden and Petro, There is also no affinity with the possible new US legislature that will take office on January 3.

stop republicans

For Eric Langer, history teacher at Georgetown University, Republican power could be limited as long as the White House is ruled by a Democrat. This added to the fact that, according to the analyst, Colombia could have a low profile on the radar of their interests, given that they would be focused on other more important international issues and on attacking Biden as much as possible in the domestic diary.

At the moment, the count gives 212 seats to the Democrats and 194 to the Republicans.


Chip Somodevilla. AFP – Archive THE TIME

Taking into account the current regional context, where Washington has few allies, a good relationship with Colombia will remain strategic.

But according to Langera lot will depend on whether Petro handles an aggressive or moderate tone against USA and how he handles the rapprochement with Venezuela, an issue that irritates several Republicans.

Of course, we will have to see the result of Tuesday, because it is not the same Congress in which the Democrats can retain the Senate to one in which the opposition assumes full control of the legislationactive. What is clear is that the return of republican power to the Capitol It will imply a change for bilateral relations. What remains to be seen is how severe it will be.

Correspondent of THE TIME

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