Rubio: Keep America’s bonds with Colombia strong

miami heraldAs President Trump meets with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Washington on Thursday, the United States should use this opportunity to strengthen our bilateral bonds and reaffirm our commitment to the Colombian people.

The U.S.-Colombia partnership has become one of America’s most important relationships in the Western Hemisphere.

In the late 1990s, Colombia was nearly a failed state, devastated by conflicts with drug cartels and terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). But U.S.-Colombian cooperation over the past 16 years empowered the nation to diminish the threat of narcoterrorism and drug-related violence, restore the rule of law, and revive its economy.

Today, Colombia is one of America’s major economic partners in the Western Hemisphere, and the 19th largest market for U.S. exports thanks to our bilateral free-trade agreement. Colombia’s military has helped support its regional neighbors’ battles against drug cartels and terrorist groups. While Colombia still faces challenges, its story of resilience and success gives hope to other countries that they, too, can turn the tide in their fight against narcoterrorism. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.