The U.S. Must Remain Vigilant as Colombia Turns to the Left
By Marco Rubio
Barely over a month after Gustavo Petro was elected to the Colombian presidency, President Joe Biden sent a high-level delegation to meet with his incoming administration. In contrast, it took the Biden White House two years to meet with outgoing president Iván Duque. Clearly the Democrats are excited by the prospect of another leftist in power — even if that leader is far less favorable to the U.S. than his predecessor.
It reflects President Biden’s misguided approach toward our region. The Obama-era holdovers in this White House have forced woke propaganda and restrictive climate deals on friendly governments while cozying up to the dictators in Cuba and Venezuela. They punish our allies and reward our adversaries, leading voters across Latin America to reject pro-U.S. incumbents and turn to left-wing challengers — as well as Beijing and Moscow.
To protect the safety and security of our region, we must change course immediately, and that means no more pandering to leftists. Colombia remains an important regional partner, and we should seek to maintain strong ties, but we must also act in the interests of our nation.
First, the Biden Administration cannot let terrorists off the hook because Petro himself will go easy on them. Rather, we must maintain pressure on violent extremists like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the Clan del Golfo, notorious for its ongoing violence against law enforcement.
In November 2021, the Biden Administration removed the FARC from America’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list. This unjustifiably granted legitimacy to violent criminals and drug dealers. It also benefited people like Piedad Córdoba, a longtime pal of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro. She is now reentering the Colombian Senate as a member of Petro’s party despite being under judicial investigation. My colleague Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and I introduced legislation to relist the FARC as an FTO and reimpose sanctions on its affiliates, including Córdoba. Congress should pass it immediately.
In addition to maintaining pressure on terrorists, we must vigorously oppose any attempts to change our criminal extradition agreement with Colombia. There is nothing corrupt officials and narcos want more than to ensure murderers and drug dealers are not brought to justice by our courts. The violence and outrage that ensued after Clan del Golfo leader “Otoniel” was extradited to the U.S. earlier this year shows how much these criminals fear the American justice system.
Why should we take that fear away from them when we don’t have to? The answer is obvious: we shouldn’t. Retaining extradition rights has clear benefits — it ensures Americans will see justice done for crimes committed against them by Colombian nationals, and it’s a safeguard against instability in the region as a whole.
Finally, we must hold firm in our support for the rightful government of Venezuela, even as Petro reestablishes ties with the narco-regime in Caracas. When Nicolás Maduro called for illegitimate elections in Venezuela to maintain his unjust grip on power, Colombia and the U.S. stood alongside the rightful interim government, headed by Juan Guaidó. In a few days, Colombia will change course and recognize Maduro instead. That’s bad news — but we can’t let it change our own commitment. Narco-dictators do not deserve America’s endorsement and support, no matter if Petro says otherwise.
The Biden Administration, unfortunately, may be unwilling to take this stand. If President Biden will seek oil from Maduro and lift sanctions on the Cuban regime, even as the former holds U.S. citizens captive, he may be willing to sacrifice America’s interests so Colombia’s new administration will go along with whatever woke nonsense the State Department decides to push next.
As we navigate our relationship with the new government of Colombia, we must not abandon U.S. national interests in the region, or the values we and our allies hold dear. What that means is simple: maintain a position of strength, and do not pander to the far left.