Protecting democracy in the Western Hemisphere and around the world

Stefani Reynolds

Meeting recently with Colombian President Iván Duque, U.S. President Joe Biden referred to Colombia as the “cornerstone in our efforts to create a prosperous, safe and democratic hemisphere.” While the meeting focused on the Colombia-U.S. partnership and protecting democracy in the Western Hemisphere, democratic institutions are being tested around the world in ways few could have ever imagined. We see it in Ukraine, and we see it in Latin America. Now more than ever, democracy must be preserved and protected. Colombia stands with the United States, Ukraine and the West in this urgent undertaking.

As the second oldest democracy in the Western Hemisphere, which has itself been tested, Colombia knows that democracy “doesn’t happen by accident.” Colombian elections this year serve as a reminder that we must all remain constantly vigilant to protect democratic freedoms. The specter of foreign interference or criminal funding in a country’s elections is, at its core, a grievous assault on the sovereignty of any nation.

Democracies must work together to push back against these threats. That is why Colombia takes special pride in the bipartisan support we have received over the years from the United States, with the defense of democracy in Colombia backed by Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of the U.S. Congress. This true friendship with the United States has long been predicated on our likeminded devotion to shared values and a common vision for the future.

Indeed, Colombia is a testament to the fact that defending democratic values is a cooperative endeavor, one that must be consistently reaffirmed in the face of new struggles. We exist at the intersection of many of the difficult, multinational problems the world confronts today, where the frontlines of migration flow points meet the second most biodiverse country on the planet, and the brutal, authoritarian government of Nicolás Maduro sits on our doorstep in Venezuela. We also understand that attaining and keeping peace within a democracy is a long journey in and of itself, especially when assailed by the illegal economies fueled by illicit drugs.

Democracies must work together to ensure that tyrants, such as Maduro and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, who have been attacking their own people, do not get a free pass or tools that benefit their regimes because these are assaults on democratic values. 

The same is true in Ukraine, where we are reminded that the magnitude and complexity of threats against democracy ensure that no one nation can solve them on their own. However, through a common emphasis on the protection of human rights and a shared vision for the future, together we can more capably move to address not only the problems themselves, but their root causes. Democracy must prevail.

We have been fortunate to have in the United States a trusted, democratic partner with whom we celebrate 200 years of diplomatic relations in 2022. From fighting side-by-side in the Korean War, to the shared security and development strategy of Plan Colombia, to the recent whole-of-government approach for combatting illegal economies, developing rural areas and protecting the environment, our two countries have nurtured a special relationship that only grows stronger.

It is with this in mind that we applaud President Biden’s stated intent to designate Colombia as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA), a decision supported by members of both parties, and legislation introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J). The proposed U.S.-Colombia Strategic Alliance Act of 2022 reinforces the special relationship our nations share as well as our common commitment to promoting and protecting democracy across the Western Hemisphere. We also value the strong support of more than 30 members of Congress from both parties for a resolution to recognize Colombia as a trusted U.S. partner in honor of the 200th anniversary of our special relationship. We look forward to engaging with the United States even more closely and continuing the legacy of Plan Colombia through its next phase, the Colombia-U.S. Bicentennial Partnership.

As we continue to grapple with several, simultaneous global crises, the need for innovative solutions takes on an even greater urgency. I am confident that together, Colombia and the United States will remain united in the defense of democracy both in our region and across the globe.

Pinzón is the Colombian ambassador to the United States.

Tags colombia Democracy Iván Duque Joe Biden major non-nato ally u.s.-colombia relationship

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