Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Santos’ Fast Start

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on November 18, 2010

by Eric Farnsworth for Americas Society / Council of the Americas, November 17th, 2010.

Colombia’s new President, Juan Manuel Santos, inaugurated barely two months ago on August 7, is already proving equal to the difficult task of following former President Álvaro Uribe’s impressive eight-year mandate. But he is no Uribe clone. He has moved quickly to put his own stamp on the presidency, working to reduce Colombia’s challenges internationally in order to free himself to focus on his top priority—recharging Colombia’s economic growth and providing jobs for its people. It’s a tall task in the current global economic environment, but one that the new president campaigned on and one that he has to deliver.

Even before the inauguration Santos was immediately faced with a legacy-defining choice. The Uribe Administration left office having just accused neighboring Venezuela, in a dramatic presentation at the OAS in Washington, of harboring FARC guerrillas. For various reasons the hemispheric community wanted nothing to do with the crisis. When the presentation to the OAS was made, much of the hemispheric community, including the United States, yawned. Lacking broader hemispheric backing, the incoming Santos administration realized that it would either have to go it alone in the face of Venezuelan provocations, or it would have to find a way to accommodate to reality, establishing a modus vivendi with the Chávez regime. This would minimize the threat of aggression while giving a face-saving solution to restore relations and reopen the border to economic activity and exchange.

A face-to-face summit of presidents Santos and Chávez was quickly arranged in Santa Marta, Colombia, where the presidents pledged to restore relations and pursue a less confrontational agenda. In truth, Chávez, too, needed breathing room, given sinking poll numbers prior to the September 26 legislative elections in Venezuela and the government’s desire to goose the economy. (continue reading… )

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