BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — President Donald Trump’s secretary of state nominee said he would review Colombia’s recent peace agreement to determine how much the U.S. should continue to support a historic deal that had been enthusiastically backed by the Obama administration.
Rex Tillerson’s comments came in a written response to questions that members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent to him as part of the confirmation process.
As the staunchest U.S. ally in Latin America, Colombia has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid over the past two decades to combat drug trafficking and leftist rebels who profit from it. The Obama administration was a key backer of President Juan Manuel Santos’ efforts to end the half-century conflict by appointing a special envoy to the talks and promising $450 million more in U.S. aid to make sure the peace agreement signed last year holds.
Tillerson, while recognizing Colombia’s importance as an ally and the success of past U.S.-Colombia cooperation, was ambiguous about the road ahead. While the remarks have not yet been made public, Tillerson’s answers were first published by Latin America Goes Global, a website tracking U.S. policy toward the region and were confirmed by a Senate aide who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to share them with journalists.
He said he would “make every effort” at continuing the partnership and plans to hold Colombia to its commitment to rein in drug production amid a surge in cocaine flowing from the country that many critics attribute to Santos’ decision in 2015 to suspend U.S.-backed aerial fumigation of illegal coca crops.
“I would also seek to review the details of Colombia’s recent peace agreement, and determine the extent to which the United States should continue to support it,” he added.
Chris Sabatini, editor of Latin America Goes Global, said Tillerson’s seeming doubts about the peace deal reflect a growing skepticism within Republican circles that have been stoked by conservative former President Alvaro Uribe. Uribe led the campaign that defeated the original peace deal in a referendum only to see Santos go ahead and ratify a revised accord a few weeks later.
“Across-the-aisle consensus on Plan Colombia helped Colombia dramatically reduce crime and violence, assisted the state in recovering its territorial integrity, led to the disarming of paramilitaries and beat back the guerrillas to the negotiating table,” Sabatini said. “Now, ironically, that foundation — the bipartisan consensus — is at risk of fracturing, just as the country is at the cusp of what everyone wanted for originally: peace.”
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