BOGOTA - Many Colombians have expressed deep concern over U.S. President George
W. Bush's reelection, while others share the enthusiasm of right-wing Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe, Washington's closest ally in Latin America.
"I want to congratulate President Bush on his victory, Senator [John]
Kerry for this beautiful campaign, both of them for this example of democracy,
and the people of the United States for the efficiency and efficaciousness of
their democracy," Uribe told the press Wednesday.
Merci Viana, a spokeswoman for the governing U.S. Republican Party in Miami,
told the Colombian television newscast RCN that the vote of Colombian immigrants
weighed in favor of Bush in southern Florida.
An elderly Colombian woman who lives in Miami said she urged her 30 relatives,
"all naturalized U.S. citizens," to vote for Bush as a Christmas present
to her, "which they all did," she told the cameras, smiling.
Viana also said the aid to Colombia will continue to flow. She was referring
to the $2.37 billion in military and police assistance that the Bush administration
has sent to Colombia so far, according to the Washington-based Center for International
Colombia is the third-largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the world,
after Israel and Egypt. In the past five years, a total of $4 billion has gone
into the Plan Colombia anti-drug and counterinsurgency strategy and, more recently,
the Plan Patriot military offensive.
In June, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of doubling the number of U.S. military
personnel in Colombia, to a total of 800, and to increase the official number
of civilians contracted by the Pentagon (the U.S. Defense Department) for Colombia
The advisers, soldiers, and contractors are providing military assistance to
the Colombian army in the Plan Patriot offensive in southern Colombia, which
was launched this year against the rearguard of the leftist Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC).
FARC is a guerrilla group that has been fighting for 40 years. It is classified
as a "terrorist organization" by the U.S. government.
According to Uribe, there is no armed conflict in Colombia, but merely "a
society fighting against terrorist outlaws."
The Colombian leader identifies with Bush in his "war on terrorism,"
and went so far as to comment, when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in early
2003, that once "that problem" was solved, the occupation forces could
intervene in Colombia to fight the leftist rebels.
"I am going to say something very frank: the hope is that the situation
in the Middle East will become so complicated for the United States that it
will not focus on the crisis in the Andean region, and in Colombia in particular,"
historian and political scientist Jaime Zuluaga, with the Institute of Political
and International Studies (IEPRI) at the National University of Colombia, told
"Because if they are able to somehow straighten out the situation in Iraq,
I have no doubt that the military pressure will increase greatly" in this
region, he added.
The anti-drug and counterinsurgency Plan Colombia was initially designed by
members of the U.S. State Department under Democratic President Bill Clinton
But the U.S. government claims that its military phase, Plan Patriot, for which
the United States is providing advisers, was designed by the Colombian military.
Both Bush and his Democratic Party rival Kerry, who was defeated in Tuesday's
elections, announced in their campaigns that they would continue to provide
Uribe with military support.
But Kerry also pledged that if he won, his government would have less tolerance
for human rights violations in Colombia, and he expressed concern over attacks
on trade unionists and human rights activists in this South American country.
Kerry further stated that he would demand that the Colombian government sever
the proven ties between the armed forces and the rightist paramilitary militias,
which are responsible for 80 percent of the atrocities committed in the civil
war, according to United Nations and Organization of American States (OAS) bodies.
Zuluaga noted that "the Bush administration certified that the Colombian
government was complying with human rights standards," a requirement under
U.S. law before military aid can be disbursed.
The U.S. Embassy in Bogota has warned that drug barons, including several who
are facing extradition requests from the United States, are taking part in the
negotiations between the Uribe administration and the paramilitaries, aimed
at achieving the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
(AUC), the paramilitary umbrella.
Nevertheless, Bush is financing the OAS mission led by Argentine sociologist
Sergio Caramagna, sent to verify compliance with agreements reached in the talks.
Bush's triumph "demonstrates that a majority of people in the United States
are still afraid of the possibility of terrorist attacks, and are willing to
sacrifice, as they are sacrificing in the United States, basic rights and freedoms
in order to take what they see as a strong stance against terrorism, even though
it has not been shown to be effective," said Zuluaga.
"Defeating Bush was one way to repudiate the unilateralist politics of
the United States, its disregard for the role played by the United Nations,
and its strategy of 'preemptive war,' which was applied in Afghanistan and Iraq."
In Colombia, "what will happen is, first, the Uribe-Bush alliance will
be consolidated. I'm sure the American president will somehow reward Uribe's
loyalty," he added.
"Second, I believe there will be a 'Plan Colombia II,'" he predicted.
"If the United States is at least able to avoid being further bogged down
in the quagmire it has found itself in, in Iraq, it will very likely commit
itself, as has already been approved by the U.S. Congress, to an expansion of
the military intervention in Colombia."
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Wood, the head of the U.S. army Southern
Command James T. Hill, as well as State Department officials say the situation
in Colombia is a threat to the entire region, and that FARC poses a real threat
to U.S. national security.
"That has to do with the fact that they see the guerrillas as being financed
by the drug trade, and also has to do with the three U.S. [military contractors]
that the FARC has held" since February 2003, when they were kidnapped to
be held along with the Colombian politicians, soldiers, and other captives that
the rebels want to swap for imprisoned insurgents, said Zuluaga.
In the analyst's view, "there is a strategic design to develop new forms
of intervention [by Washington] in Latin America, and control over Colombia
is very important in order to have an influence over the Andean region, which
remains one of the most unstable and politically explosive areas in the subcontinent."
In that scenario, "at least Ecuador and Peru will try to obtain stronger
U.S. support to protect themselves from what they consider a threat from Colombia,"
especially from the flood of Colombian refugees into Ecuador, he predicted.
"In their weakness, and in their need for significant support from abroad,
I believe they will continue to lend themselves to trying to seal off their
borders with Colombia. What we will see are governments that are more committed
to the fight against drug trafficking in line with the U.S. model," he
Both countries, which border Colombia to the south, have complained that the
civil war is leaking out of Colombia, creating a security problem in the frontier