The pink tide is sweeping Latin América, with leftist administrations taking power across the region. Colombia elected Gustavo Petro on Sunday as the nation’s first leftist leader, making the U.S. ally the latest to join a growing club of leftist governments. Petro’s rise to power threatens the United States’s interests in its backyard. The president-elect is a former M-19 guerilla fighter and was the candidate for the Historic Pact for Colombia, a coalition that includes the Colombian Communist Party and other far-left political parties.
Jun 22, 2022
“I congratulate Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez for their historic victory in the Presidential elections in Colombia,” Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro tweeted. From Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador to Argentinian President Alberto Fernández, praise for Petro spans the ends of Latin América. Yet this regionally unifying figure is causing a divide between those that support his domestic agenda and others that prioritize the nation’s important role in opposing Maduro’s regime.
Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and interim president of Venezuela, accused Petro of being “an accomplice of the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro.” Petro’s campaign statements regarding Maduro are mixed. Despite praising Hugo Chavez’s rise to power, Petro negatively compared Maduro to outgoing Colombian President Ivan Duque. “Hugo Chavez had the merit of reminding us that peaceful social change was possible in Latin America,” he said. “Marked by their dependence on raw materials and their authoritarian drift, Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela and Ivan Duque’s Colombia are more similar today than they seem.”
As president-elect, Petro has made the direction in which he will steer Colombia clear. He reached out to the Venezuelan government to discuss reopening the borders between the two countries. If trade resumes between the two countries, Colombia will be feeding capital into a nation whose wealth trickles straight to its autocratic leaders.
As the United States fights to remain the No. 1 power in the world order, it is important for us to maintain a consistent foreign policy in our hemisphere. How can we expect to win in East Asia if we cannot maintain our policies within our own hemisphere? Ensuring Colombia does not change course is the most crucial step in maintaining our influence and protecting the U.S.’s interests in the Americas.
President Joe Biden called Petro to congratulate him, and the White House’s readout of the conversation mentions a few areas of importance to American foreign policy interests. “[Biden] underscored that he looks forward to working with the President-elect to continue strengthening bilateral cooperation, including on climate change, health security, and implementation of the 2016 Peace Accord,” according to the readout. “President Biden also welcomed the opportunity to discuss bilateral security and counternarcotics cooperation.”
Discussing counternarcotics operations is a positive step for the administration, as Petro has repeatedly criticized the U.S.’s approach to tackling drug trafficking. Perhaps Venezuela was mentioned in the call, but the readout does not place emphasis on it if so. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called Petro, and the readout of that call fails to mention Venezuela as well. Biden’s approach to Venezuela has been softer than former President Donald Trump’s, and he is looking toward Maduro’s regime for assistance in solving America’s domestic energy crisis.