World · June 23, 2022

The new president of Colombia aims to re-establish relations with the United States

The nation – which has never had a left-wing president – has been Washington’s closest ally in the region for decades. But the election of former left-wing guerrilla Petro to the highest office in the country could radically change that relationship.

In an interview with CNN last week, Petro said he plans to renegotiate Colombia’s trade deals with the United States.

It also plans to open a dialogue on three main issues: the protection of the Amazon rainforest; end the war on drugs; and move the Colombian economy away from extractive projects such as fossil fuels.

His future conversations with US President Joe Biden are likely to be difficult, with the two leaders diametrically opposed on issues such as relations with Venezuela.

Leftist candidate and former guerrilla Gustavo Petro wins the Colombian presidential race

Although he tried to distance himself from the Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro regime during the election campaign, Petro supports the authoritarian leader’s recognition as the country’s president, something the White House is adamant about.

But the two presidents may still find common ground in areas such as environmental protection and the energy transition.

And Petro has his allies in Washington – he told CNN that he spoke “frequently” with US Senator Bernie Sanders, and that he met in person earlier this year with the Progressive Caucus, a group of US representatives from left.

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The new president of Colombia also spoke of the desire to create a new progressive alliance in South America.

This would likely involve Chilean President Gabriel Boric and Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, rather than the three authoritarian countries of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Biden recently fueled opposition among some Latin American leaders by excluding those three nations from the Summit of the Americas, a regional forum that took place in Los Angeles in early June. As a sign of solidarity, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has decided to skip the event entirely.

But Petro told CNN that he would still be attending.

“Sure,” he said. “I would have gone and told Biden that it was wrong not to invite some countries, but I would never have turned down an opportunity for dialogue.”