Commentary Magazine


A Modern and Prosperous Colombia

Too bad that the Summit of the Americas this past weekend in Cartagena will be remembered as the “prostitution summit,” after the scandal involving Secret Service agents allegedly hiring local professionals.  It should have been known as an event celebrating Colombia’s extraordinary success.

Written off as a failed state only a decade ago, that nation has bounced back to push back the FARC insurgency, establish law and order across most of its territory, and to spark robust economic growth. I am not the only one to dub this “The Colombian Miracle,” as I did in this 2009 article–that is also the headline of a Washington Post article a few days ago which notes that Colombia is no longer associated with kidnapping and terrorism.

This is a new country that has “attracted record levels of foreign investment and whose economy grew nearly 6 percent last year, that was awarded investment-grade status and can borrow more cheaply than some countries in Western Europe.”

Much of this achievement was due to the extraordinary presidency of Alvaro Uribe, one of the greatest counter-insurgency leaders of the past century, who between 2002 and 2010 all but defeated FARC and created the security which has made prosperity possible. His achievement was aided and extended by his onetime defense minister turned president, Juan Manuel Santos, who welcomed President Obama and other world leaders to his country. Their leadership shows what is possible to achieve against great odds even when facing an entrenched and ruthless insurgency–it is a lesson that Hamid Karzai and his would-be successors should pay attention to.

It is fitting that Colombia’s progress, which was helped by American aid, is now at last recognized by the establishment of a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, made possible by Obama finally overriding the obstinate objections of American labor unions to this pact which will benefit both nations. It is only a shame that this agreement, which was concluded six years ago, has had to wait so long to be implemented.