By Larry Birns
Gustavo Petro’s hefty plurality in the Bogotá mayoral race represents a stunning victory for the country’s democratic process, and an even more explosive setback for the Obama administration’s paralytic Latin American policy as previously seen in Cuba. Together with the defeat of almost all of the candidates backed by former hardline Colombian president and U.S. lapdog Álvaro Uribe, Petro’s triumph represents a classic repudiation of Washington’s Cold War anti-insurgency policy that actually dates back to the Clinton administration’s fictive stance that all differences between nations are susceptible to being forced upon a procrustean bed rather than be subjected to the application of a vibrant democratic diplomacy. Maybe now local national interests and not only Washington’s narrow security values will be respected.
With Washington repeatedly striking out on its Cuban policy, the Obama White House is all but undistinguishable from what it was under President Bush. When it comes to Latin America, the current administration might want to take the opportunity to start fresh with Colombian President Juan Manual Santos and Bogotá’s victorious mayoral candidate, Gustavo Petro.
Because Washington now has to forget its favorite Latin American servitor Álvaro Uribe in favor of a dramatic new leadership in Colombia, Obama should seek to alter the Clinton and Bush policy, which relied heavily on violent, coercive rhetoric.
There are lessons to be learned from Colombia, but not from Uribe. If Colombia demonstrates just a bit more in favor of human rights values, when it comes to the free trade agreement, Washington might be able to obtain heftier support from the democratic left which up to now has eluded it.