El Espectador, January 8, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
President-elect Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated next January 20, was very clear: “Anyone who interfered in the United States elections with disinformation will face consequences.” What will happen with the Colombians who did that?
Joe Biden will be inaugurated as President of the United States next January 20. Donald Trump, the incumbent President, has now accepted his defeat and, even though he announced that he would not attend the ceremony when the Democrat will be inaugurated, it is clear that a new administration lies ahead.
An administration that has majorities in the House and in the Senate, which will permit the passage of important projects without the need to depend on Republican votes, and in addition will allow the initiation of investigations to clarify various activities that involved the Trump administration. Even, say some analysts, they might now be thinking of opening a file on foreign intervention in this year’s elections; elections in which there was an abundance of disinformation.
And here the accusing finger points to Colombia, the country where the United States Ambassador, Philip S. Goldberg, himself had to urge politicians to avoid involving themselves in the complex electoral procedures that resulted in Biden’s triumph, but that were enveloped in false information promoted by Trump and his allies.
Twitter: Jorge Rojas Rodríguez (@jerojasrodrigue) January 8, 2021
“This is extremely serious!!
The Democratic Party is announcing investigations and hearings in Congress to determine Colombia’s role in the campaign of disinformation during the presidential elections in the United States.
“Colombia played a leading role in that.” Pic.twitter.com/YBtZrYUsIu
In view of the extremely serious consequences provoked by the intervention of foreigners in the elections, whose most recent proceedings ended with the violent takeover of the Capitol on Wednesday, Joe Biden was emphatic: “Anyone who interfered in the United States elections with disinformation will face consequences.”
In an interview with the cable news network CNN, strategist Michelle A. Manatt confirmed that: “There will be investigations in the House and Senate against those that interfered. Without doubt this is a subject that will be emphasized in the first days of the Biden administration.”
Analysts in Colombia have already warned of how problematic it was for the Colombian government to commit to Trump. “The Iván Duque administration bet everything on Trump and the Republicans, and if he were to lose, it was evident that there would be difficulties in the bilateral relationship, inasmuch as Duque’s support was sufficiently explicit and his distancing himself from the Democrats in the House and the Senate was palpable. If Joe Biden were to win the Presidency, and the Democrats continue to have a majority in the House and win the Senate, that would portend hard times in the bilateral relationship,” predicted Arlene B. Tickner, professor at Rosario University and an analyst for this newspaper.
The Colombian case
Former President Juan Manuel Santos put the Democrats’ uneasiness with the interference of Colombian politicians out on the table. He mentioned tweets by Colombian politicians expressing their liking for a candidate. Congressional Representatives like María Fernanda Cabal, Carlos Felipe Jejía, Juan David Vélez, Gustavo Petro or Roy Barreras were some of them.
In a column published by CNN, two Democratic Representatives, Gregory Meeks and Rubén Gallego, were talking about the politicians in the Democratic Center Party when they said that “some even have repeated the fiction that Vice President Joe Biden is a communist or a radical socialist.” They also mentioned Gustavo Petro and his support of Biden, saying, “For the good of both of our countries, that kind of behavior has to stop right now.”
The most complicated case took place in Florida where the inappropriate participation demonstrated the Colombian alignment with the extreme right of the Republican Party.
That situation provoked an appeal to Foreign Minister Claudia Blum to respond to the alleged intervention in favor of Trump by public officials. It was mentioned that the Colombian Ambassador in Washington, Francisco Santos, took part in a Republican Party event in Florida, but the Embassy and the Foreign Ministry responded that “it was a nonpartisan activity, and that is part of diplomatic activity.”
In an interview with El Tiempo, Dan Restrepo, a former Latin America specialist in the Obama administration, noted that “the fact that it is a strategic ally will not protect Colombia. What I am hearing more and more every day in my circles is that they had better stop messing in our politics, that foreigners ought not to intrude in the internal dynamics of our elections. And the implications for the future are worrisome. If the Colombians are betting everything on Trump, should we continue to support our current policy in Colombia?”
In a column in this newspaper, Arlene B. Tickner, a professor at Rosario University recalls how “the uncooperative attitude of the Uribe government toward the Democrats’ uneasiness about human rights and the TLC not only cost them the ratification of that treaty, but it also increased the lack of chemistry with Barack Obama when he arrived at the White House. Similarly, the excessive closeness with Trump and the Republicans, and the disregard of the Democrats’ concerns about the murders of social leaders and of demobilized former guerrillas, the implementation of the Havana Peace Agreement and the fumigation with glyphosate have resulted in a deterioration of the bipartisan foundation that guarantees the fluency of the bilateral relationship. Still more problematic, the support for the Peace and for human rights, and the possible opening of strategic alternatives in the war on illegal drugs, which President-elect Joe Biden might introduce, will be difficult to manage when the marriage cultivated with the right in the United States is based on opposition to all of that.”
“For all they are saying to the contrary, there is going to be an accounting with Colombia, predicted Tickner in El Espectador. It looks as if she was right.
“We can’t let this continue. There was a trial in 2020 and I’m convinced that this was a rehearsal by Colombian interests and others who wanted to see how far they could go. If we don’t put a stop to it, they can do it again; a lot of Democrats think this will be repeated in the next elections if we don’t do something,” added Manatt, the Democratic strategist on CNN.
Nevertheless, a few hours after that statement, Manatt modified it.
In a conversation with La FM, the strategist clarified that this does not assure that the Biden administration will investigate Colombia. “I commented that there is interest in Congress in the subject, and I indicated that I think it’s interesting and important to investigate the situation. I’m not speculating on anything, and I’m not in a position to speculate on that,” she told the station.
“I know that the Biden administration wants to have a good relationship with Colombia because we are allies. We have a lot of history in common and we have an agenda that we would like to promote together,” added Manatt.
The strategist for the Democratic Party reiterated in several opportunities that she has no information that the United States Congress plans to debate Colombia’s intervention in its elections, nor if they are going to retaliate. “President Biden’s administration plans to fortify the bilateral relationship (…) there is no interest in retaliation,” she told La FM.