By Arlene B. Tickner, EL ESPECTADOR, August 11, 2021


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Beyond the immediate criticisms, it’s worth pointing out that where the costs of Duque’s bad management are most visible in is the damage to the prestige and reputation of Colombia.

In the midst of the assessments, mostly negative, of Colombian foreign policy in the three years of Iván Duque’s bungling administration, the most impartial way to measure it—admitting that there were unique achievements like the Temporary Protection of Venezuelan Migrants Statute and the strategy against the pending lawsuits by Nicaragua in the International Court of Justice—is by the false steps and the opportunities lost. The summary of those is awfully long, but it includes the open favoritism toward Trump, the interference in the United States elections and the delay in removing Francisco Santos from the Embassy in Washington, the unrestricted support of Juan Guaidó, the insistence that Maduro leave power without any negotiation, the diplomatic and communications break with Caracas, quitting Unasur and the empty proposal of Prosur, the public pressure on Cuba to turn over the ELN leaders, the abstention on the UN vote to reject the United States embargo, the cynical denunciation of police repression of the demonstrations on the island, the passive-aggressive attitude before the Security Council and other international partners in relation to the deficient implementation of the Peace Agreement, the denialism about the violations of human rights and the killing of social leaders and former combatants, as well as the sluggish promotion of the orange economy overseas.

Besides the numberless lost opportunities resulting from these gaffes, we can add the chance to capitalize on the role Colombia had played in different multilateral areas related to sustainable development and climate change, that we saw overshadowed by the failure to ratify the Escazú Agreement. At the same time, the leadership exercised in the worldwide debate about illegal drugs has been squandered with the monologue about fumigation with glyphosate. That waste even included failing to support the production and exportation of cannabis flowers for medicinal use that ought to open alternative horizons in the place of coca leaves.

Beyond the specific criticisms, it’s worth pointing out that where the costs of Duque’s bad management have risen the most is in the reputation and prestige of Colombia. While Uribe’s questionable foreign policy embedded the nation’s problems into the prevalent narrative of the worldwide war on terror, in order to be able to leverage “democratic security” into his international calling card, Santos achieved the image of a government that was “successful” in battling the insurgency and organized crime, and cultivated an image as a regional leader in the matter of illegal drugs, environment, and peace, with tangible results in terms of worldwide recognition.

In contrast to its predecessors, the current administration has not leveraged the reputation that it inherited three years ago—in fact, Duque has dedicated himself to disavowing it—nor has he been able to regaining the reputation of his political boss. Neither has he found out how to resist the appearance of new sources of disfavor, such as the brutality and impunity of the state-police in the social protests, the exportation of former members of the military as mercenaries, the falsification of Covid tests for travelers, or the risk rating, all of which, if he continues to be ignored, will deepen the (re) positioning of this country as a focus of problems and not of opportunities or solutions.

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