Sen. Marco Rubio pens op-ed calling for strengthened U.S.-Colombia relationship

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, in a Miami Herald op-ed, says American support for Colombia and its people have never been stronger, which will continue under the new Republican majorities in Congress.

After returning from an official Columbia visit last week, the Florida Senator was clear in his assertion that the “American people remain as supportive as ever of the Colombian people’s aspirations to build a safer and more prosperous republic.”

This pledge comes after the small South American nation suffered a half-century of armed conflict against violent drug cartels and other “narco-terrorist” groups.

The new Congress “should now re-invigorate the U.S.-Colombia partnership at a time when recent security and economic gains have brought the promise of a lasting peace within reach,” Rubio said.

In the article, Rubio points out key areas to strengthen the U.S.-Colombia relationship, starting with an expansion of “Columbia’s leadership role” in the Western Hemisphere.

“With U.S. support, the Colombian people have authored an inspiring success story that proves what can be achieved by countries that commit to democratic governance, free enterprise, and defeating terrorist and narco-trafficking organizations that threaten their people,” Rubio wrote.

The U.S. must go beyond holding up the success of Plan Colombia – one of the most effective counter-insurgency programs — as a model of South American leadership, he adds, calling for cooperation to promote and defend democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere.

“Unfortunately,” Rubio said, “the recent trend in Latin America has been against democratic expansion and free market economics, with the consequence being the disenfranchisement of millions, imprisoned political opposition leaders and obstacles to the development of prosperous middle class societies throughout the region.”

Rubio blames a lack of U.S. leadership in the Western Hemisphere, for creating a vacuum for adversaries to exploit.

Another pillar of the U.S.-Columbia relationship is a free trade agreement passed in 2011, which Rubio says needs to be “fully capitalized,” something that includes bolstering regional energy initiatives.

The most important issue in the relationship with Columbia, according to Rubio, is addressing “human suffering that exists in Colombia because of criminal enterprises that rely on modern day slavery for funding.”

Human trafficking is simply too prevalent in Columbia, primarily in exploitation in the child sex tourism industry. It requires cooperation between law enforcement agencies in both countries to crack down on U.S. citizens traveling to Columbia for sex tourism, Rubio adds.

“One thing that must never be overlooked,” Rubio concludes, “is the need for U.S. leadership to, once again, put some heart into our alliance with Colombia.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.