The Case for Colombia
The numbers tell a story of progress.
12:00 AM, Apr 11, 2008 • By DUNCAN CURRIE
Colombia's recent economic success cannot be explained entirely by the post-2002 global recovery and the spike in commodity prices (though the latter has provided a boon to many South American economies). In its latest report on "the ease of doing business" around the world, the World Bank named Colombia one of the top ten business reformers of the April 2006-June 2007 period and the number one reformer in the Latin America/Caribbean region. As the International Monetary Fund points out, Colombia's growth in 2005 and 2006 "exceeded the Latin American average."
To be sure, Colombia still faces persistent troubles. The guerrillas continue to hold hundreds of hostages. During the course of Uribe's demobilization campaign, we have learned that paramilitary infiltration of the Colombian political system was more extensive than previously thought. The country remains beset by drug money and corruption. It is still a violent society.
Colombian officials do not deny this. The trade minister, Luis Guillermo Plata, acknowledges that "violence is a huge problem in Colombia," but he stresses that immense progress has been made. Indeed, Colombia is one of the most encouraging stories in recent Latin American history, and Uribe has been a steadfast U.S. ally. In a region where the populist, anti-American ravings of Hugo Chávez often grab the headlines, the Colombian president has championed free-market democracy and taken great risks to defeat its enemies.
The numbers cited above offer a robust validation of his security and economic policies. As Congressman Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, told me late last year, Colombia's transformation "is nothing short of a miracle." Unfortunately, it may take another miracle to win congressional approval of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement.
Duncan Currie is managing editor of The American.