Dean Rohrer

Latin America’s Beacon of Change

Ten years ago, Colombia was viewed as a problem country whose guerrillas and drug traffickers threatened regional stability. But Colombia has come a long way since then, and President Juan Manuel Santos, 18 months into his first term, is determined to take the country further in terms of restoring regional ties and boosting its international stature.

BOGOTA – Next month, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will host the sixth Summit of the Americas. Every Latin American leader except Cuba’s – 32 altogether – will attend to discuss an ambitious agenda of regional cooperation. The event could mark the high point of Santos’s 19-month-old presidency.

External perceptions of Colombia have improved markedly over the past decade, reflected in rising foreign investment and exports, both of which reached their highest levels ever in 2011. Colombia is no longer seen as a problem country whose neighbors fear destabilization from its guerrillas and narcotics traffickers. Moreover, its democracy has matured, and its economy is advancing toward modernity, driven by an economic bonanza of mineral resources, mainly oil, coal, and gold.

Colombian diplomacy is experiencing a golden era as well. Santos has improved relations with neighboring countries and the Andean sub-region as a whole, despite deep ideological disagreement with these countries’ leaders – Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and Peru’s Ollanta Humala.

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