Colombia

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President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia last fall sent a new ambassador to the U.S., a childhood friend who has no diplomatic experience but has substantial international business expertise. Carlos Urrutia was appointed ambassador on September 5, 2012, succeeding Gabriel Silva, who said he resigned after only two years in Washington because he had “fulfilled” his primary mission of achieving ratification of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. Urrutia formally presented his credentials to President Barack Obama on September 19, 2012.  

 

Born circa 1950, Carlos Urrutia-Valenzuela was one of three children born to a wealthy and prominent Bogotá family, son of Carlos Urrutia Holguín and Maria Teresa Valenzuela. Urrutia graduated high school in the U.S. in 1968 and began his undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University from 1968 to 1970, returning to Colombia to finish his law degree at the Universidad de los Andes in 1974.

 

Urrutia worked in the public sector from 1975 to 1977, first as secretary general of the Governorship of the Department of Cundinamarca until January 1977, and as secretary of finance of Cundinamarca from February 1977 to April 1977.

 

Urrutia spent his legal career at his father’s Bogotá firm of Brigard & Urrutia, the oldest law firm in Colombia, from May 1977 to 2012. He was made a partner in 1981, and was managing partner from 1999 to 2012. During his 35-year career there, Urrutia advised clients on commercial law, commercial transactions, energy projects, international financial transactions, litigation and arbitration.

 

Despite Urrutia’s lack of diplomatic experience, Santos has insisted that his childhood friend is a man “who has all the qualities to represent our country at this special moment” in its relations with the U.S. The closest Urrutia can come to claiming such experience rests on the fact that his uncle, Francisco Urrutia Holguín, was ambassador to neighboring Venezuela in the early 1950s and ambassador to the United Nations between 1953 and 1957.

 

A wealthy man who has his clothes tailored in London, Urrutia showed his support for Santos’ 2010 presidential run even before the campaign began. In February 2010 Urrutia organized a fundraiser at the elite Bogotá Club San Andrés, to which the price of admission was between 600,000 and 1,200,000 pesos per person ($310-$620) and 8 million pesos ($4,133) per company.

 

Urrutia is a panel member on the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes’panel of arbitrators. He has also been a member of several boards of directors of Colombian companies, including Allianz Colseguros S.A.; Ladrillera Santafe S.A.; 3M Colombia S.A.; Leo Burnett Colombia S.A.; Dividendo por Colombia, a Colombian non-profit affiliated with United Way; and Cámara de Comercio Colombo Francesa (French-Colombian Chamber of Commerce). 

 

An associate member of the American Bar Association and International Bar Association, in addition to his native Spanish, Urrutia speaks fluent English and French.

 

Urrutia is married to Leonor de Urrutia Restrepo, known in the jet set as “Nany Urrutia,” with whom he has two children, including Carlos, a lawyer and economist who works directly for President Santos.

-Matt Bewig

 

Official Biography

Santos le confía a uno de sus mejores amigos las relaciones con Estados Unidos (by Martha Maya, La Silla Vacía)

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Overview

The fifth largest US trading partner and the largest recipient of US aid in the Western Hemisphere, Colombia has a unique and close relationship with the United States. Its highest monetary value exports to the US are oil and coal, coffee and cocaine, and flowers. Just north of the Equator, Colombia is a beautiful country of varied ecologies, from Pacific beaches, Andean peaks of 18,000 ft, mountain plateaus and valleys, to the jungles of the Caribbean coast and Amazon Basin. Besieged by wealthy drug cartels with private armies, other paramilitaries and a large leftist insurgency in the 1990s, some called Colombia a failed state. Plan Colombia, begun in 2000 under President Clinton and continued under President Bush, has brought more than $5Billion in US aid to Colombia, mostly but not exclusively to the police and army. Intended to cut drug production and restore the national government’s control of the country over other armed groups, the success of Plan Colombia continues to be debated   But, this decade has seen increased stability and economic growth, reduced violence and weakening of armed opposition in Colombia.

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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Colombia occupies the northwest corner of South America. In Colombia the Andes separate into three principal ranges. The central range is the highest, with snowcapped volcanoes 18,000 feet high. These three ranges (or cordilleras) have encouraged regionalism and have made communications within the country slow and difficult. They also account for the more or less parallel development of several urban centers–an oddity in Latin American countries, where almost invariably a single vast metropolitan area dominates the national political, economic, and cultural life.

           
The country's three principal cities, Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali, all lie in the mountainous western part of Colombia. The Oriente, the vast eastern plains of llanos of Colombia, comprises about two thirds of the country's territory but contains less than 5% of the population, mostly Indians living in Colombia’s Amazon areas.
 
Population: 45.0 million
 
Religions: Catholic 80%, Protestant 13.5%, Spiritist 1.0%, Baha’i 0.2% Muslim 0.002%, Jewish 0.002%, non-religious 2.1%.
 
Ethnic Groups: mestizo 58%, white 20%, mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Amerindian 3%, Amerindian 1%
 
Languages: Spanish (official) 80.3%, Wayuu 0.3%, Páez 0.2%, Vlax Romani 0.2%, Emberá language cluster (Northern, Baudó, Catío, Chamí, Tadó) 0.1%, Arhauco 0.03%, Ticuna 0.02%, Cogui 0.02%. There are 80 living languages in Colombia.
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History

Spain discovered Colombia in the early 1500s and established its first settlement at Santa Marta in 1525. In 1717, the Viceroyalty of New Granada (Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, and Panama) declared Santa Marta, now Bogotá, as the capital of the region. Almost a century later, intense conflict over the intended power of the central government divided the people into federalists and centralists, causing a period of instability. 

 
By 1810, the fall of southern Spain and the dissolving of the Spanish Supreme Central Junta at the hands of Napoleon led to declarations of independence by Ecuador, Gran Colombia, Venezuela, and Paraguay. The presence of newly independent countries with no previous history of self-sovereignty helped explain the lack of political unity, unrest among cities and towns, and eventually a bloody civil war. By 1815, a large Spanish force led by Pablo Morillo arrived in New Granada and retook control of the region.
 
Simón Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander, leaders of resistance juntas in South America, slowly regained New Granada from the Spaniards through military success in Venezuela. Bolivar later summoned the Congress of Angostura that formally established Gran Colombia, while also electing himself first president of Gran Colombia.   After numerous name changes, beginning with the 1830’s Federation of Gran Colombia to 1863’s United States of Colombia, the country decided in 1886 its current name: Republic of Colombia. 
 
However, two political groups arose in the late 19th century based on the differing ideologies of Bolívar and Santander. Followers of Bolívar formed the Conservative Party, which prioritized strong centralized government, alliance with the Roman Catholic Church, and minimal privatization. Santender’s supporters wanted a decentralized government, state control of education and civil matters, and greater voter suffrage. The political divergence would have great implications for the next century. 
 
Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, Colombia experienced widespread conflict. One civil war, the Thousand Days War (1899-1902), resulted in 100,000 deaths, while “La Violencia” of 1948-1958 cost up to 300,000 lives.   The unrest built up to a military coup in 1953 that toppled a conservative government and proclaimed General Gustavo Rojas as the leader. However, his undemocratic rule and open repression provoked the military to overthrow him as well, thus leading to the installation of a provisional government.
 
In July 1957, former presidents of both Conservative and Liberal parties issued the “Declaration of Stiges,” which established a “National Front.” The National Front decided that the Liberal and Conservative parties would govern jointly, with the presidency alternating between them every four years for sixteen years. The conclusion of the agreement culminated in marginal improvements because of the contradicting goals between the two parties. 
 
In 1974, an urban guerrilla group called April 19 Movement (M-19) accused the state of holding fraudulent elections. The rise of the terrorist group garnered attention from established revolutionary terrorist organizations like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) because they successfully stole Simon Bolívar’s sword, a national treasure. The presence of these terrorist organizations helped then-President Julio César Turbay implement a security policy that caused numerous accusations of military human rights abuses. By 1984 the government had secured ceasefires with FARC and M-19. The ceasefire lasted barely a year because guerrilla members felt betrayed by governmental threats and assaults.
 
Consequently, the Colombian government has been threatened by FARC activity ever since. In 1982, FARC held its Seventh Guerilla Conference, where they decided to place groups of FARC militants near urban areas in order to gain influence and seize power. Later, they formed a political wing called the Patriotic Union. This political group failed because of disagreement with FARC’s militant strategy, as they preferred political processes for reform. 
 
The shaky Colombian economy proved conducive to the development of illegal drug trade, thereby creating a contentious relationship between guerrillas and newly established wealthy drug lords. Consequently, presidential administrations since the 1980s have faced great challenges in monitoring guerrillas, paramilitaries, and drug lords. For example, narcoterrorists assassinated three presidential candidates in the 1990 election before César Gaviria was elected in 1990. In 1993, a police shootout killed Medellín cartel leader, Pablo Escobar, which broke up the cartel into many smaller drug trafficking organizations. 
 
The M-19 guerrilla group and other guerrilla groups managed to achieve peace agreements with President Gaviria that led to the election of a Constituent Assembly of Colombia, which passed a constitution in 1991. The Constitution brought numerous institutional and legal reforms based on more modernist, humanist, democratic, and politically open ones than the Constitution of 1886. 
 
Ernesto Samper won the next election in 1994, however his presidential campaign faced great controversy because a large source of his campaign funding came from drug cartels. Due to his relationship with the cartel leaders, President Samper diverted attention away from governmental reform and spending, and instead directed money to assist drug lords. As a result, he pushed aside domestic reforms and halted national progress.
 
The 1998 presidential winner, conservative Andrés Pastrana, promised to resolve Colombia’s civil unrest, appease FARC and other terrorist organization, and to assist U.S. efforts to stop drug trafficking. President Pastrana negotiated a settlement that gave FARC a 42,000-square kilometer safe haven that Pastrana hoped would help build momentum to a peace agreement. However, FARC used the area for importing arms, exporting illegal drugs, and building up armed forces. After years of slow progress, Pastrana ended the peace talks. Despite his optimistic goals, the unemployment rate rose to more than 20%,.
 
Álvaro Uribe won the Colombian presidency in 2002. His presidency has been influenced by the U.S.-Colombia agreement “Plan Colombia,” which calls for promotion of peace, combating the narcotics industry, assisting the Colombian economy, improving human rights, and strengthening the democratic and social institutions of the country. Supporters claim the agreement has helped Colombia focus on national security, while also discussing issues of international trade, innovative ways of development, and judicial reformation. 
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History of U.S. Relations with Colombia

Until the Cold War and the rapid expansion of the cocaine trade, the US government had little direct role in Colombian affairs, with one exception. In November 1903, encouraged by President Theodore Roosevelt and supported by the US Navy, Panama declared its independence from Colombia. In two weeks, the US signed a treaty with the new government of Panama ceding the Panama Canal Zone to the US.

           
As Communist led insurgencies developed, and threatened American oil investments in the Colombian Amazon, Colombia became a Cold War battleground and its army received increased American military aid. Then, as cocaine became more popular in the US, Colombian drug cartels became more wealthy, powerful and violent, and drug money corrupted all Colombian institutions. Combating the cocaine trade and extraditing drug bosses from Colombia to the US became a major component of the War on Drugs, This decade, however, US efforts to suppress criminal organizations and armed revolution in Colombia have been taken to a higher level, both in terms of monetary assistance and in US/Colombian government coordination.
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Current U.S. Relations with Colombia

Noted Colombian-Americans:

Athletes:
Scott Gomez – In the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Scott Gomez became the first ever Latino NHL player in the 27th pick. He won two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils in the 1999-2000 season and the 2002-2003 season. 
 
Entertainment
Moisés Arias –He starred in the Disney show Hannah Montana as the character, Rico, a ten-year-old entrepreneur.
Ryan Cabrera –As a pop-rock artist, his album Take It All Away was certified twice platinum. He also famously dated Ashlee Simpson. 
John Leguizamo–A comedian, actor, and producer, he played the genie in the Emmy-award winning Arabian Nights and also acted in Moulin Rouge.
Wilmer Valderrama – He played Fez in the sitcom That 70’s Show and also hosted the MTV series Yo Momma
Alexa Vega –She played Carmen Cortez in the Spy Kids trilogy and also performed soundtracks for the movie. 
 
Public Service:
Will Jimeno – He is a Port Authority Police Officer who survived the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center after being underneath rubble for thirteen hours. 
 
Science:
George Zamka–As an astronaut for NASA, he piloted Space Shuttle Discovery in October 2007 to the International Space Station. 
 
 
Starting in 2000, the last year of the Clinton administration, US aid to Colombia has averaged more than $600 million a year, over 80% going to support the Colombian army and police. Plan Colombia was initiated by Colombian President Andrés Pastrana and originally conceived as having a large (45% of funding) economic development and institutional reform component. However, it was rewritten to better meet US anti-drug and counterinsurgency objectives before the US agreed to finance it. In addition to funding, the US has 800 military advisors working in Colombia along with 600 civilian contractors. However, these Americans have not seen combat, contrary to early critics’ predictions that Plan Colombia was the start of another Vietnam. In 2006, Colombia and the US signed the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, not yet ratified by the US Senate. For its support of US policies, in contrast to neighboring elected leftist governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, the US proclaims that Colombia is one of its strongest allies in Latin America
 
470,684 Colombians live in the U.S. They constitute the third largest immigrant group from Latin America, after Mexicans and Guatemalans. During the deep economic recession in Colombia during the 1970s,when unemployment rose to 25%, many Colombians immigrated illegally in search of work in the U.S. Some estimates place the undocumented Colombian population at 300,000 during this period. Colombian communities are common in states with large Spanish-speaking communities, such as New York, Connecticut, Florida, and California.
 
235,386 Americans visited Colombia in 2005. More Americans have been visiting Colombia every year since 2002, when 155,377 Americans traveled to the South American country.
 
348,388 Colombians visited the U.S. in 2006. The number of Colombians traveling to America has been increasing steadily in recent years, although there was a significant drop off in visitors between 2002 (321,439) and 2003 (280,259).
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Where Does the Money Flow

Legal imports from Colombia totaled $13.1billion in 2008, the fourth largest in Latin America after Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil. Within the time frame of 2004 to 2008, crude oil has increased from $2.6 billion to $5.9 billion, coal from $595 million to $1.7billion, coffee from $386 to $805 million and nursery stock/cut flowers $421 million to $516 million. Although estimates of the value of illegal drug imports are notoriously variable, using 2006 smuggling data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and 2006 pricing data from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, one can calculate (see below) cocaine imports from Colombia valued at $983 million in Colombian wholesale prices. Colombia is also a significant producer and supplier to the US market of opiates and marijuana.

                    
The US exported $11.4 Billion worth of goods and services to Colombia in 2008, resulting in an official trade deficit (not including illegal drugs) to Colombia of $1.7 billion. Within the time frame of 2004-2008, organic chemicals exports have increased from $604 million to $953million, computers/computer accessories from $339 million to $796 million, corn from $218 million to $690 million, and plastics from $206 million to $455 million.
 
Colombia received $561.1 million in aid from the U.S. in 2008. The largest recipient programs were the Andean Counterdrug Program ($465.0 million), Social Services and Protection for Especially Vulnerable People ($31.1 million), and Rule of Law and Human Rights ($23.2 million). The 2008 budget estimate decreased aid to $541.1 million, with a similar division of funds (the Andean Counterdrug Program funding decreased to $244.6 million, but the overall Peace and Security budget only dropped $50,000). The budget request for 2009 keeps funding around 2007 levels, at $542.9 million. The largest programs to receive funding will be the Andean Counterdrug Program ($329.6 million), Foreign Military Financing ($66.4 million), Social Services and Protection for Especially Vulnerable People ($35.0 million), and Rule of Law and Human Rights ($20.6 million).
 
 
Cocaine from Colombia–Volume and Profits
In its publication Cocaine Smuggling in 2006 (PDF), the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) estimates the amount of cocaine attempted to be shipped to the United States in 2006 at between 530 and 710 metric tons (metric ton = 1000kg). Elsewhere, ONCDP states that more than 90% of the cocaine imported into the US originates in Colombia (Colombia produces only about 60% of coca leaf, but has most of the labs that convert coca paste into cocaine). Multiplying the average estimate of shipment (620mt) by 90%, one arrives at an estimate of 558mt of cocaine leaving Colombia for the US. That times the wholesale price of cocaine in Colombia in 2006 from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its 2008 World Drug Report, $1,762 per kg, produces the $983 million figure. ONCDP reported that 234mt of cocaine was seized either in transit to the US market or at US arrival zones, leaving an estimated 324mt of cocaine that “got through.” Based on the UNODC reported 2006 wholesale price in the US of $30,500 per kg, the Colombian 90% after seizures had a US value of $8.9billion. Given that Colombian criminal organizations participate substantially in the smuggling process, a good portion of the nearly $9 Billion in added value also returns to Colombia.   Further profit ensues when the cocaine is sold to the retail consumer at $94 a gram, or $94 million a metric ton, per UNODC. Subtracting the 30 metric tons reported seized by ONCDP inside the US, cocaine imported from Colombia in 2006 had an estimated US retail value of $25.4billion. (Before one invests in Colombian cocaine, one should remember that the “markup” reflects the risks involved–arrest and prison, and theft and violence from other drug traffickers.)
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Controversies

U.S. and Colombia Agree to Allow Access to Colombian Military Bases

A military agreement between the United States and the Colombian government authorized U.S. access to seven of Colombia’s military bases. The United States defended the use of military bases by emphasizing sole utilization for combating Colombia’s drug trafficking. The agreement angered many South American leaders because they feared the possible implications of U.S. occupation. The leaders pointed to the long history of U.S. support for South American military coups. The U.S. Air Force released a budget request form that asked for $46 million dollars to expand facilities at the Colombian military bases.  The document also stated that the military can use the military bases to fight terrorism in addition to drug trafficking, adding ambiguity to how the United States will utilize the bases. The Colombian Council of State advised President Álavaro Uribe to establish procedures for entry, flying, and landing of U.S. planes because the current agreement does not specify these details. Another controversial portion of the published document grants immunity from prosecution to 800 U.S. troops and 600 U.S. contractors, which provoked the High Court to demand a renegotiation of these numbers. 
 
South American leaders such as Hugo Chávez of Venezuela have criticized the military agreement. He broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia and warned that the U.S. could use the bases for military attacks. Colombia and the United States responded to Brazil’s concerns by sending officials to meet with Brazil’s president Lula da Silva. The representatives explained that the bases will only be used for “internal problems of Colombia.”   Scholars like Cynthia Arson, director of the Latin American program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, criticized the manner in which the two countries reached the agreement, commenting that the secrecy of the negotiations helped provoke controversy. In addition, the military agreement comes at a questionable time as President Obama attempts to renew U.S.-Latin American relations through open diplomacy.
 
US Military Presence in Colombia a Threat to Brazil and the Amazon (by Dafne Melo and Luis Brasillino, Brazzil.com)
Colombia, U.S. Sign Basing Deal (Latin America Herald Tribune)
Concern at Nature of US Bases in Colombia (by Tom Hennigan, Irish Times)
 
 
Is Plan Colombia a Success?
The basic criticism of Plan Colombia is that despite the billions spent, cocaine production and supply to the US as reflected in US retail prices has remained steady, as documented at least through 2006. Critics offer varied explanations for this ineffectiveness: too military a solution, with insufficient social and economic components such as assistance in crop substitution; indiscriminate use of aerial spraying to eradicate coca; connections between portions of the army and allied paramilitaries and the drug trade; movement of coca production to new areas. Supporters of the Plan say it has put a significant dent in the cocaine trade, especially since 2007 (data is incomplete), as well as disbanding the drug cartels and reducing drug money corruption. Supporters also claim that Colombia has been transformed for the better in many other ways: economic growth, reduction in violence, demobilization of thousands of paramilitary and leftist guerrilla fighters, reduction in areas controlled by the leftist FARC, dismissal of hundreds of soldiers and officers tied to the paramilitaries and/or drug trade, new judicial units for protecting human rights, increased participation in national elections.
 
Rethink the Fight Against Cocaine (by Mark Schneider, Christian Science Monitor)
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Human Rights

Major sources of human rights violations spawn from illegal groups such as terrorist organizations. According to the Department of State, they are responsible for unlawful acts such as “political killings and kidnappings; physical violence; forced displacement; subornation and intimidation of judges, prosecutors, and witnesses; infringement on citizens' privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of movement; recruitment and use of child soldiers; and harassment, intimidation, and killings of human rights workers, journalists, teachers, and trade unionists.” Because of political tensions and military groups, political killings are still problematic.

 
Colombia’s president and its military high command ordered illegal groups and paramilitary members to demobilize. However, the State Department says that government security forces, noncommissioned officers, and senior officials violated this order by collaborating with illegal groups and paramilitary members in facilitating unlawful killings. Reports show that there have been corrupt dealings between local military officers and these illegal groups who refuse to demobilize. 
 
Prisons are overcrowded, corrupt and lack adequate funding and security. Police and military sometimes use prisons to torture and punish political enemies. According to the State Department, “the government arbitrarily detained hundreds of persons, particularly social leaders, labor activists, and human rights defenders.”   Additionally, victims who accused guards of torture could only use civilian courts with lesser punishments instead of military courts. 
 
Standard procedures for arrests have gone under significant change that says persons detained must face a judge within 36 hours of arrest to determine detention, formal charges must be stated within 30 days of arrest, and a trial must start within 90 days of detention. Previously, cases of crimes that were deemed serious could allow up to 360 days before a formal charge would be announced.
 
The entire judicial system has been hindered by threats and acts of violence. Judicial employees and witnesses have solicited multiple forms of protection from the Prosecutor General’s Office. Despite the Office’s witness protection program, many witnesses in criminal cases did not enter the program and remain vulnerable to threats of violence. 
 
Colombian law provides freedom of speech and of the press. Generally, the main sources of media such as television and print, run without government interference. There have only been a few occasions where government forces or corrupt officials harass journalists through intimidation and violence.
 
Internet freedom is unrestricted; people can engage in peaceful expressions of view via the Internet, including by e-mail. 
 
Freedom of peaceful assembly is theoretically unrestricted by the government, but in practice, threats and acts of violence by illegal groups limits the freedom of assembly. 
 
One major problem in Colombia is the internal displacement of people. Laws provide the freedom of movement within the country, however illegal groups and paramilitaries use “forced displacement to gain control over strategic or economically viable territory, weaken their opponents’ base of support, and undermine government control and authority,” according to the Department of State.   The report claims that FARC and ELN guerrillas displace thousands of villagers each month by threats of violence .The State Department reports that, “International organizations and civil society identified various factors driving continuing displacement including confrontations between security forces, terrorists, and new illegal groups, greater competition among illegal armed groups for resources, and threats and violence from new illegal groups.”
 
Women’s rights reman a troublesome issue for Colombia. While the law prohibits rape and spousal abuse, they still frequently occur. According to the National Institute for Legal Medicine and Forensic Science, which reported 8,836 cases of suspected sex crimes, including rape, in the first eight months of the year, indicated that many cases went unreported. The Department of State claims that “New illegal group members and guerrillas raped, sexually abused, and sometimes sexually mutilated women and children for fraternizing with the enemy, working as prostitutes, having sexual relations outside of marriage, or violating imposed codes of conduct or restrictions on dress. The ICBF provided psychosocial, medical, and legal support to victims of sexual violence.”
 
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Debate

Should the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement be Ratified?

Colombia and the US signed the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) in November, 2006, but it was not submitted to Congress until April 2008, at which time the House Democratic leadership postponed a vote on the CTPA effectively until 2009. The main impacts of the CTPA would be to reduce Colombian tariffs on US exports, increasing especially agricultural exports, and to facilitate US investment in Colombia, especially in clothing manufacturing and financial services. For a detailed analysis of CPTA impact, sector-by-sector, see US Trade Representative Report. Supporters of CTPA portray it as a win-win agreement, helping the US economy by eliminating barriers to exports and helping the Colombian economy by stimulating job creating investment. They further argue that we should be rewarding our Colombian ally, and thereby opposing the alternative model of economic development promoted by Venezuela. Opponents to CTPA, for instance the AFL-CIO, argue that despite the labor rights in Colombia’s laws Colombia is “the most dangerous place in the world to be a union member”, and that CTPA will lead to an outsourcing of US jobs.
Debate
The Colombia FTA: A Less Attractive Face for Trade? (by Jennifer Acosta, Council on Hemispheric Affairs)
Don't Let Progress Fall Victim to D.C. (by James M. Roberts, The Heritage Foundation)
Colombia FTA Is a Lose-Lose for Workers (by Corinne Ramey, RaceWire)
Bush's Phony Free Trade Agreement (by Cliff Kincaid, RevolutionRadio.org)
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Past Ambassadors

The Ambassador proceeding Brownfield from 2003 to 2007 was William B. Wood, a thirty-year Foreign Service veteran with previous diplomatic postings in Europe and Latin America. Preceding his service in Colombia, he was Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs from 1998 to 2002, with responsibility for US policy toward the United Nations and other multilateral organizations. From Colombia, Wood moved on to become Ambassador to Afghanistan. 

 
The 3rd Ambassador to Gran Colombia, then including what are now the nations of Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela as well as Colombia, in 1828-9, was William Henry Harrison, the distinguished General and Senator, and later the 9th President of the United States..Harrison was also the shortest-serving President, dying exactly one month after his inauguration in 1841. 
 
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Colombia's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Urrutia, Carlos

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia last fall sent a new ambassador to the U.S., a childhood friend who has no diplomatic experience but has substantial international business expertise. Carlos Urrutia was appointed ambassador on September 5, 2012, succeeding Gabriel Silva, who said he resigned after only two years in Washington because he had “fulfilled” his primary mission of achieving ratification of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. Urrutia formally presented his credentials to President Barack Obama on September 19, 2012.  

 

Born circa 1950, Carlos Urrutia-Valenzuela was one of three children born to a wealthy and prominent Bogotá family, son of Carlos Urrutia Holguín and Maria Teresa Valenzuela. Urrutia graduated high school in the U.S. in 1968 and began his undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University from 1968 to 1970, returning to Colombia to finish his law degree at the Universidad de los Andes in 1974.

 

Urrutia worked in the public sector from 1975 to 1977, first as secretary general of the Governorship of the Department of Cundinamarca until January 1977, and as secretary of finance of Cundinamarca from February 1977 to April 1977.

 

Urrutia spent his legal career at his father’s Bogotá firm of Brigard & Urrutia, the oldest law firm in Colombia, from May 1977 to 2012. He was made a partner in 1981, and was managing partner from 1999 to 2012. During his 35-year career there, Urrutia advised clients on commercial law, commercial transactions, energy projects, international financial transactions, litigation and arbitration.

 

Despite Urrutia’s lack of diplomatic experience, Santos has insisted that his childhood friend is a man “who has all the qualities to represent our country at this special moment” in its relations with the U.S. The closest Urrutia can come to claiming such experience rests on the fact that his uncle, Francisco Urrutia Holguín, was ambassador to neighboring Venezuela in the early 1950s and ambassador to the United Nations between 1953 and 1957.

 

A wealthy man who has his clothes tailored in London, Urrutia showed his support for Santos’ 2010 presidential run even before the campaign began. In February 2010 Urrutia organized a fundraiser at the elite Bogotá Club San Andrés, to which the price of admission was between 600,000 and 1,200,000 pesos per person ($310-$620) and 8 million pesos ($4,133) per company.

 

Urrutia is a panel member on the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes’panel of arbitrators. He has also been a member of several boards of directors of Colombian companies, including Allianz Colseguros S.A.; Ladrillera Santafe S.A.; 3M Colombia S.A.; Leo Burnett Colombia S.A.; Dividendo por Colombia, a Colombian non-profit affiliated with United Way; and Cámara de Comercio Colombo Francesa (French-Colombian Chamber of Commerce). 

 

An associate member of the American Bar Association and International Bar Association, in addition to his native Spanish, Urrutia speaks fluent English and French.

 

Urrutia is married to Leonor de Urrutia Restrepo, known in the jet set as “Nany Urrutia,” with whom he has two children, including Carlos, a lawyer and economist who works directly for President Santos.

-Matt Bewig

 

Official Biography

Santos le confía a uno de sus mejores amigos las relaciones con Estados Unidos (by Martha Maya, La Silla Vacía)

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Colombia's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Colombia

McKinley, P. Michael
ambassador-image

Peter Michael McKinley served as the United States Ambassador to Peru from June 28, 2007, until 2010. On August 5, 2010, he took over as ambassador to Colombia.

 
McKinley was born in Venezuela and grew up in Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and the United States. He earned his bachelor's degree from Southampton University in England and a master's and doctorate from Oxford University. He joined the Foreign Service in 1982 and has had assignments in Bolivia (1983-1985), three tours in Washington (1985-1990), and in the US Embassy London (1990-1994).
 
From 1994 and 2001, he was Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’ Affaires at US embassies in Mozambique, Uganda, and Belgium. From 2001-2004, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. He then served as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’ Affaires at the US Mission to the European Union in Brussels from 2004 to 2007.
 
 
McKinley and his wife, Fatima Salces Arces, have three children. McKinley speaks Spanish, Portuguese and French.

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President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia last fall sent a new ambassador to the U.S., a childhood friend who has no diplomatic experience but has substantial international business expertise. Carlos Urrutia was appointed ambassador on September 5, 2012, succeeding Gabriel Silva, who said he resigned after only two years in Washington because he had “fulfilled” his primary mission of achieving ratification of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. Urrutia formally presented his credentials to President Barack Obama on September 19, 2012.  

 

Born circa 1950, Carlos Urrutia-Valenzuela was one of three children born to a wealthy and prominent Bogotá family, son of Carlos Urrutia Holguín and Maria Teresa Valenzuela. Urrutia graduated high school in the U.S. in 1968 and began his undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University from 1968 to 1970, returning to Colombia to finish his law degree at the Universidad de los Andes in 1974.

 

Urrutia worked in the public sector from 1975 to 1977, first as secretary general of the Governorship of the Department of Cundinamarca until January 1977, and as secretary of finance of Cundinamarca from February 1977 to April 1977.

 

Urrutia spent his legal career at his father’s Bogotá firm of Brigard & Urrutia, the oldest law firm in Colombia, from May 1977 to 2012. He was made a partner in 1981, and was managing partner from 1999 to 2012. During his 35-year career there, Urrutia advised clients on commercial law, commercial transactions, energy projects, international financial transactions, litigation and arbitration.

 

Despite Urrutia’s lack of diplomatic experience, Santos has insisted that his childhood friend is a man “who has all the qualities to represent our country at this special moment” in its relations with the U.S. The closest Urrutia can come to claiming such experience rests on the fact that his uncle, Francisco Urrutia Holguín, was ambassador to neighboring Venezuela in the early 1950s and ambassador to the United Nations between 1953 and 1957.

 

A wealthy man who has his clothes tailored in London, Urrutia showed his support for Santos’ 2010 presidential run even before the campaign began. In February 2010 Urrutia organized a fundraiser at the elite Bogotá Club San Andrés, to which the price of admission was between 600,000 and 1,200,000 pesos per person ($310-$620) and 8 million pesos ($4,133) per company.

 

Urrutia is a panel member on the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes’panel of arbitrators. He has also been a member of several boards of directors of Colombian companies, including Allianz Colseguros S.A.; Ladrillera Santafe S.A.; 3M Colombia S.A.; Leo Burnett Colombia S.A.; Dividendo por Colombia, a Colombian non-profit affiliated with United Way; and Cámara de Comercio Colombo Francesa (French-Colombian Chamber of Commerce). 

 

An associate member of the American Bar Association and International Bar Association, in addition to his native Spanish, Urrutia speaks fluent English and French.

 

Urrutia is married to Leonor de Urrutia Restrepo, known in the jet set as “Nany Urrutia,” with whom he has two children, including Carlos, a lawyer and economist who works directly for President Santos.

-Matt Bewig

 

Official Biography

Santos le confía a uno de sus mejores amigos las relaciones con Estados Unidos (by Martha Maya, La Silla Vacía)

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Overview

The fifth largest US trading partner and the largest recipient of US aid in the Western Hemisphere, Colombia has a unique and close relationship with the United States. Its highest monetary value exports to the US are oil and coal, coffee and cocaine, and flowers. Just north of the Equator, Colombia is a beautiful country of varied ecologies, from Pacific beaches, Andean peaks of 18,000 ft, mountain plateaus and valleys, to the jungles of the Caribbean coast and Amazon Basin. Besieged by wealthy drug cartels with private armies, other paramilitaries and a large leftist insurgency in the 1990s, some called Colombia a failed state. Plan Colombia, begun in 2000 under President Clinton and continued under President Bush, has brought more than $5Billion in US aid to Colombia, mostly but not exclusively to the police and army. Intended to cut drug production and restore the national government’s control of the country over other armed groups, the success of Plan Colombia continues to be debated   But, this decade has seen increased stability and economic growth, reduced violence and weakening of armed opposition in Colombia.

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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Colombia occupies the northwest corner of South America. In Colombia the Andes separate into three principal ranges. The central range is the highest, with snowcapped volcanoes 18,000 feet high. These three ranges (or cordilleras) have encouraged regionalism and have made communications within the country slow and difficult. They also account for the more or less parallel development of several urban centers–an oddity in Latin American countries, where almost invariably a single vast metropolitan area dominates the national political, economic, and cultural life.

           
The country's three principal cities, Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali, all lie in the mountainous western part of Colombia. The Oriente, the vast eastern plains of llanos of Colombia, comprises about two thirds of the country's territory but contains less than 5% of the population, mostly Indians living in Colombia’s Amazon areas.
 
Population: 45.0 million
 
Religions: Catholic 80%, Protestant 13.5%, Spiritist 1.0%, Baha’i 0.2% Muslim 0.002%, Jewish 0.002%, non-religious 2.1%.
 
Ethnic Groups: mestizo 58%, white 20%, mulatto 14%, black 4%, mixed black-Amerindian 3%, Amerindian 1%
 
Languages: Spanish (official) 80.3%, Wayuu 0.3%, Páez 0.2%, Vlax Romani 0.2%, Emberá language cluster (Northern, Baudó, Catío, Chamí, Tadó) 0.1%, Arhauco 0.03%, Ticuna 0.02%, Cogui 0.02%. There are 80 living languages in Colombia.
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History

Spain discovered Colombia in the early 1500s and established its first settlement at Santa Marta in 1525. In 1717, the Viceroyalty of New Granada (Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, and Panama) declared Santa Marta, now Bogotá, as the capital of the region. Almost a century later, intense conflict over the intended power of the central government divided the people into federalists and centralists, causing a period of instability. 

 
By 1810, the fall of southern Spain and the dissolving of the Spanish Supreme Central Junta at the hands of Napoleon led to declarations of independence by Ecuador, Gran Colombia, Venezuela, and Paraguay. The presence of newly independent countries with no previous history of self-sovereignty helped explain the lack of political unity, unrest among cities and towns, and eventually a bloody civil war. By 1815, a large Spanish force led by Pablo Morillo arrived in New Granada and retook control of the region.
 
Simón Bolívar and Francisco de Paula Santander, leaders of resistance juntas in South America, slowly regained New Granada from the Spaniards through military success in Venezuela. Bolivar later summoned the Congress of Angostura that formally established Gran Colombia, while also electing himself first president of Gran Colombia.   After numerous name changes, beginning with the 1830’s Federation of Gran Colombia to 1863’s United States of Colombia, the country decided in 1886 its current name: Republic of Colombia. 
 
However, two political groups arose in the late 19th century based on the differing ideologies of Bolívar and Santander. Followers of Bolívar formed the Conservative Party, which prioritized strong centralized government, alliance with the Roman Catholic Church, and minimal privatization. Santender’s supporters wanted a decentralized government, state control of education and civil matters, and greater voter suffrage. The political divergence would have great implications for the next century. 
 
Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, Colombia experienced widespread conflict. One civil war, the Thousand Days War (1899-1902), resulted in 100,000 deaths, while “La Violencia” of 1948-1958 cost up to 300,000 lives.   The unrest built up to a military coup in 1953 that toppled a conservative government and proclaimed General Gustavo Rojas as the leader. However, his undemocratic rule and open repression provoked the military to overthrow him as well, thus leading to the installation of a provisional government.
 
In July 1957, former presidents of both Conservative and Liberal parties issued the “Declaration of Stiges,” which established a “National Front.” The National Front decided that the Liberal and Conservative parties would govern jointly, with the presidency alternating between them every four years for sixteen years. The conclusion of the agreement culminated in marginal improvements because of the contradicting goals between the two parties. 
 
In 1974, an urban guerrilla group called April 19 Movement (M-19) accused the state of holding fraudulent elections. The rise of the terrorist group garnered attention from established revolutionary terrorist organizations like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) because they successfully stole Simon Bolívar’s sword, a national treasure. The presence of these terrorist organizations helped then-President Julio César Turbay implement a security policy that caused numerous accusations of military human rights abuses. By 1984 the government had secured ceasefires with FARC and M-19. The ceasefire lasted barely a year because guerrilla members felt betrayed by governmental threats and assaults.
 
Consequently, the Colombian government has been threatened by FARC activity ever since. In 1982, FARC held its Seventh Guerilla Conference, where they decided to place groups of FARC militants near urban areas in order to gain influence and seize power. Later, they formed a political wing called the Patriotic Union. This political group failed because of disagreement with FARC’s militant strategy, as they preferred political processes for reform. 
 
The shaky Colombian economy proved conducive to the development of illegal drug trade, thereby creating a contentious relationship between guerrillas and newly established wealthy drug lords. Consequently, presidential administrations since the 1980s have faced great challenges in monitoring guerrillas, paramilitaries, and drug lords. For example, narcoterrorists assassinated three presidential candidates in the 1990 election before César Gaviria was elected in 1990. In 1993, a police shootout killed Medellín cartel leader, Pablo Escobar, which broke up the cartel into many smaller drug trafficking organizations. 
 
The M-19 guerrilla group and other guerrilla groups managed to achieve peace agreements with President Gaviria that led to the election of a Constituent Assembly of Colombia, which passed a constitution in 1991. The Constitution brought numerous institutional and legal reforms based on more modernist, humanist, democratic, and politically open ones than the Constitution of 1886. 
 
Ernesto Samper won the next election in 1994, however his presidential campaign faced great controversy because a large source of his campaign funding came from drug cartels. Due to his relationship with the cartel leaders, President Samper diverted attention away from governmental reform and spending, and instead directed money to assist drug lords. As a result, he pushed aside domestic reforms and halted national progress.
 
The 1998 presidential winner, conservative Andrés Pastrana, promised to resolve Colombia’s civil unrest, appease FARC and other terrorist organization, and to assist U.S. efforts to stop drug trafficking. President Pastrana negotiated a settlement that gave FARC a 42,000-square kilometer safe haven that Pastrana hoped would help build momentum to a peace agreement. However, FARC used the area for importing arms, exporting illegal drugs, and building up armed forces. After years of slow progress, Pastrana ended the peace talks. Despite his optimistic goals, the unemployment rate rose to more than 20%,.
 
Álvaro Uribe won the Colombian presidency in 2002. His presidency has been influenced by the U.S.-Colombia agreement “Plan Colombia,” which calls for promotion of peace, combating the narcotics industry, assisting the Colombian economy, improving human rights, and strengthening the democratic and social institutions of the country. Supporters claim the agreement has helped Colombia focus on national security, while also discussing issues of international trade, innovative ways of development, and judicial reformation. 
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History of U.S. Relations with Colombia

Until the Cold War and the rapid expansion of the cocaine trade, the US government had little direct role in Colombian affairs, with one exception. In November 1903, encouraged by President Theodore Roosevelt and supported by the US Navy, Panama declared its independence from Colombia. In two weeks, the US signed a treaty with the new government of Panama ceding the Panama Canal Zone to the US.

           
As Communist led insurgencies developed, and threatened American oil investments in the Colombian Amazon, Colombia became a Cold War battleground and its army received increased American military aid. Then, as cocaine became more popular in the US, Colombian drug cartels became more wealthy, powerful and violent, and drug money corrupted all Colombian institutions. Combating the cocaine trade and extraditing drug bosses from Colombia to the US became a major component of the War on Drugs, This decade, however, US efforts to suppress criminal organizations and armed revolution in Colombia have been taken to a higher level, both in terms of monetary assistance and in US/Colombian government coordination.
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Current U.S. Relations with Colombia

Noted Colombian-Americans:

Athletes:
Scott Gomez – In the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Scott Gomez became the first ever Latino NHL player in the 27th pick. He won two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils in the 1999-2000 season and the 2002-2003 season. 
 
Entertainment
Moisés Arias –He starred in the Disney show Hannah Montana as the character, Rico, a ten-year-old entrepreneur.
Ryan Cabrera –As a pop-rock artist, his album Take It All Away was certified twice platinum. He also famously dated Ashlee Simpson. 
John Leguizamo–A comedian, actor, and producer, he played the genie in the Emmy-award winning Arabian Nights and also acted in Moulin Rouge.
Wilmer Valderrama – He played Fez in the sitcom That 70’s Show and also hosted the MTV series Yo Momma
Alexa Vega –She played Carmen Cortez in the Spy Kids trilogy and also performed soundtracks for the movie. 
 
Public Service:
Will Jimeno – He is a Port Authority Police Officer who survived the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center after being underneath rubble for thirteen hours. 
 
Science:
George Zamka–As an astronaut for NASA, he piloted Space Shuttle Discovery in October 2007 to the International Space Station. 
 
 
Starting in 2000, the last year of the Clinton administration, US aid to Colombia has averaged more than $600 million a year, over 80% going to support the Colombian army and police. Plan Colombia was initiated by Colombian President Andrés Pastrana and originally conceived as having a large (45% of funding) economic development and institutional reform component. However, it was rewritten to better meet US anti-drug and counterinsurgency objectives before the US agreed to finance it. In addition to funding, the US has 800 military advisors working in Colombia along with 600 civilian contractors. However, these Americans have not seen combat, contrary to early critics’ predictions that Plan Colombia was the start of another Vietnam. In 2006, Colombia and the US signed the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, not yet ratified by the US Senate. For its support of US policies, in contrast to neighboring elected leftist governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, the US proclaims that Colombia is one of its strongest allies in Latin America
 
470,684 Colombians live in the U.S. They constitute the third largest immigrant group from Latin America, after Mexicans and Guatemalans. During the deep economic recession in Colombia during the 1970s,when unemployment rose to 25%, many Colombians immigrated illegally in search of work in the U.S. Some estimates place the undocumented Colombian population at 300,000 during this period. Colombian communities are common in states with large Spanish-speaking communities, such as New York, Connecticut, Florida, and California.
 
235,386 Americans visited Colombia in 2005. More Americans have been visiting Colombia every year since 2002, when 155,377 Americans traveled to the South American country.
 
348,388 Colombians visited the U.S. in 2006. The number of Colombians traveling to America has been increasing steadily in recent years, although there was a significant drop off in visitors between 2002 (321,439) and 2003 (280,259).
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Where Does the Money Flow

Legal imports from Colombia totaled $13.1billion in 2008, the fourth largest in Latin America after Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil. Within the time frame of 2004 to 2008, crude oil has increased from $2.6 billion to $5.9 billion, coal from $595 million to $1.7billion, coffee from $386 to $805 million and nursery stock/cut flowers $421 million to $516 million. Although estimates of the value of illegal drug imports are notoriously variable, using 2006 smuggling data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and 2006 pricing data from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, one can calculate (see below) cocaine imports from Colombia valued at $983 million in Colombian wholesale prices. Colombia is also a significant producer and supplier to the US market of opiates and marijuana.

                    
The US exported $11.4 Billion worth of goods and services to Colombia in 2008, resulting in an official trade deficit (not including illegal drugs) to Colombia of $1.7 billion. Within the time frame of 2004-2008, organic chemicals exports have increased from $604 million to $953million, computers/computer accessories from $339 million to $796 million, corn from $218 million to $690 million, and plastics from $206 million to $455 million.
 
Colombia received $561.1 million in aid from the U.S. in 2008. The largest recipient programs were the Andean Counterdrug Program ($465.0 million), Social Services and Protection for Especially Vulnerable People ($31.1 million), and Rule of Law and Human Rights ($23.2 million). The 2008 budget estimate decreased aid to $541.1 million, with a similar division of funds (the Andean Counterdrug Program funding decreased to $244.6 million, but the overall Peace and Security budget only dropped $50,000). The budget request for 2009 keeps funding around 2007 levels, at $542.9 million. The largest programs to receive funding will be the Andean Counterdrug Program ($329.6 million), Foreign Military Financing ($66.4 million), Social Services and Protection for Especially Vulnerable People ($35.0 million), and Rule of Law and Human Rights ($20.6 million).
 
 
Cocaine from Colombia–Volume and Profits
In its publication Cocaine Smuggling in 2006 (PDF), the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) estimates the amount of cocaine attempted to be shipped to the United States in 2006 at between 530 and 710 metric tons (metric ton = 1000kg). Elsewhere, ONCDP states that more than 90% of the cocaine imported into the US originates in Colombia (Colombia produces only about 60% of coca leaf, but has most of the labs that convert coca paste into cocaine). Multiplying the average estimate of shipment (620mt) by 90%, one arrives at an estimate of 558mt of cocaine leaving Colombia for the US. That times the wholesale price of cocaine in Colombia in 2006 from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its 2008 World Drug Report, $1,762 per kg, produces the $983 million figure. ONCDP reported that 234mt of cocaine was seized either in transit to the US market or at US arrival zones, leaving an estimated 324mt of cocaine that “got through.” Based on the UNODC reported 2006 wholesale price in the US of $30,500 per kg, the Colombian 90% after seizures had a US value of $8.9billion. Given that Colombian criminal organizations participate substantially in the smuggling process, a good portion of the nearly $9 Billion in added value also returns to Colombia.   Further profit ensues when the cocaine is sold to the retail consumer at $94 a gram, or $94 million a metric ton, per UNODC. Subtracting the 30 metric tons reported seized by ONCDP inside the US, cocaine imported from Colombia in 2006 had an estimated US retail value of $25.4billion. (Before one invests in Colombian cocaine, one should remember that the “markup” reflects the risks involved–arrest and prison, and theft and violence from other drug traffickers.)
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Controversies

U.S. and Colombia Agree to Allow Access to Colombian Military Bases

A military agreement between the United States and the Colombian government authorized U.S. access to seven of Colombia’s military bases. The United States defended the use of military bases by emphasizing sole utilization for combating Colombia’s drug trafficking. The agreement angered many South American leaders because they feared the possible implications of U.S. occupation. The leaders pointed to the long history of U.S. support for South American military coups. The U.S. Air Force released a budget request form that asked for $46 million dollars to expand facilities at the Colombian military bases.  The document also stated that the military can use the military bases to fight terrorism in addition to drug trafficking, adding ambiguity to how the United States will utilize the bases. The Colombian Council of State advised President Álavaro Uribe to establish procedures for entry, flying, and landing of U.S. planes because the current agreement does not specify these details. Another controversial portion of the published document grants immunity from prosecution to 800 U.S. troops and 600 U.S. contractors, which provoked the High Court to demand a renegotiation of these numbers. 
 
South American leaders such as Hugo Chávez of Venezuela have criticized the military agreement. He broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia and warned that the U.S. could use the bases for military attacks. Colombia and the United States responded to Brazil’s concerns by sending officials to meet with Brazil’s president Lula da Silva. The representatives explained that the bases will only be used for “internal problems of Colombia.”   Scholars like Cynthia Arson, director of the Latin American program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, criticized the manner in which the two countries reached the agreement, commenting that the secrecy of the negotiations helped provoke controversy. In addition, the military agreement comes at a questionable time as President Obama attempts to renew U.S.-Latin American relations through open diplomacy.
 
US Military Presence in Colombia a Threat to Brazil and the Amazon (by Dafne Melo and Luis Brasillino, Brazzil.com)
Colombia, U.S. Sign Basing Deal (Latin America Herald Tribune)
Concern at Nature of US Bases in Colombia (by Tom Hennigan, Irish Times)
 
 
Is Plan Colombia a Success?
The basic criticism of Plan Colombia is that despite the billions spent, cocaine production and supply to the US as reflected in US retail prices has remained steady, as documented at least through 2006. Critics offer varied explanations for this ineffectiveness: too military a solution, with insufficient social and economic components such as assistance in crop substitution; indiscriminate use of aerial spraying to eradicate coca; connections between portions of the army and allied paramilitaries and the drug trade; movement of coca production to new areas. Supporters of the Plan say it has put a significant dent in the cocaine trade, especially since 2007 (data is incomplete), as well as disbanding the drug cartels and reducing drug money corruption. Supporters also claim that Colombia has been transformed for the better in many other ways: economic growth, reduction in violence, demobilization of thousands of paramilitary and leftist guerrilla fighters, reduction in areas controlled by the leftist FARC, dismissal of hundreds of soldiers and officers tied to the paramilitaries and/or drug trade, new judicial units for protecting human rights, increased participation in national elections.
 
Rethink the Fight Against Cocaine (by Mark Schneider, Christian Science Monitor)
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Human Rights

Major sources of human rights violations spawn from illegal groups such as terrorist organizations. According to the Department of State, they are responsible for unlawful acts such as “political killings and kidnappings; physical violence; forced displacement; subornation and intimidation of judges, prosecutors, and witnesses; infringement on citizens' privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of movement; recruitment and use of child soldiers; and harassment, intimidation, and killings of human rights workers, journalists, teachers, and trade unionists.” Because of political tensions and military groups, political killings are still problematic.

 
Colombia’s president and its military high command ordered illegal groups and paramilitary members to demobilize. However, the State Department says that government security forces, noncommissioned officers, and senior officials violated this order by collaborating with illegal groups and paramilitary members in facilitating unlawful killings. Reports show that there have been corrupt dealings between local military officers and these illegal groups who refuse to demobilize. 
 
Prisons are overcrowded, corrupt and lack adequate funding and security. Police and military sometimes use prisons to torture and punish political enemies. According to the State Department, “the government arbitrarily detained hundreds of persons, particularly social leaders, labor activists, and human rights defenders.”   Additionally, victims who accused guards of torture could only use civilian courts with lesser punishments instead of military courts. 
 
Standard procedures for arrests have gone under significant change that says persons detained must face a judge within 36 hours of arrest to determine detention, formal charges must be stated within 30 days of arrest, and a trial must start within 90 days of detention. Previously, cases of crimes that were deemed serious could allow up to 360 days before a formal charge would be announced.
 
The entire judicial system has been hindered by threats and acts of violence. Judicial employees and witnesses have solicited multiple forms of protection from the Prosecutor General’s Office. Despite the Office’s witness protection program, many witnesses in criminal cases did not enter the program and remain vulnerable to threats of violence. 
 
Colombian law provides freedom of speech and of the press. Generally, the main sources of media such as television and print, run without government interference. There have only been a few occasions where government forces or corrupt officials harass journalists through intimidation and violence.
 
Internet freedom is unrestricted; people can engage in peaceful expressions of view via the Internet, including by e-mail. 
 
Freedom of peaceful assembly is theoretically unrestricted by the government, but in practice, threats and acts of violence by illegal groups limits the freedom of assembly. 
 
One major problem in Colombia is the internal displacement of people. Laws provide the freedom of movement within the country, however illegal groups and paramilitaries use “forced displacement to gain control over strategic or economically viable territory, weaken their opponents’ base of support, and undermine government control and authority,” according to the Department of State.   The report claims that FARC and ELN guerrillas displace thousands of villagers each month by threats of violence .The State Department reports that, “International organizations and civil society identified various factors driving continuing displacement including confrontations between security forces, terrorists, and new illegal groups, greater competition among illegal armed groups for resources, and threats and violence from new illegal groups.”
 
Women’s rights reman a troublesome issue for Colombia. While the law prohibits rape and spousal abuse, they still frequently occur. According to the National Institute for Legal Medicine and Forensic Science, which reported 8,836 cases of suspected sex crimes, including rape, in the first eight months of the year, indicated that many cases went unreported. The Department of State claims that “New illegal group members and guerrillas raped, sexually abused, and sometimes sexually mutilated women and children for fraternizing with the enemy, working as prostitutes, having sexual relations outside of marriage, or violating imposed codes of conduct or restrictions on dress. The ICBF provided psychosocial, medical, and legal support to victims of sexual violence.”
 
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Debate

Should the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement be Ratified?

Colombia and the US signed the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) in November, 2006, but it was not submitted to Congress until April 2008, at which time the House Democratic leadership postponed a vote on the CTPA effectively until 2009. The main impacts of the CTPA would be to reduce Colombian tariffs on US exports, increasing especially agricultural exports, and to facilitate US investment in Colombia, especially in clothing manufacturing and financial services. For a detailed analysis of CPTA impact, sector-by-sector, see US Trade Representative Report. Supporters of CTPA portray it as a win-win agreement, helping the US economy by eliminating barriers to exports and helping the Colombian economy by stimulating job creating investment. They further argue that we should be rewarding our Colombian ally, and thereby opposing the alternative model of economic development promoted by Venezuela. Opponents to CTPA, for instance the AFL-CIO, argue that despite the labor rights in Colombia’s laws Colombia is “the most dangerous place in the world to be a union member”, and that CTPA will lead to an outsourcing of US jobs.
Debate
The Colombia FTA: A Less Attractive Face for Trade? (by Jennifer Acosta, Council on Hemispheric Affairs)
Don't Let Progress Fall Victim to D.C. (by James M. Roberts, The Heritage Foundation)
Colombia FTA Is a Lose-Lose for Workers (by Corinne Ramey, RaceWire)
Bush's Phony Free Trade Agreement (by Cliff Kincaid, RevolutionRadio.org)
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Past Ambassadors

The Ambassador proceeding Brownfield from 2003 to 2007 was William B. Wood, a thirty-year Foreign Service veteran with previous diplomatic postings in Europe and Latin America. Preceding his service in Colombia, he was Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs from 1998 to 2002, with responsibility for US policy toward the United Nations and other multilateral organizations. From Colombia, Wood moved on to become Ambassador to Afghanistan. 

 
The 3rd Ambassador to Gran Colombia, then including what are now the nations of Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela as well as Colombia, in 1828-9, was William Henry Harrison, the distinguished General and Senator, and later the 9th President of the United States..Harrison was also the shortest-serving President, dying exactly one month after his inauguration in 1841. 
 
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Colombia's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Urrutia, Carlos

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia last fall sent a new ambassador to the U.S., a childhood friend who has no diplomatic experience but has substantial international business expertise. Carlos Urrutia was appointed ambassador on September 5, 2012, succeeding Gabriel Silva, who said he resigned after only two years in Washington because he had “fulfilled” his primary mission of achieving ratification of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. Urrutia formally presented his credentials to President Barack Obama on September 19, 2012.  

 

Born circa 1950, Carlos Urrutia-Valenzuela was one of three children born to a wealthy and prominent Bogotá family, son of Carlos Urrutia Holguín and Maria Teresa Valenzuela. Urrutia graduated high school in the U.S. in 1968 and began his undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University from 1968 to 1970, returning to Colombia to finish his law degree at the Universidad de los Andes in 1974.

 

Urrutia worked in the public sector from 1975 to 1977, first as secretary general of the Governorship of the Department of Cundinamarca until January 1977, and as secretary of finance of Cundinamarca from February 1977 to April 1977.

 

Urrutia spent his legal career at his father’s Bogotá firm of Brigard & Urrutia, the oldest law firm in Colombia, from May 1977 to 2012. He was made a partner in 1981, and was managing partner from 1999 to 2012. During his 35-year career there, Urrutia advised clients on commercial law, commercial transactions, energy projects, international financial transactions, litigation and arbitration.

 

Despite Urrutia’s lack of diplomatic experience, Santos has insisted that his childhood friend is a man “who has all the qualities to represent our country at this special moment” in its relations with the U.S. The closest Urrutia can come to claiming such experience rests on the fact that his uncle, Francisco Urrutia Holguín, was ambassador to neighboring Venezuela in the early 1950s and ambassador to the United Nations between 1953 and 1957.

 

A wealthy man who has his clothes tailored in London, Urrutia showed his support for Santos’ 2010 presidential run even before the campaign began. In February 2010 Urrutia organized a fundraiser at the elite Bogotá Club San Andrés, to which the price of admission was between 600,000 and 1,200,000 pesos per person ($310-$620) and 8 million pesos ($4,133) per company.

 

Urrutia is a panel member on the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes’panel of arbitrators. He has also been a member of several boards of directors of Colombian companies, including Allianz Colseguros S.A.; Ladrillera Santafe S.A.; 3M Colombia S.A.; Leo Burnett Colombia S.A.; Dividendo por Colombia, a Colombian non-profit affiliated with United Way; and Cámara de Comercio Colombo Francesa (French-Colombian Chamber of Commerce). 

 

An associate member of the American Bar Association and International Bar Association, in addition to his native Spanish, Urrutia speaks fluent English and French.

 

Urrutia is married to Leonor de Urrutia Restrepo, known in the jet set as “Nany Urrutia,” with whom he has two children, including Carlos, a lawyer and economist who works directly for President Santos.

-Matt Bewig

 

Official Biography

Santos le confía a uno de sus mejores amigos las relaciones con Estados Unidos (by Martha Maya, La Silla Vacía)

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Colombia's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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U.S. Ambassador to Colombia

McKinley, P. Michael
ambassador-image

Peter Michael McKinley served as the United States Ambassador to Peru from June 28, 2007, until 2010. On August 5, 2010, he took over as ambassador to Colombia.

 
McKinley was born in Venezuela and grew up in Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and the United States. He earned his bachelor's degree from Southampton University in England and a master's and doctorate from Oxford University. He joined the Foreign Service in 1982 and has had assignments in Bolivia (1983-1985), three tours in Washington (1985-1990), and in the US Embassy London (1990-1994).
 
From 1994 and 2001, he was Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’ Affaires at US embassies in Mozambique, Uganda, and Belgium. From 2001-2004, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. He then served as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’ Affaires at the US Mission to the European Union in Brussels from 2004 to 2007.
 
 
McKinley and his wife, Fatima Salces Arces, have three children. McKinley speaks Spanish, Portuguese and French.

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