Trump to visit Colombia in December

By Arjun Harindranath September 2, 2018

US President Donald Trump will visit Colombia in December following the G20 Summit in Argentina. Although the dates have not been confirmed by the White House, President Iván Duque is expected to receive him towards the end of the year.

Trump had been expected to visit in April this year but cancelled the trip that had been scheduled to coincide with the Summit of the Americas in Peru. Citing the chemical weapons attack in Syria, Trump chose to forego his first trip to Colombia.

Through a statement by the Press Secretary, the White House confirmed that  President Trump “looks forward to discussing with the Duque administration opportunities for even greater collaboration on security, counter narcotics, and regional affairs.”

President Duque on the other hand said that the first encounter between the two “will be a key meeting to advance the fight against drug trafficking, transnational crime and strengthen trade relations and cooperation between the two nations.”

The issue of drug-trafficking will be a major order of the day; a matter which Trump has expressed his strong opinions on in the past. Colombia remains the largest cocaine-producing nation in the world and the fact hasn’t gone unnoticed by the current US administration.

Following the release of a report issued by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) that claimed cocaine production hit an all-time high in 2017, ONCDP’s acting director Jim Carroll said in a statement that “the steep upward trajectory is unnacceptable” and not in line with President Trump’s pledge to reduce fatalities in the US by cocaine overdose.

On this matter the two states are likely to find common ground as Duque himself campaigned on a hardline stance against the trade of narcotics and pledged to have the smuggling of illicit substances be removed as a political crime under the Constitution; the aim being, according to Duque, to prevent groups from using political ideology as a shield for the crime of drug trafficking. Duque has also promised a return to aerial spraying to destroy coca crops in order to reduce cocaine production.

The issue of Venezuela and the increasingly despotic Maduro regime will also likely feature among discussions between the two heads of state. President Trump has privately pressed for more aggressive options though Colombian President Duque has expressed reservations to a military solution to the problem of Maduro’s rule. Instead, Duque insists on maintaining diplomatic pressure on the regime, which includes Colombia’s recent withdrawal from the Latin American alliance UNASUR in protest of Maduro’s continued grip on power in Venezuela.

The US has also pledged to help more with the Venezuelan migrant crisis; a crisis which has now seen nearly a million people flee to Colombia in search of a better life, according to recent estimates by Migracíon Colombia.

The U.S. State Department is now providing an additional $56 million in aid to Venezuelan migrants. In additional assistance, the Department of Defense will also be sending the hospital ship USNS Comfort to the region.

President Trump’s visit won’t be an isolated one in the context of an alliance that both parties value greatly. This year alone has seen visits by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary General James Mathis. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley also made a short visit last month, heading the US delegation at President Duque’s inauguration.