Friends for what?

Friends for what? | OP-ED

The United States and Colombia are celebrating 200 years of bilateral relations. A friendship of convenience.


From time to time, here and there, political mouths open to preach lies. The United States and Colombia are old friends, flesh and blood, they repeat as a mantra of hemispheric politics. However, nobody makes it clear that this friendship is only in appearance, and only between governments, not people. It is a friendship of convenience and opportunity. In politics there are, if at all, allies or partners, never friends.

If friendship were real, if Colombia’s interests were truly important, episodes like the recent surrender of Dairo Antonio ‘Otoniel’ Usuga, one more among many high-ranking criminals who, upon leaving, left Colombia deceived, hurt, skeptical... would not occur.

The man will no longer have the opportunity to cite names of military and politicians, or facts, or anything hidden by paramilitary activity, where he was a general. Nothing. Total silence in the presence of an ocean of victims filled with pain and drained of their tears.

Everything he says can be used against him, but in secret, so nothing that links him to the political and economic classes ‘Otoniel’ made pacts with, associated with and defended.

The U.S. government only cares about the political impact of announcing that they have Latin American drug lords in their jails. They do not care about the 100,000 Americans who die every year from drug use.

The Colombian government, for its part, is motivated by a pat on the back, never genuine praise, the satisfaction of feeling that Washington has put its indulgences on every president in office.

They do not dare to think that, the U.S. government does not care about a single one of the 100,000 lives taken by psychotropic drugs, much less does it care about the tears, the pain, the tragedy of the thousands of Latin Americans killed in a war that frames the world of drug trafficking.

And yet, at least in our situation, it is assumed that exactly 200 years of bilateral relations should lead to a better deal, to true friendship.

With the extradition of ‘Otoniel,’ the United States was full of praise for the Colombian authorities because he was arrested. No one referred to the fact that the detainee surrendered voluntarily and peacefully.

But why so much recognition? It is as if they were force fed a pill that the world had to swallow, whether it wanted to or not.

In scenarios like this, it is easy to infer that the United States is interested in something more than catching a criminal. What? Perhaps facilities to install military bases from where to watch over Venezuelan oil? It could be…

Oil has been the engine of the most recent wars. In light of the conditions set by Venezuela to sell its crude oil to Washington, it is licit to think, based on experience, that the way is to get its hands on it, at any price. A price that, of course, could imply, without exaggeration, a Colombian-Venezuelan war that could allow the occupation of the Orinoco strip, full of oil, gas and other minerals.

Who would defend Venezuela? No one. Russia, almost in ruins, thousands and thousands of miles away, is not on the list. Neither is Iran. Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia? Ha.

To keep up appearances, Colombia would talk about doing a favor to a friend like Washington. Friendship is a powerful reason.

But, in the scenario of Colombia and the United States, considering the situation with ‘Otoniel’, among dozen others, it is worth asking: friends of what?

(*) Orlando Gamboa is a Colombian journalist, writer and political scientist with media experience in the United States, Colombia and Ecuador.


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