WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing entitled, Reinvigorating U.S.-Colombia Relations. The witnesses for panel one included: The Honorable Brian A. Nichols, assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, The Honorable Todd D. Robinson, assistant secretary of State for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, and The Honorable Marcela Escobari, assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID.
On panel two, the witnesses included: Mr. Dan Restrepo, senior fellow at Center for American Progress, and Professor Celina B. Realuyo, adjunct professor at the George Washington University School of International Affairs.
Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“The United States has an enduring interest in a prosperous, democratic, and stable Western Hemisphere. Strong relations with Colombia are important to attain these goals.
“This year, we proudly celebrate 200 years of diplomatic relations, the 20th anniversary of Plan Colombia, and the 10th anniversary of our bilateral Trade Promotion Agreement.
“Our partnership has contributed to widespread economic growth and development, as well as safer and more secure communities, both in Colombia and the hemisphere at large.
“At the same time, Colombia’s homegrown democratic institutions have demonstrated extraordinary resilience in the face of multiple and simultaneous crises.
“Colombia’s internal security is under pressure due to flaws in the 2016 deal with the FARC and the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis created by the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
“Our Colombian allies need our support in confronting transnational criminal and terrorist organizations, and maintaining a credible deterrence against the rising security threats in the region.
“Equally concerning is the negative influence of malign state actors, such as Russia and China.
"Russian disinformation campaigns, and its export of sophisticated weapons and repressive practices to the Maduro regime, are a growing threat to the security of Colombia and the stability of northern South America.
“China has shown growing interest in the region, and Colombia’s neighbors have already suffered the consequences of China’s predatory practices.
“The United States should work with credible regional institutions, such as the Inter-American Development Bank, to unleash private sector solutions that fulfill the Colombian people’s growing expectations.
“Given its strategic location straddling the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Colombia can be a powerful ally in the race to secure critical supply chains.
“The Biden Administration should get serious about our partnership with Colombia or risk squandering the strategic gains of the last few decades.
“I welcome our witnesses today and look forward to hearing from you about these issues.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.