Colombian President Iván Duque met with his U.S counterpart Joe Biden on Thursday, and first Latin American head of state to visit the White House under the Biden administration. The meeting between both leaders comes as Russia intensifies its bombing campaign against Ukraine and more than 2 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their country since the invasion was launched two weeks ago.
As president of a country that has offered protection status to 1.7 million Venezuelans of an estimated 6 million who have abandoned their country given the economic collapse of the oil-rich nation, President Duque before his meeting with Biden, lashed-out against the Venezuelan regime referring to Nicolás Maduro as “the Vladimir Putin of Latin America.”
Biden presented during a public portion of the meeting his objective to “sign a regional declaration of migration protection” within the Western Hemisphere for the ninth Summit of the Americas, that is scheduled for June in Los Angeles. Non-democratically elected governments in South and Central America will not be invited to participate.
President Duque also met with U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chairman of the SFRC Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. Menendez and Kaine unveiled new legislation that formally designates Colombia as a Major Non-NATO Ally.
Under U.S. law, a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) is offered to the U.S’s “closest partners with additional benefits in the areas of defense trade and security cooperation,” reads the official statement from the U.S Senate. The U.S. currently has 15 Major Non-NATO allies, including Japan, Qatar, Australia, Israel, and Philippines.
The new legislation also seeks to increase investments in Colombian businesses through the establishment of a new Colombian-American Enterprise Fund. The Fund is destined to help economic recovery in Colombia and reduce the United States’ reliance on Chinese supply chains.
Other key business and security sectors that will receive additional funding are human rights, labor rights, humanitarian assistance, rural development, opportunities for women entrepreneurs and members of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities.
“Today, we mark the beginning of a new chapter in the United States’ relationship with Colombia, one that reflects the immense complexities and challenges of the modern world rather than the ghosts of the past,” said Chairman Menendez. “This landmark legislation seeks to harness the wisdom of 200 years of diplomatic relations, and chart a path forward that recognizes Colombia’s chief significance as our most important ally in Latin America and its growing dynamism on the world stage,” he added.
President Biden expressed to Duque during their meeting in the Oval Office that he designated Colombia as a Major non-NATO ally within the North Atlantic Treaty. “Colombia is the lynchpin, in my view, to the whole hemisphere: North and South,” stated President Biden regarding the designation.
Countries that are designated Major non-NATO allies are not protected under the provisions of Article 5, that states: “An attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.” Allies are, however, granted preferential access to military and financial assets, counter-intelligence information, and contracts to bid on defense contracts.
In 2019, the U.S House of Representatives presented legislation to designate Ukraine as a Major non-NATO ally. The legislation was presented five years after Russia annexed Crimea.