In his seventh and final State of the Union address Tuesday night, U.S. President Barack Obama tried to wrap up his second and final term on an upbeat note. And he wasn’t just optimistic about the United States.
Colombia got a mention to the joint session of Congress. And although it was just a quick bullet point in a sprawling speech, the reference could point to closer collaboration in coming months between Obama and President Juan Manuel Santos.
In his speech, Obama laid out a long list of what he considers his administration’s achievements – reforming the country’s health care system, recovering from an economic recession, taking global action on climate change.
But the overall message was about looking forward into the future.
“America has been through big changes before,” he said. “Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the breaks on change.”
“And each time, we overcame those fears.”
Broadly, his roadmap for the future addressed four themes: economic opportunity, technological innovation, global security and political cooperation.
He addressed the third theme with this question: “How do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?”
“American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world – except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling,” he said. “Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right.”
This is where Colombia comes in.
“When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend upon.”
In February, President Santos will travel to the U.S. to meet with President Obama. The reunion’s timing commemorates the start of Plan Colombia, a multi-billion dollar military and economic aid package initiated in the late 1990s as part of the U.S. war on drugs.
But it also comes just weeks before the March deadline Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) agreed to in September for finalizing a peace deal.
Colombian ambassador to the United States Juan Carlos Pinzón stated to the press that a peace deal between the Colombian government and the world’s oldest active guerrilla could impact his country’s relationship with the U.S. “I think we will have a new version of Plan Colombia. We are already working on it,” he said.
According to Pinzón, the new plan will deal with “investment in marginalized parts of the country in the post-conflict era, the fight against organized crime and new issues like education, innovation and taking care of members of the armed forces.”
Former presidents Andrés Pastrana and Álvaro Uribe have also been asked to visit the White House in February.