The United States is widely recognized as Colombia's closest ally and a powerful financial backer in the country's fight against drugs and violence. The relationship between the two countries began during the Reagan administration in the 1980s and was cemented in 2002, when Uribe gained support from the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress began providing more support for Colombia's fight against narcotics and, ultimately, terrorism. Support has included not only financial backing of Uribe's military efforts (including sales of equipment and arms and the arrival of U.S. mercenaries and army personnel to assist in eradication and antinarcotics campaigns, along with an extradition agreement that has sent thousands of traffickers to the United States) but also support of humanitarian and socioeconomic interests. Questions surrounding the war on drugs have emerged on many fronts, including, most recently, from environmental and human rights groups, as well as a number of former officials in both Colombia, Mexico and the United States, all calling for a reevaluation of this 40-year "war."
According to the U.S. Department of state, the United States is also the largest source of foreign direct investment in Colombia, particularly in regard to mining and hydrocarbon projects. In 2008, investment topped $10.6 billion; in 2009, it was estimated to be more than $9 billion.
President Santos, who has moved to distance himself publicly from the foreign relations policy of former president Uribe (under whom Santos served as minister of defense) is expected to maintain close ties with the United States. His government has resumed talks with the United States about a free trade agreement that has stalled numerous times in the U.S. Congress due to Colombia's poor record in human rights and widespread violence against labor unions.
Photo Caption: The Colombian embassy in Washington, D.C.
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