Luis Gilberto Murillo, the Colombian ambassador to the United States, has spoken about the “good health” of relations between the two countries. In a post on his Twitter account, Murillo shared a photograph of the recent visit of President Petro to his American counterpart. In the image, both presidents are smiling for press photographers.
Colombia-US, a Historic Alliance
Colombia has traditionally been an ally of the US. A strategic partner in both trade and politics, the change of government Colombia experienced in 2022 led some analysts to speculate that relations might change. With the country’s first left-wing government in history, the state of relations with the world’s leading power entered a new stage, not without controversy.
However, the relations between the governments of President Petro and President Biden have gone beyond institutional cordiality. From the outset, the Colombian government sought the collaboration of the Biden administration on important issues such as climate change actions.
Colombia is aware of Joe Biden’s special interest in climate issues, so from the beginning, it sought American partnership in its proposal for the country’s energy transition.
The Colombian ambassador in Washington wrote that this “good health” of relations between both countries “is the result of a team effort by the government in line with the Presidency and coordinated by the Colombian Foreign Ministry, along with the diplomatic mission.”
Murillo, the Perfect Ambassador
Luis Gilberto Murillo is a Colombian politician who served as the ambassador of the Chocó department, his hometown, in 2012. Murillo also held the position of Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development in the government of Juan Manuel Santos from 2016 to 2018. During his tenure, in 2017, he resigned from the Cambio Radical party, of which he was a member, due to the party’s negative vote on projects related to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP).
His political life took a back seat with the presidency of Iván Duque in August 2018. He returned to the headlines when he ran as a candidate for the country’s vice presidency in Sergio Fajardo’s campaign. However, the Fajardo-Murillo duo finished fourth in the initial round of voting in May 2022.
When Murillo supported Gustavo Petro’s candidacy in the second round of the 2022 presidential elections, many analysts saw him as a perfect ambassador to the United States.
Freed from his electoral commitments to Fajardo’s candidacy, the Chocó politician publicly supported Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez’s candidacy.
His appointment as future ambassador to the US in July 2022 confirmed predictions that had been circulating in some media outlets. In a year of work, Murillo has held over 100 meetings with both Democratic and Republican congress members. Out of these, about forty have visited Colombia in person to gain first-hand knowledge of the country Murillo represents in the US.
Beyond the Fight Against Climate Change
Murillo’s efforts in the United States go far beyond climate change-related topics and energy transition. Certainly, this was an area where Gustavo Petro could more easily resonate with the American administration.
However, the work of Colombian diplomacy in the US has addressed more sensitive and controversial issues such as changes in drug policy or the withdrawal of visas for Colombian citizens entering the US. Negotiations in this regard are being conducted discreetly, although concrete progress has not yet been achieved.
Support for Total Peace
Likewise, both countries have also worked together on Colombia’s Total Peace project, as well as dialogues between the State and the ELN guerrilla. In this aspect too, American support has been unwavering.
Indeed, just this week, a senior official of the Biden administration praised Colombia’s dialogues and efforts, led by President Petro, in the pursuit of a comprehensive, real, and lasting peace. Beth van Schaack, the American ambassador for international criminal justice, even cited Colombia as an example for other countries around the world seeking to create a comprehensive transitional justice program.
Schaack also emphasized the importance of the gender focus given to the 2016 Peace Accords, signed between the Santos administration and the now-defunct FARC guerrilla. This was precisely a point heavily contested by conservative sectors of Colombian society, who used it to attack and call for a negative vote in the referendum organized by the Colombian government for citizens to ratify the agreements.