Biden congratulates Colombia’s far-left president-elect, pledges to keep strong ties with Bogata

President Biden on Tuesday reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to maintaining a strong relationship with Colombia in a call to congratulate the country’s far-left President-elect Gustavo Petro.

The election victory of ex-Marxist guerrilla fighter Peter Petro on Sunday set the stage for a potentially major shift in U.S. relations with Colombia, as Petro said he wanted to restore diplomatic ties with Venezuela’s far-left government. Colombia cut ties with Venezuela in 2019 at the urging of Washington.

Mr. Biden stressed on Tuesday’s conference call that he looked forward to working with Mr. Petro to “continue to strengthen bilateral cooperation, including on climate change, health security and the implementation of the 2016 peace agreement,” according to the call read out by the White House.

The White House said the two leaders also discussed “the importance of mutual respect and partnership as the foundation of the U.S.-Colombia relationship, and agreed to have their teams follow up and engage directly in the common good.”

Petro’s victory marks the latest in a series of socialist turns in the region, with leftists and populists recently taking power in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Honduras, Mexico and Peru.

Venezuela’s authoritarian regime praised Mr Petro’s victory.

“The will of the Colombian people has been heard – it defends the path to democracy and peace,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said.

The tighter alignment between Venezuela and Colombia has complicated Washington’s push to sideline Maduro.

Outgoing Colombian President Ivan Duque, a conservative, conceded Venezuela’s pro-U.S. opposition leader Juan Guaido’s demands for the presidency, thereby aligning himself with former President Donald Trump. Presidents Trump and Biden unanimously oppose Mr Maduro.

Still, Biden congratulated Mr. Petro on Tuesday’s conference call and praised the people of Colombia for holding a free and fair election, the White House said.

Guy Taylor contributed to this story.

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