Special to WorldTribune.com
Peru and Colombia have, largely unnoticed by the world’s media, continued to quietly work toward an integration of their political, economic, and strategic structures.
This growing closeness — albeit without a publicly-stated end goal — has a military dimension. A significant new bloc — several years in the making — is now emerging.
Colombia, the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance and cooperation in South America, has been active in training military personnel from across the region, but particularly with Peru. The U.S. Government has encouraged Peru to work more closely with Colombia. Then-U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, during an October 2012 visit to Lima, noted: “The United States stands ready to work with Peru on joint planning, on information sharing, trilateral cooperation with Colombia to address our shared security concerns.”
U.S.-Chilean defense cooperation, also low key, is also significant, but the emerging Colombia-Peru bloc counters Venezuela, which has posed security concerns for Colombia, in particular, in recent years.
Much of U.S. military cooperation in the Andes region has been ostensibly about narcotics interdiction, but Colombian and Peruvian cooperation has a much wider franchise.
In Lima, on May 26, “due to the need for strengthening cooperation on security and defense, in order to protect both nations from cross-border crimes”, Peruvian Foreign Minister Ana María Sánchez de Ríos and Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar agreed to convene the Political Coordination Mechanism known as “2+2” which brings together both nations’ Defense and Foreign Affairs Ministries. As well, both diplomats agreed to convene the third Meeting of the Judicial Cooperation and Security High Level Mechanism (MAN).
The Ministers verified the level of compliance on agreements signed in the 1st Binational Cabinet, which took place in Iquitos in September 2014. The Ministers also assessed the measures taken with the aim of putting into practice the Development Plan for the Border Integration Zone. The first Meeting of the Binational Commission for the plan was to be convened in July 2015.
On Sept. 29, 2014, Peruvian President Ollanta Tasso and Colombian President Juan Calderón had signed 11 bilateral accords at the Presidents’ Meeting and First Binational Cabinet of Ministers of Peru and Colombia, signaling an historic step toward bi-national integration.
The meeting highlighted the convergence achieved in relations between the two countries, based on the Joint Declaration signed on Feb. 11, 2015, to institutionalize the Binational Cabinet as the highest forum for political bilateral dialogue. The Joint Declaration instructed the foreign ministries of the countries to oversee a binational roadmap governed by four themes.
- The first was Governance Hub, Social Affairs, and Sustainable Development.
- The second was Axis of Commerce, Economic Development, and Tourism.
- The third was Axis Security and Defense, and
- The final was Axis Border Affairs.
Furthering the growing bilateral links between Peru and Colombia, the European Union on June 10, signed an agreement with both states which would allow residents of those countries to visit the EU Schengen states (which does not include the UK or Ireland) without visas for visits up to 90 days.