Democracy in Latin America: Colombia and Venezuela

By Donald L. Herman | Go to book overview

12
Colombian and Venezuelan Foreign Policy: Regional Powers in the Caribbean Basin

William A. Hazleton

In the search for a comprehensive settlement to the Central American crisis, the participation of Venezuela and Colombia as members of the Contadora Group illustrates an attempt by regional powers to assume a more active and independent role in international affairs. The fact that Venezuela and Colombia have consciously sought a greater voice in determining the region's future through the Contadora initiative reflects a number of internal and external developments during the last twenty years. The first is a trend toward greater activism in international affairs. As relatively mature democracies committed to the principle of democratic pluralism, they believe that the preservation of their own political systems is tied to political stability and progress toward democratic reform in other parts of Latin America. The second development is that foreign relations are now viewed from several perspectives reflecting the different factors and interests involved. For example, Venezuela and Colombia contend that the complexity of the situation in Central America, and particularly the relationship between poverty and political instability, make a strictly East -- West perspective shortsighted in that it ignores what are essentially the North -- South roots of the problem. The distinction between socioeconomic and security interests, and the realization that different foreign-policy strategies are required to achieve these ends, have led Venezuela and Colombia to identify increasingly with the Third World issues, while not foregoing their traditional security ties with the West. The final change relates to the decline in U.S. influence within the Caribbean Basin. Although this provides Latin American states a greater opportunity to act, the more important development for Venezuela and Colombia is that both have gained the maturity and confidence necessary to adopt a stand independent of the United States. But given the hierarchical and decentralized nature of the international environment within which they must operate, and their limited

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