Colombia and United States Imperialism

By: M.P. Britt, Thomas Wood and James Jordan

On March 10th, President Biden announced that the United States would designate the Latin American country of Colombia as a “major non-NATO ally” while hosting Colombian President Ivan Duque at the White House. 


The designation of major non-NATO ally, or MNNA, was added to Title 10 of the United States Code in 1987 to provide military, financial, and other benefits to countries such as Israel, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. MNNA status does not entitle a country to the mutual defense guaranteed in NATO’s Article 5, but nonetheless grants a country access to a number of things from the US in the way of defense and loans. This designation acts as a way for the US to directly fund, train, and arm governments friendly to its goals while still maintaining a safe distance without taking on any immediate security risks to itself. The designation is primarily granted to junior partners of imperialism, US puppet regimes, and comprador governments willing to sell out their people to US imperialism.


A map showing the MNNAs before the addition of Colombia

For over 20 years, the only MNNA country in Latin America was Argentina, added in 1998 by Bill Clinton. However, in May of 2019, only a few months after the fascist-leaning Jair Bolsonaro took power in Brazil, the Trump Administration changed Brazil’s status to MNNA. The Biden Administration has now continued to escalate the United States’ imperialist interference in Latin America by adding Colombia to the list. This dedication to escalating US imperialist foreign policy in the region can also be seen in the Biden Administration’s treatment of other Latin American countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, which has differed little if any from the Trump Administration.


This announcement also came just three days before the Colombian legislative elections. The proximity of the announcement to these elections is no coincidence. The right wing of Colombian politics may be beginning to lose its grip on Colombian politics, and the United States relies on the Colombian right wing to pursue US interests in Colombia and the region more broadly.


This is evidenced by the election results themselves. While a right-wing coalition maintained its grasp on the Colombian legislature, the Historic Pact, a left-wing coalition, saw significant gains while the right-wing Democratic Center, the party of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, saw large losses. On May 29th of this year, Colombia will also be having its presidential elections. Both the comprador bourgeoisie of Colombia and the imperialists in the United States have a vested interest in keeping the Colombian right wing in power, and it is no surprise to see these kinds of blatant attempts at influencing election outcomes when Latin America more broadly seems to be undergoing a second Pink tide.


Colombia’s elevation to MNNA status also comes amidst a number of other events that are likely potential influences, particularly the need to reassure the right-wing Colombian government that they won’t be abandoned like the right-wing government of Ukraine has been despite overtures and promises to the contrary. The United States has a history of abandoning its supposed allies when the partnership no longer serves the interests of US imperialism or the cost is too high. While this goes back as far as the various regimes in Southeast Asia that the US helped prop up during the Vietnam War and even before that, we have seen a recent string of abandonment and betrayals of a number of junior partners and comprador regimes by the US imperialist government. In the Middle East, just in the last few years we have seen the 2019 abandonment of the US-backed Rojava region and then the US withdrawal of Afghanistan and abandonment of its puppet regime there in 2021. Even more recently, the ongoing events in Ukraine reinforce the fact that US imperialism serves only the interests of itself. Once the going gets tough, US imperialists get going – and then loudly denounce the consequences of their actions from a safe distance as if they had nothing to do with what has happened.


It would not be surprising if, particularly in the light of such events, Colombia fears the same abandonment now that the US seems to be willing to open up to its neighbor Venezuela for the sake of its political and economic goals. With the events in Ukraine creating an even more tumultuous energy market, the United States has begun opening talks with Venezuela despite having spent over a decade condemning, sanctioning, and attacking the country as it stood in resistance to US imperialism and worked to create a more people-centered society domestically.


This move concerned a number of anti-communist exiles from Cuba and Venezuela in the US and their politicians such as Bob Menendez and and Marco Rubio, but likely gave the Colombian government cause for concern, as well. Colombia’s primary use to US imperialism has been as a launching point for attacks on Venezuela, with whom it shares a large border. The easing and improvements with the Venezuelan Chavista government might very well signal to the Colombian compradors that their use is coming to an end, and designation of MNNA status might be an attempt to reassure them otherwise. Like with Ukraine, the imperialists will hint at security and other guarantees up until the very moment it matters.


There is also ample evidence to suggest that the thawing of relations between the US and Venezuela has as much to do with the agenda to isolate Russia from its international trading partners across the globe as it does securing crude supply for domestic consumption. The United States has become a major oil and gas producer in recent years, with net imports totaling -0.65 million barrels of oil a day in 2020. 


A recent announcement from Chevron stating that they are ready to replace Russian imports with oil from Venezuela should sanctions be lifted suggests that there is indeed a strong will among the energy sector in the US to sever all ties with Russian oil and gas. (1) This new approach from the US flies in the face of the German response to the devastating violence in Ukraine, which has been to continue with the policy of replacing nuclear power in large parts with imported Russian gas and domestic coal. This, along with Germany’s decision to increase their military output in an attempt to offset the threat of Russian aggression towards the EU and its allies, makes it apparent that Germany is fully committed to funding both sides of the conflict in Ukraine. (2) 


Recent events appear to be causing a schism in the energy policies of the members of NATO across the Atlantic, the results of which have not yet fully played out. Likewise, it is unclear what geopolitical and economic ramifications would follow if Venezuela were to accept a deal with Washington and what such a deal would look like given Russia is one of Venezuela’s primary allies, and Venezuela has stood by Russia throughout the ongoing events in Ukraine (3) just as Russia has provided Venezuela assistance in deterring joint US-Colombian task forces and incursions over the years. (4) While weakening the ties between Venezuela and Russia is likely a top goal for the US imperialist agenda, the implications of such for Colombia would mean their partnership with the US would be of less strategic importance.


US military soldiers conducting training programs with the Colombian military

Ultimately, the declaration of Colombia’s status as a major non-Nato ally serves as a reiteration of the United States’ imperialist agenda in Latin America and reassurance to its partners in the region. As the world continues to move toward a more multipolar order and away from US-led imperialist unipolarity, we are likely to see more of these types of statements and actions. As a number of countries continue to stand up against US and Western imperialism, the imperialists will work to secure what allies it can in words and small deeds while making as few large commitments as they can.