Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/John Vizcaino)
Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, Israel’s closest ally in South
America, was set to arrive next week for a three-day visit that will focus both on regional
and bilateral issues.
Santos will meet President Shimon Peres, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials.
was the only South American country that did not follow Brazil’s lead in 2010
and 2011 and recognize the Palestinian Authority as a Palestinian state. The
country was also a temporary member of the Security Council in 2011 and was one
of seven countries that made clear it would not support Palestinian statehood,
thereby quashing Palestinian hopes that year of forcing a US veto on PA
statehood in the Security Council.
Last year Colombia, along with
Paraguay, were the only South American countries to abstain when the
Palestinians won nonmember state status in the UN General
Israel and Colombia enjoy a robust security relationship. A
2008 US State Department cable released by Wikileaks said that the two countries
maintain “positive relations… particularly in the defense sector through private
Israeli defense contractors.”
According to the cable, “key areas of
cooperation include strategic military advice, special forces training, and arms
sales in support of Colombia’s battle against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC). Economic relations between the two countries outside of defense
cooperation remain relatively limited.”
Colombia is also an important US
South American ally.
According to the cable, Colombia has “engaged former
Israeli military officials to help provide training and advice in the fight
against the FARC and other terrorist groups.”
Israeli contractors, the
cable continued, support the Colombian government through “arms sales, military
training, and the provision of strategic military planning and consulting
The Colombian government, according to the cable, has “engaged
Israeli contractors to train Colombian special forces, particularly related to
high value targets.”
Israeli contractors also made recommendations to
Colombia regarding military purchases, joint military operations and how to
restructure Colombia’s intelligence services.
In addition, Israel is a
significant source of weaponry for Colombia, and according to the cable
uncovered by Wikileaks, some 38 percent of Colombia’s foreign defense purchases
went to Israel in 2007.
The 2008 cable reported that Colombia’s Defense
Ministry engaged an Israeli company, Global Comprehensive Security
Transformation, to help the Colombian government conduct a strategic assessment
of the country’s internal conflict.
Global CST is a security company run
by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yisrael Ziv, former IDF director of operations and a
personal acquaintance of Santos.
According to the document, “the
assessment is focused primarily on defeating the FARC and other internal
terrorist and criminal organizations, but also includes an evaluation of
external threats including Venezuela and Ecuador.”
The relationship with
Ziv, however, soured, and a 2009 US cable quoted the director of Colombian
police as saying that the relationship with Ziv had been “a
According to the cable, “Over a three-year period, Ziv worked
his way into the confidence of former Defense Minister Santos by promising a
cheaper version of USG [US government] assistance without our strings attached.
We and the GOC [Government of Colombia] learned that Global CST had no Latin
American experience and that its proposals seem designed more to support Israeli
equipment and services sales than to meet in country needs. Global CST was not
transparent with us, and tried to insert itself into our classified discussions
with the GOC. Given the GOC’s experience with Global CST, it is no surprise that
the Defense Ministry is pulling back from them and warning neighbors that their
deals are not as good as advertized.”