Colombia becomes first Latin American nation to join NATO

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COLOMBIA-ELECTION-RUNOFF-VOTEColombian President Juan Manuel Santos, accompanied by his family, speaks to journalists after casting his vote at a polling station in Bogota during the second round of the presidential elections in Colombia on June 17, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / John VIZCAINO)

Colombia is the first Latin American nation to join NATO, with an official title of “global partner”.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue explains what that means for the country and the alliance.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the decision at NATO headquarters in Belgium. Colombia’s would join the North Atlantic alliance as a so-called global partner.

“Colombia is the first country of Latin America to have this relation with NATO and it is an enormous privilege and we thank you Secretary,” President Santos said.

Santos explained that as a global partner, Colombia will not have to engage in military action but will benefit from the shared military knowledge.

The partnership promotes cooperation on global security issues, like cyber and maritime security, terrorism and organized crime. Other global partners include Australia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan and Pakistan.

The announcement comes at a time when the Trump administration has challenged NATO unity on issues, such as the Iran nuclear deal and financial contributions made by member states.

Colombian political analyst Camilo Ospina said NATO membership could help Colombia in its peacebuilding process, ongoing drug wars and border security. However, it could also prove unpopular elsewhere in South America.

“Countries like Chile and Argentina have a strong sense of sovereignty and identity and obviously any external military influence in the region will not be well received,” Ospina said.

Venezuela’s government was quick to reject Colombia’s decision, calling it a move that threatens regional peace.