Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted today that his foreign ministry will open dialogue with Daniel Ortega´s government  to resolve the impasse following Monday´s decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hand the Nicaraguans over 75 square kilometres of the ocean waters that form part of the San Andrés archipelago.

Santos´ foreign minister María Angela Holguín has faced strong criticism for the Colombian government´s slow reaction and apparent improvisation since news of the ICJ´s ruling became public at the start of the week.

Ex-President Alvaro Uribe has called on the Santos administration to reject the judgement, arguing that court lacks the jurisdiction and legitimacy over decisions of sovereignty.

Uribe is also campaigning for a national referendum on whether Colombia should respect the ICJ´s conclusions.

Meanwhile the government has remained virtually silent on the issue promising to “study” and examine in detail the options available to it. Criticism of the ministry´s ponderous response has come from all sides, and today´s announcement from the president is unlikely to calm matters.

Six days on from the decision and the government is only just beginning to promise talks with Nicaragua. What have they been doing for the last 11 years, Colombia Politics asks? What´s more, why did the foreign ministry not have prepared plans of action for all eventualities, route maps to reply to all possible decisions of the court?

Colombia´s diplomatic service appears to have been caught with its trousers down, and it has yet to identify a way of pulling them back up.

Last night Colombia Politics´s editor took part in a panel discussion on Colombian television channel Cable Noticias. The panelists represented the full colours of the political spectrum but were united in the view that not only had the government´s response been ineffectual, weak, and embarrassingly slow, but that ultimately political responsibility must be taken.

Calls for Holguín to resign are growing by the day yet the minister´s reaction is to argue that her departure will not solve the problems of the San Andrés islanders. She is of course right, but there are many who tend to the view that it is impossible for a minister who has presided over such a mess to survive. Fairly or unfairly, Holguín must accept some of the blame.

The Colombian diplomatic service must also look hard at itself in the mirror. Where are the country´s allies, where was the intelligence about the decision, where is the planning and where were those officials who should have advised the minister and the president to take Colombia out of the legal process in the Hague?

The hermitecism of the government means these questions are being left unanswered and still the nation awaits a reaction to this disastrous episode.

All the while Alvaro Uribe´s campaign for election to the 2014 Senate gathers pace. The tight-lippedness of the Santos administration contrasted yesterday with the sight of the ex-president hugging and embracing the San Andrés islanders as he joined them on a march against the ICJ´s decision.

It is at times like this that the government must act, and it must be seen to offer statesmanship, and empathy with the people. The hour cameth but the man is still missing.

 

Kevin Howlett

Kevin is a political consultant and lobbyist who cut his teeth working in the UK Parliament. He is a regular panelist on Colombian television, a political communication strategist and a university lecturer. Kevin is the founder and editor of Colombia Politics.

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1 Comment on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Silvio Canto Jr November 24, 2012 at 8:12 pm -

    Blame who? Blame the Colombian leadership that bought into the nonsense that the ICJ has jurisdiction over these matters. It’s probably too late now unless Colombia is willing to use force.

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