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President-elect Ivan Duque delivers a speech after his victory, in Bogota, Colombia, on June 17, 2018. Photo: Sergio Felipe Garcia Hernandez/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

On August 7, Colombia will swear in Ivan Duque, of the Democratic Center Party, to a four-year presidential term. At 42, Duque is Colombia's youngest-ever president, having served as a senator only since 2014. Much of his rapid political rise owes to his alliance with former President Alvaro Uribe, a mentor to Duque who is widely seen in Colombia as a key political powerbroker.

Why it matters: With a population of nearly 50 million, Colombia is South America’s second-most populous nation and third-largest economy, and has been a key U.S. partner in dealing with regional issues. As he takes office, Duque will face pressure to address challenges with the economy, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) peace accord and drug trafficking.

Duque will replace outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos, who struck a historic peace accord with the FARC guerrilla group in 2016, ending 52 years of civil conflict that killed 220,000 and displaced 4 million. Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts and successfully shepherded Colombia into the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), but he leaves office with low approval ratings and his legacy of peace at risk.

The success of Duque’s presidency will ultimately be judged by three factors:

  1. The economy: Colombians are anxious for stronger economic growth and job creation, with GDP growth languishing around 2% for the past several years.
  2. The peace accord: Duque will need to navigate its contentious politics, including whether to revisit the transitional justice process that allowed FARC combatants to go without jail time.
  3. Drugs: Duque will need to reduce Colombia’s growing levels of cocaine production, lest the Trump administration follow through on its threats to designate Colombia as having “failed demonstrably” to combat the drug trade.

The bottom line: Nearly twenty years after launching the military and foreign-aid initiative "Plan Colombia," Washington still widely regards the U.S.–Colombia partnership as a bipartisan success story. In order to sustain this support, Duque will need to reconcile Washington's harder line on counternarcotics with concerns that progress not come at the expense of civil liberties and human rights.

Daniel P. Erikson is managing director at Blue Star Strategies and a senior fellow at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

In photos: Protests outside fortified capitols draw only small groups

Armed members of the far-right extremist group the Boogaloo Bois near the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing on Jan. 17. About 20 protesters showed up, AP notes. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Small groups of protesters gathered outside fortified statehouses across the U.S. over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some protests attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as security was heightened around the U.S. to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, per AP.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
8 hours ago - World

China's economy grows 6.5% in Q4 as country rebounds from coronavirus

A technician installs and checks service robots to be be used for food and medicine delivery in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, China, on Sunday. Photo: Hu Xuejun/VCG via Getty Images

China's economy grew at a 6.5% pace in the final quarter of 2020, the national statistics bureau announced Monday local time, topping off a year in which it grew in three of four quarters and by 2.3% in total.

Why it matters: No other major economy managed positive growth in 2020. Although the COVID-19 pandemic was first detected in China, the country got the virus under control and became one of the main positive drivers of the global economy even as the rest of the world was largely under lockdown.

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