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Colombia To Remain Allied But May Not Purchase F-16s

The U.S. ally plans to continue defense cooperation under new administration despite closer ties with Venezuela and increased interest in other arms suppliers.
Secretary of defense Lloyd Austin hosted Colombian minister of national defense Iván Velásquez at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Nov. 29, 2022. Photo By: Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Kubitza, U.S. Navy.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosts Colombian Minister of National Defense Iván Velásquez at the Pentagon on November 29, 2022. Credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Kubitza, U.S. Navy.

Colombia may consider further diversification of its air force assets after dozens of its Israeli Kfir fighters are decommissioned before the end 2023.

Colombian Defense Minister Iván Velásquez met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Tuesday at the Pentagon. They discussed “shared interest in deepening cooperation on strategic issues including international security cooperation, counternarcotics, and peace agreement implementation. They also affirmed the importance of working together to strengthen transparency and respect for human rights,” according to a Department of Defense (DoD) readout.

Colombia has been looking for possible suppliers to modernize its air power and Velásquez told SIGNAL Media Lockheed Martin’s F-16 was a candidate, but no DoD official showed support for the U.S. manufacturer during this trip.

“We’ll select the best proposal, there may be advantages with maintenance, there may be disadvantages in the flight-hour costs, advantages in the age or how modern the aircraft may be, there’s a confluence of elements that also include technology transfers,” Velásquez told journalists.

Under new President Gustavo Petro’s, Colombian ties with Venezuela have warmed.

Still, cooperation in shared interests between the United States and Colombia, especially drug trafficking, will remain unchanged.

“We continue intelligence cooperation,” Velásquez said, “strengthening the National Intelligence Directorate, police intelligence, military intelligence.”

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Colombian Minister of National Defense Iván Velásquez.
I can guarantee we handle information responsibly.
Iván Velásquez
Colombian Minister of National Defense

The minister emphasized that despite resumption of defense and law enforcement cooperation with Venezuela, no information the U.S. shares with his country will be given to adversaries.

“I can guarantee we handle information responsibly,” Velásquez said, “if there are limitations with the intelligence obtained with the United States, we will abide by our agreements.”

During the meeting between Secretary Austin and Velásquez, the Latin American thanked the U.S. for the successful humanitarian mission of USNS Comfort hospital ship from November 11 to 19.

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Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort travelled to Colombia as part of a humanitarian mission to the violence riddled country. Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ernest R. Scott, U.S. Navy.
Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort traveled to Colombia as part of a humanitarian mission to the violence riddled country. Credit: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ernest R. Scott, U.S. Navy