Private sector interests and matters of political economy have historically shaped the relationship between Canada and Colombia. Mining of gold in the Antioquia region under Canadian subsidiaries brought the two nations together during the later part of the 19th century, followed by the extraction of oil along the Magdalena River in the early 20th century under another set of subsidiaries. These early political economic relations driven by private sector interests declined as a result of the imperial struggle over the control of Colombian resources during the interwar period. It would take Canadian and Colombian diplomatic, trade, commercial, and development institutions another fifty years to reconstruct the levels of exchange achieved during the earlier part of the 20th century. Today Canada is one of the top five supplies of foreign investment to the Colombian economy; and today Canadian mining, oil, paper, and telecommunications companies control large part of the Colombian economy. Mining and oil, as in the past, are once again shaping the bilateral relation but in this case it seems that they are there to stay, at least until the resource is depleted.
I argue in this talk that the present day presence of Canadian private interests in Colombia have taken a more imperialist tone, as Canadian companies try to secure resources across the globe for the sake of global investors and top shareholders. Canadian oil and mining corporations have replicated models in Colombia and in other parts of Latin America that were once exclusive to American corporations, including the use of local military and paramilitary forces and other intimidation tactics as means to secure resources and displace local populations from strategic geographical areas. I argue that recent bilateral agreements at the national level such as the recently signed Free Trade Agreement represent structural and system mechanisms designed to guarantee an extractive relation that favors foreign interests, in this case Canadian private interests. Finally, a replication of the same phenomena across the Western Hemisphere, from Maine to Argentina, goes to show that the strategy is transnational and not regional or local. Ultimately my talk will try to illustrate that the current realities of Canadian-Colombian relations are just a representative case study of the magnitude of power and flexibility of the transnational corporations that are shaping and constructing this current reality we call “globalization.”
Discussant: MarcoVelasquez Colombian lawyer with graduate studies in International Law.
Dr.Tijerina is a multidisciplinary scholar who holds a PhD in History from theUniversity of Maine. He has been teaching atthe University of Maine since 2007. His book, Filling in the Gaps in the Americas:Canada and Colombia, 1767-1968, is forthcoming with theUniversity ofToronto Press.