Reading Der Spiegel’s recent interview with Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, we were reminded of the cliched reaction we often encountered in Germany in the 1980s whenever Chicago came up in conversations with the older generation: “Chicago? Gangsters! Al Capone! Bang, bang.”
Now, it’s Der Spiegel unsophisticated take, “Colombia? Drug cartels! Medellin! Bang, bang!”
Santos, who makes a state visit to Berlin on Wednesday, managed to correct the interviewer’s preconceptions and errors to make the case for Colombia as a business partner.
Santos: Europe would be well advised to pay more attention to Latin America. The emerging economies are the engines of the global economy. Colombia has done too little to improve its reputation in Europe. We recently negotiated a free trade agreement with the European Union, and now trade will flourish.
SPIEGEL: That is what you hope …
Santos: Yes, but there is also a reason for that. Our population is primarily young, and more and more poor people are entering the middle class. This is a market of millions of potential consumers.
SPIEGEL: Which investors from Germany would you like to see?
Santos : German high-tech companies that invest in biotechnology, for example. Colombia has a huge variety of plant and animal species, and we have enormous potential. Small and mid-sized companies should come to Colombia. From here, they have access to the entire Latin American market. Besides, Germany could help us improve our education system.
Negotiators with the European Union and Colombia signed the final texts of the Free Trade Agreements last month.