Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Expanding Infrastructure Offers Growth - Economic and Risk

As Colombia’s long term internal conflict appears to be winding down and the economy grows at a healthy pace the Andean state is embarking on a large infrastructure improvement and expansion program. Colombia possesses significant natural resources and growth potential – locked away behind notoriously rugged terrain. In recent years the Government of Colombia announced a massive, multi-billion dollar, decades long infrastructure project encompassing roadways, canals, ports, and navigability of rivers.

What does such an investment mean for the security of Colombia? Of the many elements of national security that the government of Colombia is attempting to address, ranging from food security to state presence in rural areas, the security of Colombia’s borders have rarely been threatened. To some extent this is because Colombia’s most potentially threatening neighbors have not had reason to seek conflict with Colombia. However, should Brazil or Venezuela one day be drawn into a conflict with Colombia, they would have a great deal of difficulty threatening the Colombian interior due to the natural barriers separating the countries.

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A map of initial projects part of Colombia 4G road expansion campaign.

Part of the infrastructure investment plan may be connected to linking Colombia to Brazil with an Amazonian road not unlike projects planned with Peru and Bolivia. A direct high capacity road link to its Southern neighbor is not likely to be a direct national security threat anytime soon. However, the direct land connection to the Brazilian interior could, in either direction, lead to the expansion of Brazilian and Colombian criminal organizations or the spread of diseases.

On the Venezuelan front the prospect of a Venezuelan crisis in the near future makes increased connectivity with the region concerning. The effects of refugees or violence from Venezuela would be felt more acutely if the links to the Colombian interior were strengthened. On the Eastern half of Colombia the value of expanded canals and the potential for a significant increase in shipping from the Colombian interior bordering Venezuela to Colombian ports in the North provides a new, large vector for the spread of diseases, people and crime into the Caribbean.

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