Is Colombia's Long War Drawing to an End?

A Conversation with Bernard Aronson, Special Envoy to the Colombian Peace Process, U.S. Department of State

Moderated by Ramon Escobar, ISD Rusk Fellow, U.S. Department of State

Co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies

Bernard Aronson
Special Envoy to the Colombian Peace Process, U.S. Department of State

Bernard Aronson served as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs from 1989 to 1993. He was a Democrat serving in a Republican Administration under President George Herbert Walker Bush. President Bill Clinton asked Aronson to continue in his post until his successor was confirmed. During his first weeks at the State Department Assistant Secretary Aronson helped negotiate the Bi-Partisan Accord on Central America which united Congress and the Executive, Democrats and Republicans behind a common regional policy.

Aronson helped promote the first successful democratic elections in Nicaragua and an end to the contra war and a negotiated settlement of the war in El Salvador. In addition during Aronson’s tenure: Panama was liberated from the dictatorial rule of General Manuel Noriega; the United States helped Colombia defeat Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel; Latin America emerged from both the debt crisis and the lost decade; NAFTA was negotiated; Argentina and Brazil put their nuclear programs under IAEA safeguards; Peru defeated, with U.S. assistance, Sendero Luminoso; and the OAS unanimously adopted the Santiago Declaration committing its member states to the collective defense of democracy. 

Ramon Escobar
Dean and Virginia Rusk Fellow, U.S. Department of State  

Ramon joined the Foreign Service nine years ago and has served in a diverse range of tours covering issues in the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America.  In his last assignment, Ramon served on the Colombia Desk where he was primarily responsible for assisting Bernard Aronson, Special Envoy to the Colombia Peace Process, in his efforts to help end Latin America’s longest-running conflict.  Before the Special Envoy was appointed in February 2015, Ramon was responsible for U.S.-Colombia cooperation on economic, energy, labor, and environment issues. 

Prior to the Colombia desk, Ramon worked in the Executive Secretariat where he advanced the travel of Secretary Kerry and, before him, Secretary Clinton.  When not on the road, he reviewed briefing materials for the Secretary, the Deputy Secretaries, and the Under Secretary for Political Affairs.  Ramon also served in Baghdad, Iraq, where he worked on energy issues, including developing a multi-million dollar training program for Iraqi electricity sector public employees.  While in London, Ramon served as Staff Aide to the Ambassador for nearly two years.  Before his assignment in the United Kingdom, Ramon was posted to Saudi Arabia for two consecutive tours.  In Dhahran, he was the Political and Economic Officer reporting on the energy sector and the Shia minority communities.  In Riyadh, Ramon was a Vice Consul, adjudicating visas to Saudi Arabian tourists, students, officials, and military personnel.  Before public service, Ramon worked in marketing research for two years. 

Ramon holds a B.A. in Business Marketing from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and a dual M.A. in International Affairs from Columbia University in New York and Sciences Politiques in Paris.  While in graduate school, Ramon was published in the Princeton Journal of Public and International Affairs for his field research into alternative-to-coca development projects in Bolivia.  Ramon speaks Spanish and French fluently, and Arabic intermediately.