US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Colombia on Wednesday after having visited Ecuador, where he met with recently elected President Guillermo Lasso and Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo.
In Colombia, Blinken met with President Ivan Duque and Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucia Ramirez to address a number of pressing issues, including the situation involving thousands of Venezuelan migrants, COVID-19 and the implementation of peace accords between Colombia and what was previously the country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Speaking alongside Duque, Blinken hailed a decree issued by the Duque government allowing Venezuelans to remain in Colombia for a period of 10 years. The number of Venezuelans who have left their country in the past five years to escape its political and economic crisis currently stands at more than 5.6 million.
"Colombians have shown remarkable generosity in hosting approximately 2 million Venezuelan migrants displaced by the country's ongoing humanitarian crisis," Blinken said, which is "quite simply a model for the region and in many ways for the world."
The visit comes a few days after American officials announced the appearance in Colombia among US embassy staff of possible cases of Havana syndrome, a mysterious illness that causes ringing in the ears, dizziness and fatigue.
Duque said he was aware of cases of the illness and that he was "leaving it to the US authorities, who are conducting their own investigation."
Relations between Colombia and the US have been at their worst since President Joe Biden took office. To date, Biden has not met with Duque after members of Duque's party were accused of supporting the campaign of former President Donald Trump in the 2020 US presidential election. Blinken's trip has been seen as a sign that Colombia is regaining its role as a US ally.
"We have a partnership that is one of our deepest and one of our longest standing," said Blinken.
Colombia is hosting a ministerial meeting later Wednesday with foreign ministers from Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica and Peru, where migration issues will be discussed.