“Without a doubt, my time at IWP gave me further confidence to speak out in such a forum on behalf of our nation.”
– Christine Balling (’16)
On September 18th, Christine Balling (’16) gave testimony on Capitol Hill at the invitation of Senator Marco Rubio regarding the current state of affairs with the Venezuelan refugee crisis at Colombia’s borders. Specifically, she testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues.
At this hearing, Ms. Balling gave two specific recommendations on how the United States can better help Colombia with the ever-growing Venezuelan refugee crisis. First, as hundreds of Venezuelans are entering Colombia each day, the U.S. should increase funding for U.S. Army Civil Affairs efforts that support the Colombian army in the border region to improve relations with local communities and maintain security. She noted that Venezuelan refugees are particularly vulnerable to recruitment by bad actors. It is important that the Colombian army has enough resources to maintain good relationships with these refugees and the Colombians in the community.
Second, the U.S. should support the modernization of Colombian intelligence networks and continued investment and overhaul of existing databases in the Colombian government. The Colombian government and military currently have effective human intelligence capabilities, but their intelligence sharing mechanisms need improvement.
Ms. Balling is a Senior Fellow for Latin American Affairs with the American Foreign Policy Council. For six years, she operated a nonprofit promoting democracy and youth leadership to deter people from joining extremist groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). She worked closely with the Colombian Armed Forces and U.S. Army Civil Affairs teams. She has also served as a Subject Matter Expert to the U.S. Special Operations South (SOCSOUTH) Commander on demobilization and counter-recruitment issues.
During her time at IWP, Christine covered some of these issues on campus. In April 2016, she invited Amb. Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno, Ambassador of Colombia to the U.S. at the time, to visit IWP to discuss counterinsurgency, the FARC, and U.S.-Colombian relations. In November 2015, she invited General Sergio Mantilla, who was then serving as the Colombian Defense Attaché and is former Commander of the Colombian Army, to speak to students and alumni about the Colombian military’s successful counter-insurgency efforts against FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN), as well as the United States and Colombian militaries’ joint counter-narcotic efforts.
Please click here to watch the video of Christine’s testimony. Her remarks begin at the 1:48:25 mark.