When I was a young man the FARC rebels kidnapped my grandfather. Colombia was a lawless land ruled by Pablo Escobar and the cartels. Our daily news was filled with stories about bombs and rebel attacks.
I became part of the generation that fled the country. It was only after I arrived in the U.S. to study that I understood how numb I had become, while living without opportunity or hope.
Then in 2002, Álvaro Uribe became president. From then until 2010, his government followed policies that set off an economic boom. Colombia’s expats started coming back. Entrepreneurs, bankers, lawyers, accountants, doctors, scientists, and future politicians came home. I was among them. We had dreams of new opportunities in our beloved Colombia.
My passion when I returned more than a decade ago was anti-corruption compliance and AML. Those had become dangerous topics to speak about publicly during the five decades of internal conflict and the rise and fall of the drug barons and cartels.
But I believed ten years ago that transparency and accountability would be essential ingredients for the reconstruction of Colombia. I still believe it. And I know countless returnees who feel the same way. We want a Colombia that’s different, where business is done in a way we can proud of, that reflects global best practices.
President Juan Manuel Santos has been in office since 2010. He’s continuing the prior government’s pro-growth policies. And in mid 2012, he announced that the government was in talks with FARC to formally end the internal conflict.
Today Colombia is one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the Americas. The middle class is rising and foreigners are here for tourism and new investment. Colombia isn’t perfect. But we finally have the opportunity to create the future my generation dreamed of when we were outside looking in.
If Colombians have managed to build such an incredible country during five decades of internal conflict, imagine what we’ll do in half the time during a lasting peace.
José Da Silva is the founder and CEO of Vantech Group. From offices in Latin America and Miami, Vantech combines specialized consulting, tailored outsourcing, compliance systems and enhanced due diligence, and cutting-edge technology to help companies entering and operating in Latin America. He can be contacted here.