News / USA

    Obama Ramps Up Aid to Colombia as Peace Deal With Rebels Nears

    President Barack Obama shakes hands with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, Feb. 4, 2016.
    President Barack Obama shakes hands with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, Feb. 4, 2016.
    Mary Alice Salinas

    President Barack Obama promised Thursday to provide more financial aid and other support for Colombia as its government prepares to finalize a peace deal with left-wing guerrillas it has battled for more than 50 years.

    After meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the White House, Obama announced additional funding and other measures he said would help Colombia rebuild after reaching a peace accord with the Marxist rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

    Negotiations have entered the final stages, and if an agreement is reached, it will end Latin America’s longest-running insurgency. White House officials predict a deal will be finalized in this first part of the year.

    After meeting in the Oval Office, the two leaders spoke at a reception to mark the 15-year anniversary of Plan Colombia, a joint initiative started to help end the armed conflict and drug trade in Colombia.

    The effort, which spanned presidencies and party lines, has reached “a tipping point,” Obama said. “A country that was on the brink of collapse is now on the brink of peace.”

    He announced a framework, called Peace Colombia, marking a “new era of partnership.”

    The U.S. leader proposed that more than $450 million be devoted to reinforcing security gains in Colombia, reintegrating former combatants into society and extending the rule of law and opportunities into areas where they had not existed. He also vowed to continue supporting efforts to fight drug trafficking and its effects in both countries.

    Removal of mines

    As part of global de-mining efforts, the U.S. will also support Colombia as it works to remove every land mine in the country within five years, Obama said.

    Santos told the audience, including members of the Colombian delegation and U.S. lawmakers from both parties, “Today, we see the future with hope.”

    Santos recalled how 15 years ago, Colombia was in the throes of the worst economic recession in decades and had lost nearly two-thirds of its territory to paramilitary and guerrilla fighters, both supported by drug trafficking.

    “We were very close to being declared a failed state,” the Colombian leader said. “We had a very dark and uncertain future.”

    He thanked the U.S. for its partnership and noted that Colombia is enjoying economic growth, job creation, reduced poverty, a rising middle class and falling crime rates.

    White House officials have said the U.S. still has concerns about human rights, justice for victims and the drug trade in Colombia.

    The Obama administration has said it will ask Congress for additional funding in its 2017 budget to help Colombia recover after a peace accord is reached.

    “This request will demonstrate our intention to help Colombia successfully implement its peace agreement,” said Mark Feierstein, the National Security Council senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs.

    In Colombia, both government and rebel negotiators have been meeting in Havana for months to close in on a peace deal during talks sponsored by Norway and Cuba. Santos has set a March deadline for reaching a treaty.

    The White House said the relationship developed under Plan Colombia had allowed the two nations to expand collaboration in “new areas of mutual interest,” including the fight against the spread of the Zika virus.

    The two nations agreed to intensify collaboration, speed up probes into the effects of the Zika virus, and conduct joint research to help diagnose, treat and control the virus.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    The Complicated Math of AIDS

    A lot, and then some: the huge - and complicated - cost of the AIDS epidemic

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    by: Ricardo from: Brazil
    February 05, 2016 7:41 AM
    Congratulations President Obama! Peace will be good for the Americas, including the United States and Canada.

    The sale of drugs is the main source of income of the Colombian guerrilla group, peace will reduce its production and export to the United States.

    The US Drug Enforcement department along with the Mexican government should, immediately, hire several Colombian guerrillas to help in combating drug production in Mexico, as well as its export to the US.

    by: Nathaly
    February 04, 2016 10:03 PM
    Hey Voa, 1st hope you are reading this, 2nd It is just a comment since i am from Colombia, and my native language is not English. Honestly, the war in colombia is beyond money, even being this "debt" got bigger right now. I would like more educational invesment in my country, so that MANY town people can move on from traficking drugs. Well, my idea is bigger, so, i would like more attention in other REALLY CONCERNING aspects..regards
    In Response

    by: henok from: Texas, United States
    February 05, 2016 7:54 AM
    Dear Nathaly. Good thing you care about the welfare of your country and fellow citizens. You want investment and opportunities for Colombia from us and others, the way forward is to approve the peace deal your president is advocating. He has said he will put the peace deal he is negotiating into public referendem in March/April 2015. If the citizens of your country approve it and permanent peace comes to Colombia. Colombia will attract foreign investments and foreign tourists and that will create the opportunities you asking for. And for us Americans, we will gain a lot from the decline of the 90% of all heroin and cocaine your country supplies to our youth population in America's streets.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora