News / Americas

Colombian President 'Optimistic' About Peace

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos gestures as he addressed a gathering at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, Dec. 2, 2013.
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos gestures as he addressed a gathering at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, Dec. 2, 2013.
Reuters
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, bound for Washington on an official visit, said on Monday he remains cautiously optimistic about peace talks with Marxist FARC rebels taking place in Cuba.
 
“I think the conditions are there” for a successful conclusion to the talks, Santos told an audience of academics, students and diplomats at the University of Miami. “Things are moving hopefully in the correct direction.”
 
But he quoted a Colombian proverb as a cautionary note, saying, “The bread can very well burn right at the door of the oven.”
 
Santos, a Harvard-educated journalist, spoke eloquently in English about his hopes for peace and economic growth in Colombia during a 30-minute speech at the invitation of University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who awarded him the school's President's Medal for service to society.
 
Santos, on his second official visit to the United States since taking office in 2010, hailed both the year-old peace talks as well as economic progress at home.
 
“It's a different scenario” when the president of Colombia visits the United States these days, he said, comparing conditions at home to a decade ago when a guerrilla insurgency was raging on the outskirts of the capital Bogota and Washington was pouring in military aid to back the government.
 
Since then the war had dramatically turned in the government's favor.

“We are now being respected internationally,” Santos said, noting that his meeting with Obama scheduled for Tuesday would not be focused on military aid but rather on education and technology, as well as regional security.
 
“Usually when the president came to the United States he would have gone to the Southern Command,” he said referring to the U.S. regional military headquarters based in Miami. “Now he will come to the University of Miami. In a way this shows how things have changed.”
 
While the United States and Colombia enjoy close ties, Santos said things could be better between Washington and the rest of Latin America, where left-wing governments led by Venezuela have shunned the United States.
 
Rebuilding Frayed Relations
 
Half a century after President John F. Kennedy started the Alliance for Progress to forge better ties between the United States and Latin America, Santos said he planned to ask Obama to launch something similar to help rebuild frayed relations with the region.
 
“Maybe it's time to launch another Alliance for Progress,” he said, suggesting it be called an Alliance for Progress and Peace.
 
“The United States should look more south. We are strategic to the United States. In Colombia we are very proud to be such good allies of the United States, but I think the whole region can have much better and closer relations with the United States.”
 
Santos, 62, is making his first foreign trip since he announced Nov. 20 that he plans to seek a second term in next May's presidential election. He will face opposition candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga in a campaign likely to focus on the FARC peace process and the future of the country after five decades of rebellion.
 
In Washington, a senior Obama administration official said Obama's meeting with Santos should not be viewed as an endorsement of the Colombian's re-election bid. In the meeting, Obama will profess his strong support of Colombia's peace process, the official said.
 
“The message that the president will convey, that the visit will convey, is that the United States is a committed partner and we'll continue to stand by Colombia,” the official said.
 
Obama will raise U.S. concerns that Colombia needs to do more to settle labor issues and address human rights challenges, the official added.
 
Zuluaga, a one-time senator and provincial mayor, accuses Santos of offering the rebels too many concessions.
 
Meeting in Havana this week, government mediators are working through a five-point agenda with some three dozen rebel leaders, seeking to stop bloodshed that has killed more than 200,000 people since it began in 1964.
 
Earlier this month the two sides reached agreement on one of the toughest items on the agenda: FARC political participation. While details of the accord have not yet been revealed, the rebels are expected to be allowed to hold some sort of public office and possibly gain access to Congress.
 
Both sides are now working on resolving the third leg of the process: drug trafficking. Santos said he hoped the peace process would turn Colombia, once the world's largest producer of cocaine, into a “coca-free country.”

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

More Americas News

US, Cuba Teams Discuss Telecommunications Issues

US delegation visited Cuba this week as the two nations continued efforts to restore diplomatic relations broken over 50 years ago
More

Egyptian Court Adjourns Trial of Al Jazeera Journalists to April 22

Two journalists are charged with aiding a terrorist organization, a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt banned following 2013 army takeover
More

Rio Exhibition Dramatizes Olympian Bay Cleanup Task

Display highlights problem of trash in Guanabara Bay, where sailing, windsurfing events are to take place in next Summer Games
More

Chile Says Drought Permanent, Lays Out Water Plan

President Michelle Bachelet says government will invest in desalinization plants and reservoirs to ensure access to potable water
More

Poll: Venezuelan Leader's Popularity Inches Up to 25%

Rise comes after United States declared Venezuela a security threat and ordered sanctions against seven officials
More

High Winds, Drought Feed Chilean Forest Fires

Blazes have ravaged swaths of China Muerta and Nalca Lolco reserves and Conguillio national park, revered for its ancient forests
More