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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Colombia's FARC Says End of Ceasefire a 'Step Back' in Peace Talks

Speaking from Havana, Cuba, where talks have been taking place for two and a half years, FARC Marxist leadership says peace would be unattainable if offensives intensify
More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact
More

Relatives Doubt 42 Men Died in Mexico Ranch Shootout

The lopsided death toll and photographs from the scene in which bodies appeared to have been moved have raised questions
More

Pope Beatifies Murdered Salvadoran Archbishop

Hundreds of thousands of worshippers converge on Salvadoran capital to witness papal declaration for late Oscar Romero - now one step from Roman Catholic sainthood
More

Scores Killed in Western Mexico Gunfight

Officials say almost every person killed in Michoacan state shootout was a suspected gang member
More

Latest US-Cuban Talks Ends in Washington

Both sides cite progress on restoring diplomatic ties, but no final agreement reached
More